I sent them my CV on Sunday, by email, and they called me on Monday morning. We made an appointment for Wednesday at 11.00.
I had vowed never to take an office job again, especially at a publisher’s. I did it for two years, gradually began hating it, and ended up getting sacked. But being barely employed for the past few months has made me a great deal less fussy.
Their office is out in Alimos, a suburb of Athens. I arrive at precisely 11 and they take me up to see the boss. She’s probably in her late 50s, has straight hair parted in the middle. Sort of reminds me of Aggeliki Sotiropoulou, of 17November fame.
She doesn’t ask me to sit down, but I do anyway because that’s simply what’s usually done. She has my CV in front of her.
“So, you heard about us through A. He’s a friend of yours?” she says.
“Not a friend,” I say. “We worked in the same school.”
I tell her.
“And how long have you been there?”
“I was there for a year, four years ago.”
“And have you taught anywhere else?”
The situation’s clear now. She hasn’t yet bothered to look at my CV. She doesn’t yet know that in addition to teaching, I worked for a couple of publishers, edited and even co-wrote textbooks.
“I’ve been teaching for over seven years.”
She eventually sees where I’ve listed my work with publishers. She asks me why I left. I’m prepared for this, of course.
“Well, there was no in-house writing done there, and I missed it. I wanted to go back to teaching and devote myself to my writing, which included a novel.”
“Yes. I finished it up and tried to get it published.”
“An original novel?”
Brief puzzled pause.
“Well, actually, no. I’ve copied it, but I’m hoping no one will notice. I’m thinking of calling it Crime and Punishment.”
No, I’m just kidding. What I really said was:
She tells me the position also involves being an ELT Consultant, travelling around to promote their books to places in South America and Asia, and other parts of Greece. I tell her that sounds good, and I assure her I live alone and that I’m not married. She doesn’t need to know about my cat, though.
Then she asks me again why I left the last publisher I was with.
And I explain it all to her again.
Maybe she didn’t believe me, or maybe she was fishing for some dirt on the competition. Who knows.
She asks me how much I was making there, and in my confusion, I tell her 180 euros less than I actually made. Oops.
Then she says she wants me to show her what kind of work I can do and gives me two little exercises, which I consider an impertinence, but what can you do? I have to write a 70-word paragraph or dialogue presenting the pronouns this and that to nine-year-olds who have learnt be, have, can and the imperative. Then I have to write a 120-word piece presenting fifteen-year-olds with the past tense, simple and continuous.
She takes me into another room, where three people are working. One of them I recognise. She’s looking at me too.
“You look familiar,” I say, sitting down at the desk where I am to write my passages.
“So do you,” she says.
I used to work in a school with her, about five years ago. I never knew her well, but at parties we’d chat. We got along well.
“Is your name Christina?” I say.
She goes back to work.
“Then I’ve mistaken you for someone else.”
Someone comes in and addresses her, and calls her M.
That’s right! M.!
“I do know you,” I say. She gets up to leave the office for something. When she comes back I tell her where I remember her from.
“That’s right,” she says. “I remember now. So how have you been? It’s been a while, hasn’t it?”
No, I’m just kidding. What she really says is, “Yes. That was a long time ago.”
And then she goes back to her desk and ignores me completely for the remainder of my time there.
For over half an hour I try to write these stupid, poorly framed exercises. The one for fifteen-year-olds is easy, so I do that one first. But the one for nine-year-olds is a headache. Am I not supposed to use other verbs than the ones they’ve been taught? How do I write a dialogue with only be, have and can? And in the imperative, which is impossible with can, anyway.
I write something stupid, even though I have no context to put it in, and I’m finding the atmosphere in this office a little stifling. Perhaps some of it had to do with past experiences, but most of it had to do with the fact that I’d become totally invisible. The boss is now speaking to two people in her office so I have to wait. And wait. And imagine what it will be like working with M. if I get the job. The three editors are talking about their post-graduate work. Two girls and a guy. The guy is telling them about a strict professor he had in England, whom he really liked. He says she was bossy. “You like bossy women though,” M. says. “That’s why we get along.”
Great. Not only has she become thoroughly unfriendly, but she’s bossy too.
I have a lesson at 4.00, and I need to be back home by 3.00 in order to get my stuff and make it in time. The boss is showing no signs of finishing with her meeting. I’m getting pissed off that she hasn’t asked if there’s some place I need to be some time today. Eventually she comes out and tells me she won’t have time to see me again. She’ll call me back another time.
It’s 1.30 — two and a half hours since I arrived.
In the meantime, I’ll look through the classifieds in the Athens News.
EXPERIENCED sales people required for new energetic Fish Company. Must speak Greek & English.
(How energetic are the fish? Will I be required to catch them?)
LADIES 18-60 y.o. amateurs only, with overdeveloped bodies, for shooting. Good payment.
(I know it says LADIES, but maybe you need some help disposing of those heavy bodies after you’ve shot them.)
TRAINED Filipino under 50 wanted by a young family in Politia.
(I’m not Filipino, but I can bring your slippers between my teeth and I’ve learnt to poo on the newspaper.)
PS – 16 May 2005
By the way…they never called me back, even though I sent them an email reminding them. Goes to show you how desperate I was.