He sat on the sofa in the reception staring at the floor. He was not really staring at anything specific. He did not notice that the creamy carpet that covered the floor was mildly striped. He did not notice the high heels that passed in front of him. He did not even notice the two ladies behind the receptionist’s desk.The day’s newspaper that was handed to him by the receptionists did not interest him. Neither did the breakfast show on television.
After every few minutes, his eyes would wander across the room to fellow interviewees. The majority were ladies; all immaculately dressed. They looked more like employers than job seekers. They were all young. They had the bearing of focused individuals about to take the corporate world by storm. A bearing he once had. Others seemed sly. The kind of ladies who smile and wink their way up the ladder. The kind who blow kisses at doormen. It was not easy to read the faces of the men in the room. The didn’t have their hearts on their sleeves. He had better things to do than study men’s faces anyway.
Three years of hard-job searching had broken him instead of hardening him. The three years had made him miserable. It had consumed the grace he had accumulated in his twenty five or so years. It had eaten away his confidence and his faith. His spirit was worn out, just like the shoes on his feet. Both required renewing. When he received a call inviting him to the interview, it did not excite him. He attended the interview because he had nothing better to do with his day. He attended the interview to confirm what he already knew; the hunt was not nearly over.
The three year job hunt had changed him a lot. It had transformed him. He was now a grown up. He had become a job hunting machine. The three years had made him a spectator of many activities and a participant in few of them. A spectator of the relevant and a participant in the less relevant. He had become a spectator of festivities, happiness and people moving forward. He watched from the side lines. The years had made him a participant in wishful thinking, Religious fanaticism and misery.
In the three he had learned a lot. He had learned that a university degree was not very important. It had been a mistake for him to think that it was. He had learned that most of what is in motivational books were just words. They were not very practical. Not to him. He had learned that as much as long walks-in search of work- we good for muscles, they were bad for your spirit and leather shoes. He had learned to oil his lips to conceal his hunger. He had learned to smile to conceal troubles. All looked well.
He had attended a private primary school. A private school with a school van and a motto boldly written on its side.’Education is the key.’ A motto he had believed with all his heart. He had made it the theme of his life. He had lived it. He considered the three years a price for believing religiously in the motto. A price for living the motto. A price for his naivety.
He no-longer regarded his CV as precious as he did on his graduation, when he had wanted everybody to see it. He no-longer felt proud of his efforts as he did on his graduation day. When his leather shoes were new. If anything he felt sorry for the ‘wasted’ time , effort and resources. He felt pity on those who trooped into campus with dreams, hopes and misinformation. He wished them luck; they would surely need it.
Three years before-when the hunt began- he lived in a small rented apartment in a middle class estate. An estate of passers by; people on the move. His naivety caused him to think that it would only be a matter of time before a job came calling. His naivety had led him to think that it would only be a matter of time before his job would afford him a better apartment. He thought he was on the move too.
Three years later he was living in his uncle’s servant quarters. His pride would not let him into the main house. There was no space for him any-way. He had moved to live with his uncle when he had no illusion of better times ahead. It was cheaper and left him some pocket money. The pocket money he got from his old man once in a while.
The years had seen him move from carrying his certificates in a small leather briefcase-a gift on his graduation-to a flash drive. The flash drive contained all his certificates and other documents he considered relevant. Years of effort were summarized in the flash drive. To him it signified how small they were. How small he felt. Deep down he knew better. He had carried the flash drive everywhere he went. He held on to it like it was a floating device. Only that he was sinking with it.
So, when the receptionist walked up to him and told him that the panel was ready for him,it didn’t excite him. He didn’t get nervous or anxious like the others. He didn’t even bother to straighten his shirt. He just smile thinly at the receptionist and walked towards the interview room. His walk was neither nervous nor confident. He just walked. His head was neither bowed nor held up. It was just there, like it had been numerous times during the hunt.
soundtrack: Stop this train- John Mayer