8. A Socialist Rises

At 12minutes to 4 on a Monday afternoon, 5th of May 2012, Alex Chistiakov finally arrived at a set of traffic lights near a terminal that would see his bus arrive in just under five minutes, and see him home in another forty. He had muttered obscenities under his breath every step of the way from a job interview that ended ten minutes ago. His feet ached from his quick pace and his jaw was stiff from scowling at young children, pets or anything else that caught his downcast ire as he went.

Never before in his working career had Alex encountered such an extreme level of buffoonery as he had experienced that afternoon. This man had easily spent an hour and a half talking about himself and, when Alex was finally invited to speak, sat there with the contemptuous gaze of a man who genuinely considered himself to be the voice of fourteen million pounds. His attitude smacked of arrogance and the subtext was that only arse-kissers need apply.

“Prick,” spat Alex, for what felt like the hundredth time this afternoon. The mood at the traffic lights was equally as restless. Commuters eager to return home after a long working day vied for space on either side of the road, advancing and retreating in platoons to view the volume of oncoming traffic. Invariably they would decide against a dash for freedom: the distance was too great and the cars too many.

“This,” thought Alex, “is the true face of Capitalism. A man who has no objectives in life beyond earning more money. He will work the hours, he will earn you millions, but he will barely pass the Turing test. Didn’t he ask me about my relationships and goals, only to scoff at them but give no clear answers himself? Say that because I have a loving relationship I am somehow a second-tier citizen, as I can never find the hours to compete in his workplace? That he accused my five-year plan as trite fantasy, whereas his could have been an advert for Google SEOs? This man has no idea what he wants, yet he is the type of man that will decide my future for me. He will ruin my prospects and own my soul.”

The crowd’s eyes collectively widened as a renegade cautiously stepped a few feet beyond the pavement and then walked quickly, but coolly, across the road. Our Lenin took the form of a tall, thin commuter dressed in a slate-grey suit, with black thick-rimmed glasses and a crop of curly black hair. People fell silent as they watched him step gracefully around oncoming vehicles, neither cheering nor condemning his behaviour. Some waited for that first car horn to sound: a signal to other drivers that their prey, no matter how bold, was only human. The rest would then inevitably follow and in a horrendous cacophony of noise chase the revolutionary from the road in a humiliating display of supremacy. Remarkably this didn’t happen. Instead, with a little under halfway to go, he deftly skirted the final approaching vehicle and, dignity still in tact, lightly trotted to our side of the street.

“It wont be long before people decide they’ve had enough of this. On the one hand we have a society tricked into believing the problem is the idleness of our poorest, whereas in fact it’s the Cronyism amongst out richest. This is a recession, yet our leaders have shown more than ever they want to push the same culture that caused this disaster. If they push any harder, it wont be long before people unite, and hit back.”

A man sporting a shell-suit two sizes too small spat a lump of phlegm the size of a golf ball at Alex’s feet. Alex looked up, and was greeted with a vapid, crooked grin.

“That’s it!” He declared out loud. “I’ve had enough! All of you,” he turned to the crowd accusingly, “all of you, as far as I’m concerned, can go to hell! God knows you’ve earned it.” A few people blinked and the rest stared blankly; this type of behaviour isn’t unusual for London. His parthian shot complete Alex turned towards the road, looked once each way, then sprinted to the other side; past the traffic lights, past the bus stop and towards home.

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4. Alex adds nothing to the story

“It’s been hard. Really hard, but I have good news!” Pause. “ A guy with big connections to a record label called last night. He’s agreed to see me and I’m heading to his office this evening!”

The news cracked the girls’ sobriety and replaced it with a rich excitement that leapt between them like St Elmo’s Fire. The gentleman to her right glanced from the corner of his newspaper, then returned to whatever he was doing. Her friend spoke up.

“Good! No-one deserves it as much as you. How long have I had to tell you? You were the best singer in school, you’ve made all the right decisions and now, you’re going to be the best singer in the world!” 

The first girl blushed, clearly pleased with this praise. It was remarkable how this morning the same words would have felt hollow to her but now, after her interview offer, made perfect sense: here were the  irrefutable consequences of her hard work, something to be shown to friends, enemies and herself as proof that  someone important felt she had what it took to become famous. This person’s career depended on finding the next big name, and he had chosen to consider her. Above all else she had achieved something here, even if she wasn’t entirely sure what it was.

“And best of all, you’ve never had to compromise who you are. How do you feel?”

“Good. Well, obviously,” she laughed, “but very nervous. He’s from a company called Mustapha.”

The girls’ attention was briefly stolen by a scruffy looking man sitting on the chairs opposite. He glanced up and down the corridor with the same furtive gestures as a rabbit watching for wolves, peeking from between his dirty, tartan baseball cap and thick, green raincoat. This in itself marked him as suspect, as the weather was balmy, a typical late afternoon in July, and all other passengers wore no more than one thin layer of clothing. Suddenly he stood and walked in determined strides towards an exit, trailed moments later by a security guard. Then he was out of sight, to a different part of the train. 

The two girls looked at each knowingly, they had both tried to ride the train without a ticket before, smiled, then stood themselves as their stop approached.

“But you’re right, I’ve never had to lie to myself. I’m willing to make some changes and be flexible of course, but I have too much self-esteem to say I’ll just be whoever people want me to be, and who’s to say that’s what the public even want?”

The train came to a halt and the two girls disembarked, illuminated by the golden light of a summer day’s close as they disappeared down the platform.  The gentleman opposite placed his paper on the small table to my left, took out his mobile and himself prepared to leave. As he rose from his seat and turned in the opposite direction of the girls, he began to speak.

“Hi, dad? It’s Frank. I just wanted to let you know I’d like to cancel my eight o’clock tonight. I don’t think she’s the right person for us.”

As his voice faded into the muted tones of the commuting crowd I noticed the paper Frank had been reading. An elaborate puzzle was visible, a maze, formed beautifully into the shape of two letter “u”s hiding underneath an umbrella during a rainstorm. Several different inks were present, the remnants of previous challengers that had built upon each others success, with the final solution provided by Frank himself. I pondered his answer briefly, then flipped the paper over and turned to the job vacancies.

 Maze (original design by mazeingpuzzles.wordpress.com)

2. That Job Interview, In Full

Unknown location in a large UK city, between the central train station and commercial district. This area is still generously described on some CVs as a “busy town centre”, although it realistically only occupies a no-man’s land between these two hubs of genuine activity. From the window our interviewee can see a Ca$h Converters, a small café and several boarded-up buildings. The office is small and sparsely decorated. This gives an impression of transience, as if this building has held several enterprising marketing companies over the years only to have them fail in sequence. The floors are boarded, the walls newly painted red, with two small pictures of a New York skyline and an Art Deco style clock on the wall opposite the entrance door. This sits above a desk that houses two receptionists, both of whom pretend to work for independent companies. Our interviewee stands when beckoned, enters a separate room, and takes out various sheets of paper from his bag and arranges them on the desk.

After 10minutes, a gentleman enters. He wears a grey suit with scuffed black shoes.  He has a terrible skin complexion,  is tall and full of energy. Both shake each others’ hands, smile, and begin.

Pimply Gent: Hello Mr _____, remember me? We spoke on the phone. You found us alright then did you?

His smile broadens even more. He sits at the end of a long table, with his body facing slightly away from the interviewee, stroking his tie slowly, sometimes stopping to pinch the end lightly. Our interviewee laughs tersely. He inhales to speak.

PG: Great! Well I wont be interviewing you, your interviewer is running late from a meeting. One moment please.

20minutes pass. A more serious, but equally tall, gentleman enters. He wears a slightly darker suit, is thinner, and doesn’t smile. Handshakes this time are firm, eye contact assured though fleeting. He gives the impression of a person agitated.

Serious Man: Right, Mark filled me in on your CV. Basically, I don’t give a shit about CVs, or degrees, or work experience, or words, I just want to know what you can do. So what can you do?

Interviewee: I can do the job, I say so on my CV, and Cover Letter.

SM glances over CV and Cover Letter.

SM: So you do. Let me put it this way. You’re answering my questions well, and that bothers me – it means I’m not able to see the real you. I want to know about your motivations – where do you want to be in five years time?

Interviewee pauses, then begins to answer…

SM: AND NO BULLSHIT. If you don’t know, then don’t make it up. Because I don’t know either, and if you make it up, I’ll have to make it up.

Interviewee: I want to start my own business.

SM scoffs.

SM: Do you know how many graduates come here and tell me that? You’d be amazed. Sell me this pen.

Interviewee: Would you like to buy a pen?

SM: NO! That’s the whole point. I’m going to leave and come back, and when I come back in, I want you to tell me why I’m qualified to be your boss. Here, you can even take my notes. Then I’m going to buy that pen off you.

SM leaves and re-enters.

SM: Hello, I’m John. I’m looking to buy a pen.

Interviewee: Hello John, how about this one?

John: NO. Ok, here’s where you went wrong. You didn’t even ask me about my semi-professional football team. You didn’t even ask about whether or not I wanted a pen. First thing in sales is – you have to establish need. I don’t need  a pen, I need a sycophant who’ll go all gooey eyed when I tell them how great I am. I want someone who can validate me every hour, on the hour. Don’t you get it at all? You’ll never work for Serious John Inc. with that attitude.

Interviewee: Serious John Inc.?

John: I’m going to make my own company in five years time, Serious John Inc. Think I’m going to work where I am now for the rest of my life? Not  a chance! So now I want you to ask me some questions.

Interviewee: Well, I noticed from your website that you’re an international company. Any chance I can work abroad?

John: What’s the point? We’re going to inflate to breaking point and sell to Brazil in three years. How’s that for a five year plan? I could be in jail by then.

Interviewee: You’re fired. Out you go.

John: Can I at least have my clipboard back?

Interviewee exits stage right. John covers office in petrol, and curtains fall as he lights the match.

Fin.