OK, let's. Email. Open. Here goes. Nothing? Three. Oh, O... K... Travel agency position. Dear Brett, personal, informal, regret that on this occasion. Same old. Thank for interest. Person of more experience. All right. Long pause. Next one. University support. That'd be nice. Didn't think it would come in. Nope. They're looking for someone with more appropriate qualification. What? This is a paper-sifting job. Last one. NHS. Dear Candidate, blah, position will now be filled... internally. What was the point in that? It doesn't matter what I... No, don't think like that. Project. Maybe if I just. I mustn't let this. Stay positive.
“Why do you want this job, Brett?”
Brett opened his mouth, a moment too long because:
“You're not sure, are you?” The Interviewer sighed a deep breath. He renewed, “I want motivated, confident people that are going places, Brett. Are you one of those people?”
Brett, slowly, “I feel that I am motivated and I am confident. I am getting myself out there and...”
“And now you're here” the Interviewer interrupted. 'Here' was an office in a lane off Liverpool Street. “Turnover is quite high here” said the Interviewer, whose name was Nigel Stiffly-Barrage QC. He sat forward across the table between him and Brett. “This is a pressured environment...” small fist bumps for emphasis, “how do you cope with pressure, Brett?” He sat back.
“I like to plan” said Brett. “I take the long view, get to know the rhythms of the office and try ton anticipate...”
“No, Brett” Mr Stiffly-Barrage QC leaned forward again. “That's how you avoid pressure. I was asking how you cope with pressure.” His voice hardened without being raised. “How would you cope if I gave you a hundred pages of notes to be typed, proofed and allocated in three hours. How would you cope, Brett?”
“Well” said Brett, “I would try to prioritise...”
Mr Stiffly-Barrage QC shook his head. “That's not answering my question, not by a long chalk, no, no, no.” Pause. Mr Stiffly-Barage QC sat back and crossed his fingers, archly. Silence. “How old are you?” he eventually asked.
“Twenty three” said Brett.
“And what do you want out of life?”
“I... want to be... happy...”
“Happy?” said Mr Stiffly-Barrage QC, surprised-looking. Another pause, Mr Stiffly-Barrage QC stood up and offered Brett his hand to shake. “Thank you for coming.” Brett stood up to reciprocate. “But I don't think you'll be hearing from us.” He shook Brett's hand very hard. “Good luck with being happy” he said.
“Thank you” said Brett, feeling equal parts humiliated and relieved.
Brett was waiting for a bus out on Liverpool Street when he saw a woman. She was wearing a branded T-shirt and handing out fliers. Brett was intrigued. It helped that she was young and attractive, but Brett didn't want to talk and, anyway, she was probably out of his league. He took a flier though. It was for something called Jobs 24, a website and a hotline. It promised applicants work within twenty-four hours. Brett thought it was too good to be true, worth a try though, it was an agency after all. What did he have to lose and where was the Woman? Brett turned to look. Where'd she go? That was odd. Still, Brett had the flier at least.