Picking (At) A Winner (or what not to do when interviewing)

I found myself doing something that, frankly, is going out of fashion. I was with a group, discussing something worthy and I doodled. Nowadays the distractions tend to come electronically with the subtle, and often not so subtle, phone use during those longueurs when Simpson from Accounts or Fannitwat from HR are droning on about some tangentially improbable piece of europfaff that we are obliged to adopt in our seminally intrusive behaviours or some such.

Doodling was, for me, an art form; the greater the need of rescue, the bigger and deeper the boxes I drew. Faces, weirdly frank blotporn, corpulent underparts, and a strange urge to pen an anatomically acceptable pigeon all flowed from my pen or pencil. Not from some urgent need to release my inner Dali but to keep my hands busy.

Before you get the impression I was prey to some sort of sub-Weinstein hard-wired grope-urgery, let me explain.

One of the functions of a growing seniority in the legal business, was the inevitability that I would be involved in something for which I proved time and again to be ill-suited and that was as an interviewer. If I wasn’t talking more than the candidate, I was falling asleep and having to be woken to be told the candidate had gone and wished his best wishes to be passed to me. These faux pases should, of course, have caused me mortification and, indeed, I would give that impression to others. But secretly I hoped they might mean I’d be excused from being involved the next time.

What really tipped the balance and what led me to adopt a hand-distrator in meetings, was one, apparently innocuous interview circa 1994.

The candidate would have been fairly senior – a lawyer with some 4 or more years post qualification experience because there were three of us on this panel. Mr Droomgooble – god alone knows what he was called – was late but from memory he had phoned ahead to warn us. Despite that we three had already gathered in the conference room waiting to be told Mr Droomgooble had arrived.

My other two colleagues had something of importance to discuss – the price of stainless steel ungents or how to extract the office gerbil from a oiled keyboard possibly – so I was able to let my mind roam.

And as you, dear reader, will now understand a roaming mind is always paired with a fiddling hand.

In those days pre the ubiquitous handheld the centre of the table contained a stationary tray – branded pens, pencils, postits, staple and, glory be, paper clips.

The paper clip was a Le Pard favourite. Without conscious thought my hand would collect one such and unwind it. I might then bend it into the shape of some arcane beast, I might clean my nails or surreptiuisly dig at some goo that was stuck in some grove or table feature. Happy hours could pass while I mined and I retro-engineered with this will piece of wire.

Why this day I should decide on a different strategy history does not relate. Suffice it to say, my errant subconscious decided upon a totally new gambit, to whit dentistry and, to be more specific, dental hygiene.

With the unwound little wire clasped in my right hand I used the newly freed pointy end to remove some random plaque that was, inevitably, growing between my lower incisors.

The geometry of this operation wasn’t something I gave much thought to since the radius of the wire and the gap between my teeth were in a negative ratio. Something happened, a raised voice or the phone ringing to announce Mr Dromgooble’s arrival and my hitherto gentle pressure increased quickly and exponentially.

This cataclysmic event passed all bar me bar. However as the wire penetrated the too small gap by the expedient of pushing both teeth a little further away from the other than physiologically had been their lot to that point and the point jabbed against a tongue that was both present and perturbed.

‘I’ll get him, shall I?’

Did I nod? I like to think my politeness gene remained intact all the while the rest of my brain was screamimg ‘get that fucking thing out, you moron’.

Probably not, though. Only seconds have passed – a sort of Penetration plus 5 – yet I am descending into the panicked realisation that the demands of my now very conscious mind were easier thought than done. I pulled. I twistedone way and then the other. I even pushed it in further in the vague if ultimately forlorn, and in retrospect, utterly cretinous belief that that might make it easier to twist and remove.

No, I kebabed my sodding tongue, didn’t I?

Picture the scene. A sunlit conference room, moments away from the entry of a colleague and a young man hopefully of a warm welcome to put him at his ease while he presented his best case for future employment with a presitgous law firm. Another colleague already checking with me as to the format of the interview – who does the intros, asks the first question etc. And the most senior lawyer present, the eminence gris in this tableau who is now dribbling a mix of blood and saliva while trying to hide the fact he has undertaken a random act of dental mutilation and is, indeed, unable not only to lose his mouth but actually speak.

’Are you ok, Geoff?’


’Ok, But I’m happy to ask the first question.’

I did the only sensible thing possible. With my non-hiding hand I grabbed my stomach, feigned a grimace (that didn’t take much effort) and upped and ran.

Never have the client toilets been such a sanctuary since a wine tasting evening turned into a multi technicolour regrouting of the decor. With the benefit of a mirror and an absence of an audience I did what was clearly my only option. I reversed what I had done some five minutes before. I yanked the bloody thing out the way it went in.

It took my another 5 minutes to restore some semblance of dignity to my person. The blood droplets that formed an usual cascade on my unfortunately chosen yellow tie were I think missed by the others. My inability to speak without whimpering not so much.

I must say I don’t remember Mr Dromgooble after that initial encounter as I headed to the cloakrooms, but we didn’t offer him a job. For that I belatedly apologise if my bizarre behaviour had any effect on his sangfroid. If it is any consolation the ten days of a liquidised diet that followed seemed punishment enough.

About TanGental

My name is Geoff Le Pard. Once I was a lawyer; now I am a writer. I've published several books: a four book series following Harry Spittle as he grows from hapless student to hapless partner in a London law firm; four others in different genres; a book of poetry; four anthologies of short fiction; and a memoir of my mother. I have several more in the pipeline. I have been blogging regularly since 2014, on topic as diverse as: poetry based on famous poems; memories from my life; my garden; my dog; a whole variety of short fiction; my attempts at baking and food; travel and the consequent disasters; theatre, film and book reviews; and the occasional thought piece. Mostly it is whatever takes my fancy. I avoid politics, mostly, and religion, always. I don't mean to upset anyone but if I do, well, sorry and I suggest you go elsewhere. These are my thoughts and no one else is to blame. If you want to nab anything I post, please acknowledge where it came from.
This entry was posted in humour, memories, miscellany, work and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

17 Responses to Picking (At) A Winner (or what not to do when interviewing)

  1. Lucy Brazier says:

    Doodling is a fast disappearing art form! It must be protected and encouraged at all costs! Also – I would love to work somewhere that has an office hamster. I shall ask no questions about the oiled keyboard…

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Ritu says:

    Well that’ll learn ya!
    Doodling is much preferred to skewering your tongue!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Horsefeathers, Geoff! The sad thing is that I’m not even going to ask if it was really true, because I’m pretty sure it was. 😉 Delightfully related though. Hugs.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. JT Twissel says:

    Good gravy – adventures in dentistry. I’m gobsmacked!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Coffee+hearty laugh=splutter! Did you know there is a large portion of the population that best learns, listens, attends to oral and visual presentations when their hands are occupied? Hence doodling. They are called ‘kinaesthetic learners’. I am one of them too and learned about it when training to be a Waldorf teacher, thus saving the generations I taught from feeling bad about the necessity to fiddle with something – anything – when in class. Or boring meetings.


    • TanGental says:

      No i never knew there was a riposte to the ‘don’t fiddle Geoffrey’ admonishment that followed me through school. Instead I doodled secretly. I need to come out!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. gordon759 says:

    Reading your tales i sometimes wonder how you;
    a – managed to reach the heights of your profession
    b – survived

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I remember you talking about this at the weekend and it was so funny! I think there should be a reenactment at the bash, without the getting it stuck bit… A dyed beard and a paperclip hanging out of your mouth – clearly the next undiscovered fashion statement!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Norah says:

    Oh, Geoffles!!! Doodling, though obviously dangerous, is sometimes more polite than other things I can think of.

    Liked by 1 person

Comments are closed.