Gribble Thomas felt the interview had rather got away from him, though he was confident his question would recoup any lost ground.
It had started well enough. The panel of three – a grey haired elder statesman type who’d done all the talking, a second man who just stared and a woman who took notes – had seemed quite taken with his CV, which he knew was both compelling and a work of art, in the sense that all fiction was creative, after all.
His researches into the tea industry had been, in retrospect, a little superficial. The ‘what is your favourite tea?’ question hadn’t been unexpected, but the response to his prepared answer of ‘builders’ hadn’t gone down well. He’d imagined the sort of sophisticated people likely to be the interviewers to have spotted the joke immediately and to have waited for the well-timed follow up of ‘of course, Darjeeling for preference’, before sharing a conspiratorial smile. But Johnston O’Pliable, the old fart running the show had sneered, leapt in and killed the moment with ‘I meant the variety, Mr Thomas’.
And, in hindsight, he should have known replying to the question, ‘do you like silver tips?’, with, ‘more than your average werewolf,’ wasn’t going to pull back any lost ground.
But here was his chance. ‘I think that’s all our questions, Mr Thomas. Do you have any for us?’ Mr. O’Pliable smiled in that oily, insincere way that prospective employers used – at least in Gribble Thomas’ recent experience – when they were about to reject you. It was a ‘going through the motions’ smile – where ‘motions’ had the faecal meaning while the ‘going through’ part was how Gribble felt when they flushed him out of the door after another failed attempt at employment.
‘Just one.’ Gribble met the smile, and raised it with his best unctuous grin. ‘Since this is a tea business I wondered how many – and I accept this is an average – how many tea leaves there are in each tea bag?’
The smile on O’Pliable’s face slipped away, rather like it had been flushed. ‘What?’
‘I know there are different strength teas and different strength leaves, but assuming a standard breakfast teabag aimed at the nation’s first cuppa, how many—?’
O’Pliable’s complexion had moved from a milky white and was approaching a builder’s brew. ‘I heard the question. Why do you want to know?’
‘Why? Oh sorry, but I assumed that’s why you asked me if I had any questions. Up to this point it’s you who’ve being seeing if I would be suitable for the new job. But this is my chance to make sure I’d be happy with it, isn’t it? I mean, if you were just going to reject me you wouldn’t prolong this interview with some sort of sham ‘let the interviewee think he has a chance’ opportunity, would you? No, of course not.’
The second man, who up to that point had said nothing during the interview – indeed, Gribble wondered if we was awake – leant forward. ‘Course we wouldn’t. Would we Johnston?’ He received a glare for his pains.
Gribble let the previously strong silent type have a special grovelling nod of the head. ‘Quite. Obviously I just want to be sure that you are the sort of organisation that has exacting standards of quality control. To do that you must want to ensure each teabag leaves the factory capable of giving just as good a cuppa as the last one. You’ll have to test each batch of tea to make sure it is up to your requirements before the tea is refined and bagged, I imagine. To do that the same quantity of tea needs to go into each bag, doesn’t it? Which must mean you use the same number of leaves per bag. I just wondered how you worked that out?’
O’Pliable goggled Gribble. The strong silent type nodded, apparently to himself. Gribble leant back. Maybe he’d scored this time. Maybe it might make a difference. Maybe…
The woman who’d asked him about his future hopes and his previous jobs, the one who’d actually smiled and taken notes, the one who he thought he’d got on well with, the one called Margarine or something, coughed lightly. ‘Mr Thomas, is this some sort of reversal of the recent interview technique of asking candidates brain teasers, with you asking us one?’
Damn, Gribble thought. I’ve been sussed. ‘No, not at all. I—.’
‘Oh. Because that might have been very clever. If it’s not that then you might as well bugger off. I have to work with enough smart arses like these two muppets. Thank you. Please ask the next person to come in on your way out.’
This month’s #blogbattle prompt is ‘tea’