The Olympics, huh? What was that all about? AM I RIGHT? HAHA!
SOMETHING ABOUT SYRIA ALSO.
I can’t write topical jokes so I’m going to tell you about a farcical situation that I put myself in at considerable expense and for no reason whatsoever last week.
Also by “last week” I mean “the week beginning 23rd July” but I am terrible at blogging and also IT’S CALLED CREATIVE LICENSE I’M AN ARTIST SHUT UP.
Last week – LAST WEEK – was pretty full-on. I spent the previous weekend at the thoroughly excellent inaugural Winchester Science Festival organised by the also thoroughly excellent James Thomas, and then I went back to London for two days to work, and then I went to Oxford to relaunch Oxford Skeptics in the Pub which I seem to have inexplicably taken charge of without, so far, destroying. Actually it’s going really well – I haven’t accidentally started a brawl or made a speaker go on fire or anything. And then I went back home to South Derbyshire so I could attend my grandmother’s funeral after which, in a state of significant sleep-deprivation, residual panic and subdued grief, I made a decision that was comically ridiculous.
I had never applied for a job before 5th July. I am 21 years of age and I had never applied for a job. I’d had jobs. I’d had a job in London since April that I kind of fell into. But I’d never applied for jobs because I’d always assumed that I wouldn’t get them. I wouldn’t even apply for vacancies in the local supermarket, so convinced was I of my unemployability. But after I kind-of-accidentally got this job in London, I think I finally began to accept that it was my own convictions about how unemployable I was that were, at least partly, ensuring my continued lack of employment. So when I saw a vacancy at the beginning of July for a role throughout August – which was when I was due to be leaving my London job – at the Fringe Shop in Edinburgh – which is where I quite like spending my Augusts – I thought, “fuck it, why not?”
And then I thought, “LOTS OF REASONS WHY NOT” so I was all like, “STOP SHOUTING IT WAS RHETORICAL” and applied anyway.
I didn’t expect to hear anything back. And I didn’t hear anything back, for a while. And then last Tuesday – don’t pretend like you’re not on board – last Tuesday I got a call inviting me to an interview at the Fringe Shop that Thursday. That’s the Fringe Shop on Edinburgh High Street. That’s Edinburgh in Scotland. And I thought, “Well I’m not working, but I’m not working because I’m going to my grandmother’s death party. Also, Edinburgh is FAR.” So I said I couldn’t make it and they asked whether I could make Friday and I said it was probably a no, but that I’d call them back. And on Thursday – the morning of my grandmother’s funeral – I called back and I said no. And then immediately after the funeral I think my brain had temporarily forgotten what “rational” meant and I called them again and said yes. Yes, I will get a train to London in 3 hours in order to get on a coach for 9 hours to come to Edinburgh to be interviewed for a poorly paid job that I have little-to-no chance of getting. SEE YOU TOMORROW!
Most of the next 36 hours merged into an indiscriminate fuzz of regret and bafflement. By the time I got into London, the megabus that I’d planned to get had sold out and only the expensive decadence of National Express remained. It was at this stage, having already resigned myself to the fact that I definitely wouldn’t get the job even if I did travel to Scotland, that I should have cut my losses and given up. But no, in for a penny, in for £40; I was determined to see this one through to its inevitably dispiriting end.
I’d spent so long pissing about trying to find a cheaper coach that by the time I’d booked, I had no time left to eat anything before I had to run for the coach. The coach was half an hour late leaving London, so I could have eaten something before I had to run for the coach. I could have eaten something and then walked to the coach. I wished I’d walked to the coach. My leg was hurting because I used to be a cripple and I’d ran for the coach. There was a woman talking into her phone at an unnecessary volume in the seat in front of me and I started to worry that I’d been naive to think that a 9 hour overnight coach journey could just be spent sleeping, but after a while the vehicle settled into silence and I was finally overwhelmed with the exhaustion that I’d been doing my best to fight for the past week.
I’d been naive to think that a 9 hour overnight coach journey could just be spent sleeping. I must have slept for a good 3, maybe even 4 minutes before we pulled into Milton Keynes, where Captain Cockwash boarded the coach and decided that he should sit next to me. He was with a group of friends celebrating a 30th birthday, and when he sat down he pulled out a pack of Fosters and said, “ALL RIGHT LADS? HAHAHAHAHA!” and then something about breasts and it just continued like that, really. It continued like that until about 2.30am, at which point the coach broke down. The coach broke down and we were stuck on the hard shoulder somewhere in the East Midlands – somewhere frustratingly close to where I’d started out 8 hours ago – for two hours. I already had a residual, if mostly-subdued, fear of motorways from when I was 10 and my brother’s two best friends were killed by a lorry on the M5, so by this stage my thoughts had drifted from “WHY AM I HERE I AM UNEMPLOYABLE” to “WHY AM I HERE I AM GOING TO DIE.”
We started moving again at 4.30am, in a new coach, and this time I was sat next to a woman who kept falling asleep on me and then looking startled and vaguely offended every time she woke up. As the sun started to rise, I tried to work out whether I’d be able to make the 11am coach back to London. My interview was supposed to be at 10am and I’d lost all motivation to gain the job or make the most of the fact that I could spend a day in Edinburgh. I’d forgotten to bring a jacket, I hadn’t eaten for 12 hours, I was tired, my grandmother was dead, it was 6am on my eldest brother’s birthday, my whole family was at home for the first time in months and I was on an uncomfortably cold coach two hundred miles away from where I wanted to be in order to do something that I no longer wanted to do. And I think that lack of enthusiasm positively shone through when I did eventually find myself on Edinburgh High Street, 2 and a half hours later than planned, and walked into the Fringe Shop.
The interview itself, looking back, was an adorable clusterfuck. I had absolutely nothing left to give, desperately wanted to go home, and my tone throughout was what can only be described as apologetic. That’s something that is reasonably easy to cover up in writing, but in person it’s much harder to disguise my relentless feelings of guilt. So my internal monologue of “I know this is awful and I’m sorry” when I’m filling in an application form is much easier to temporarily suffocate than my implicit external monologue of “I know this is awful and I’m sorry” when I’m sitting in front of someone and trying to talk to them. When they started the interview by asking me to tell them about myself, I looked baffled for a few seconds and then quite bluntly told them that I’d never had a job interview before and didn’t really know what I was doing. When they asked me why they should hire me over the other people they’d interviewed, for a fleeting moment I considered actually answering the question like a normal human person but then I realised that I was absolutely incapable of that and was all like, “Uh, well I guess you should hire me over the other people you’ve interviewed if if I’m better than the other people you’ve interviewed? I don’t know who else you’ve interviewed. Don’t hire me if I’m terrible” because I’m terrible. I told them that I was “quite good” at sales, and I think that my use of the descriptive term “quite good” when attempting to sell myself indicated clearly enough that I was not at all good at sales. I think I might also have used the phrase “laid-back” when asked to describe my character, but by then my internal monologue was screaming too violently for me to commit anything to memory.
They told me that they aimed to let people know if they’d been successful by lunchtime and that I should keep an eye on my phone. I knew that I didn’t need to keep an eye on my phone. Satisfied that I had once again secured my continued lack of employment, I walked back to the coach station to see if there were any seats left on the 11am coach back to London. There were no seats left on the 11am coach back to London. I wondered how so many people could be taking a coach out of Edinburgh at 11am on a Friday and imagined that it was full of jobless 21-year-olds and their broken minimum-wage dreams. I asked when the next coach that I could get was and they said 9pm. I wished I’d brought a jacket and eaten something and not ran for that coach 12 hours ago.
When I got back into London the next morning I realised that I’d lost my Oyster card so I sat on the floor of Victoria Coach Station lamenting my existence for a bit but it didn’t really help so I bought a new Oyster card. And then at 6.30am I stumbled out of King’s Cross Station and, staring at my phone and trying to think of something witty to say on twitter so that I could glean a modicum of affirmation from strangers on the internet to fill the gaping hole of need that the past 36 hours had torn, I almost walked into a tall man. We did that awkward pavement dance thing where you both flail your arms and try to walk on the opposite side of the path from the other person, and when I looked up at the man to apologise I realised that it was Gordon Brown. And that it was absolutely perfect, necessary and inevitable that on the day that I crossed paths with a former world leader, I would be smiling meekly and apologising for being in their way.
I didn’t get the job. I did spend August in Edinburgh. I volunteered at a venue for the month and they gave me a free room. I was doing front of house, so mostly I spent my time being told how appalling I was by people who turned up too late to be allowed into the shows they wanted to see, and learning that poor time-keeping does not preclude excellent judgement of character.
The year out‘s going pretty well so far.