Blue dots and a man called Bob
Updated: Sep 24, 2022
“Could you send a message to the marketing department please?”
“Sure, what’s the message?” asked the voice on the other side of the line.
“I’m not going to make my job interview today.”
“I’m. Well. This is going to sound ridiculous. I’m a bit lost and I’m stuck in some mud. Even if I find my way, I’m not going to look presentable enough to convince anyone that I’m a competent future employee.”
I was really excited about the interview. I’d been travelling around Europe for four months and was desperate for a working break from my backpacking adventure to help me reactivate my brain and bulk up my bank balance before I ventured off further. I’d applied for hundreds of roles with little response. The barrier was apparently my lack of UK working experience. If I needed experience to get experience I sensed I’d be going around in circles for longer than I planned on staying. I started to feel disillusioned and hopeless. Then one a grey Thursday morning in October, a recruiter rang me and told me there was a role that needed an immediate starter. Despite the tight timeline the client was fussy and they’d not managed to place anyone so far, so it was worth a shot as maybe I’d bring something different. I pushed the backhanded compliment to the back of my brain and decided that this was my opportunity. This was my job.
Learning from recent experience, I planned my trip very carefully. I included a plan B in case the usual route was off schedule and studied Google maps almost as much as I studied the company’s website. I was to get on the number 36 bus on London Road (the teal one, not the pink one) which would then go into town. I was to stay on the bus through to the other side of town, past the train station and then jump off at the top of the university. My final preparations involved getting up extra early to shower, dress in my only work appropriate outfit and straighten my slightly unkempt hair. I skipped breakfast as my nerves had me feeling a little nauseous.
Things started well. I got on the punctual 36 bus and asked the driver to confirm that it would take me all the way up to the university. He grumbled a bit but confirmed that it would, though I would need to press the button for him to stop. I found a seat and enjoyed a moment of victory - I was over the first hurdle. I started to think about the spare hour I had planned, maybe I'd find a spot to wait quietly and maybe that spot would have coffee. I kept my eye on the blue dot on my phone's map, as we moved down London Road, into town, past the train station and up towards the university. As we drove in and past the first buildings, I noticed a family of ducks waddling alongside the most picturesque pond. This was definitely an environment I’d be happy to work in.
Soon we went past a stag statue and turned right onto a busy road. Though my dot’s location was reassuring, it started to feel like we weren’t on a university campus anymore. I refreshed my Google maps and saw to my horror that while the bus was moving, the blue dot now wasn’t, and we’d definitely gone past my stop. I pressed the bus’s stop button and ran to the front. The bus soon came to a standstill. I jumped out, looking around desperately. There was a sign to a hospital and one towards a sport’s park – both part of the university in some way. I turned my phone off and on again, in the hope it would fix whatever was going wrong.
Finally, I was back online. I inspected the map and calculated how much time it would take to go back and then in the right direction. Tiny water droplets started to land on my screen, blurring the way slightly - I didn't have time to worry about them. I had 15 minutes to get there and if I ran most of the way I would make it. I pulled off my heels, popped them in my handbag and started running, following the blue dot. With every step the rain seemed to fall harder and harder – and the journey got steeper and steeper. The dot took me up a long incline to a cathedral on a hill (with a magnificent view). Now with nowhere to go, I examined the map even more closely. I was essentially there - with a fence in the way.
There seemed to be no gate along the fence – just a small (potentially human-sized) hole. Why had the dot taken me a route that didn’t work? I blurted out some colourful language, took a breath and then checked for alternative routes. The only other way was to backtrack down the hill and go round through a different entrance. I simply didn’t have the time. So I hauled up my pencil skirt, crouched down and carefully stepped through the hole. By now I had ladders in the feet of my tights but I was sure these would be covered by my heels.
The blue dot now indicated that I was meters away, I just had to make my way down a muddy slope. I put my heels back on as I didn’t fancy sliding down the last hurdle. I took a few fairly confident steps forward, adamant that this was my victory walk. It was the left heel that betrayed me first. It sank right into the earth, and while stationary, the right one sank slowly down too. I tugged at each foot with all my energy but the heels did not budge. My only way out would be to take my feet out my shoes and get completely covered in mud. This was when I reached my moment. The moment I gave up.
I phoned the company to tell them I wouldn’t make it. A few moments later, a cheery man named Bob in a crisp white shirt and red tie emerged from somewhere nearby, calling my name.
“Look at you! Let’s get you out of this mud.” Bob walked right up to me and grabbed both my wrists, somehow pulling me out the mud. He then carefully helped me down the incline and showed me to the office.
“Right young lady. That way’s the bathroom. There’s a sink and a dryer in there. I suspect you’ll have makeup and all sorts of magical stuff in your bag. I’ll buy you some time.” Bob vanished and left me to sort my run-mascaraed face, wet hair and muddy feet.
I technically arrived at my interview location only 5 minutes late, while Bob sorted out my access paperwork very slowly. I can’t remember much about the actual interview other than that I chatted through my experience pretty calmly despite feeling completely frazzled. When I finally got home that afternoon I jumped straight into the bath to de-mud myself and then washed my clothes twice. I felt completely deflated and like I didn't deserve a job if I couldn't even find my way to the interview.
Two hours later my phone rang – I got the job. That was nine years ago. And that temporary job turned into a rewarding career that would settle me in the UK, help me put down roots and lead to the happiest years of my life so far. As we continue to move through many challenges globally, I’ve been thinking about how to continue to prepare for things to be a bit muddy and off track. One of the things on my mind is to surround myself with people who will help me through when I get stuck - and how I can be that person to others.
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