Cardinal Rules

Contributed by on 03/09/13

Cardinal Rule No. 1: don’t be late.

Cardinal Rule No. 2: dress smartly.

Cardinal Rule No. 3: arrive well-prepared and appear calm, professional and unflustered.

I glance down at the sheet of ‘helpful tips’ the recruiter gave me which I found scrumpled at the bottom of my bag when I was on the tube. The wrong tube as it turned out, going the wrong way. Which I tried to remedy with a bus I thought would take a handy shortcut, but I got ‘Mansion House’ mixed up with ‘Manor House’ on the bus map and now I’m somewhere to the north of the City, running and running and running.

There are too many tourists in the way, ambling happily along the narrow pavements. It’s easier if I run in the road, dodging buses and taxis, playing my own personal game of chicken. And if I win? Then I’ve got a gruelling job interview to face at the other end of it.

It’s going well, I’ve got to Cannon St when I try to dodge back onto the pavement as the traffic starts moving and I catch the toe of my shoe in the grate of a drain and it rips the sole almost clean off. Actually, I think ruefully as I sit on the kerb with my foot across my knee examining the damage It would have been better if it had come clean off – now it’s flapping like some great big comedy clown shoe. I am literally a joke.

Well, I just won’t turn up, I think to myself. It’ll burn my bridges with the one recruitment agent who actually made good their promise to phone me back, but that’s better than admitting what’s happened or turning up to the interview like this.

I flap off down a side street, one of those skinny medieval reminders that, for all the skyscrapers plastered everywhere and Great Fires and bomb damage, this is an old, old City.

And there I see them. Right next to the tiny tower of a lovely old Wren church that only half-survived the Blitz. A pair of shiny black brogues in perfect condition. They’ve been left next to the church door, tucked out of the way, but definitely abandoned.

I try them on and, while they’re not a perfect fit, they’re a lot more dignified than my clown shoes. I have ten lousy minutes to get to the interview. I won’t quite make it, but maybe near enough. I start running, back out onto the main road, weaving between pedestrians and puddles.

The shoes must have great grip or something because it’s a lot easier to run than in the battered clown shoes, in fact I’m making great progress. In just over five minutes, I’m huffing and puffing outside the building where, in around four minutes, I’ll undergo a grilling about my transferable skills. But, somehow, I don’t feel at all rattled. I catch sight of myself in the reflective glass of the lobby and I look a lot better than I expected. A quick groom in the men’s loos and I’ll be right as rain.

I have run a mile in another man’s shoes and, somehow, I just know he was excellent at interviews.

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