Wednesday, 25 November 2015

How to neither make friends, nor influence people

Rachel stood up and said over the desks, “Nice work, that’s your first placement in your first month,” she raised an eyebrow “not bad for a beginner”, her eyes lit up teasing me. “Seriously, it often takes longer. Nice work, you learn fast”.
I leant back in my chair, a big grin splitting my face: Sure the first placement had been a complete fluke with an existing client, one Kate had previously placed with and knew well, but the work had been my own and there hadn’t actually been a role to start with – the client had created one for my obviously amazing candidate – ‘what we in recruitment call a float’ I gloated to myself. I stretched my feet out kicking into the Australian shoe mountain under the desk. Sighing, I reached down under the desk, determined to clear a more permanent space for myself. It was a leather heeled jungle down there and I could barely see where the shoes ended and the back of the desk began.
“Ahem” said a voice from above “and who’s this sitting in my seat?”
I jumped, hitting my head like some clichéd clown and turned on my hands and knees to see two perfectly formed ankles, long slender calves leading up to a green pencil skirt, all perched on a pair of stiletto heeled, black snake skin shoes. I clambered out into the light my eyes scanning up to arms folded in a matching green jacket and I struggled to make out a face haloed in the light as my eyes grew used to it.
She stood there, hair swept up, hazel eyes flashing dangerously, cheekbones flawless and mouth in an angry pout.
Kate.
Her eyes travelled south to my scuffed shoes, creased trousers and the dust balls from under her desk that had glued themselves to my knees, before taking in my shirt and dishevelled tie and her eyes finally meeting mine.
“So you made it to the end of your first month then?”

I walked through to the break out area, box of Hokka Hokka noodles in my hand, on through the kitchen and the gaggle of Accounting girls including the cute, tall one, Lance. Spying Kate at the furthest table on her own, newspaper spread out in front of her covering the table surface, headphones on and fixed on the contents of the salad bowl in front of her, I made a bee-line for the seat opposite.
“You don’t mind if I join you right?” I stood waiting for a response.
Caught, her eyes flicked up. Slowly she reached for her portable CD player and pressed pause. Another beat and she reached for the headphone band and pulled it back over her head.
“No. Sure. Take a seat. I wasn’t doing anything.”
I sat down moving the paper out of the way, folding it up to make space
“You don’t mind… “
She stared straight at me.
“I’ll just…” I looked up again to see her still staring at me.
I stopped the folding and placed the noodle box in the small space in front of me.
And then the verbal diarrhoea began.
“So we have friends in common. My friend Colin Carmichael knows your friends Justine and Damien. Weird huh? I met them at Colin’s house. I told them I was going to be working here and they told me all about you. Y’know I studied drama too? I didn’t teach though.  And they told me you played the violin! I used to play the violin too. How freaky is that! And then we both ended up working here. John tells me you worked in Retail too, same as me, I did remember that right, right?”
Kate took a large mouthful of leaves and reached for her water bottle. She slowly chewed, then swallowed as if to respond. She paused. Impaled another bunch of leaves. Aimed for a tomato and then added an olive and a wave of houmous to her now heavily laden fork. She looked up. Slowly moved the fork to her mouth, carefully closed her mouth over the food and began chewing again. Her eyes locked on mine the whole time.
The silence drowned out the cackles from the Accounting team.
Another bubble of anxiety laden word-vomit rose in the back of my throat.
“So y’know how I made that placement last week with Jigsaw? Well it looks like we hadn’t worked with them in a while and didn’t know what roles they had on, there’s nothing on the system, so I thought I’d arrange a visit for us to go on, so we can find out about their business and get to know them and things, y’know? I wondered if you’re free next Tuesday, coz I’ve spoken to Inga and she said Tuesday was best for her…”
She took a sip of water and swallowed her mouthful.
She took in a deep breath and sighed.
“Matt. Darling. I get that you really want to do well and I understand that you’re excited.” She set down her bottle, pushed the salad clear and folded her arms on the table leaning in. Her large bronze and orange bangles clattered and she smoothed them along her wrist taking another deep breath. She froze a smile on her face and looked up at me.
“You’re right, we have lots in common and it’s funny you’ve heard so much about me when I know so little about you. And I’m really glad you’ve made your first placement.” She nodded agreeing with herself.  She looked me clear in the eye, “Jigsaw are a company I’ve done a lot of work with over the past two years. I know Inga very well; In fact I went for lunch with her the week before my month- long holiday. They’ve had a recruitment freeze on for the past few months, but that’s about to lift so things could be good for them. And you. I’d be happy to take you out to meet Inga and hand over my well established relationship.” She breathed deep a third time, restoring her composure. “But maybe we should make sure you’ve got the hang of things before I do that.” Her face was calm again as she exhaled.
“No, of course, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean… I mean, I know that you… That you,  err… I…” my hands fumbled with my chopsticks, I could feel the flush of colour racing up my face.
“Seriously, Matt, its ok. Just give things a little time. I’m sure we’ll get along ok. Just get back to your noodles and let me get back to my reading.” She flashed me a killer smile, “Nice tie by the way”.
I grinned, and shovelled in a first mouthful of teriyaki chicken, sending a splash of sauce and one long silky Udon noodle snaking its way down towards my stomach.

Kate nodded at the offending mess and seeing the distraught look on my face, let out a loud bark of a laugh, “Oh darling, what a mess you’ve made!”