It’s grey and gloomy outside, and it feels just as grey and gloomy inside. I’d really like to get the fire going, but I have to pick up the girls soon and then we’re off to the supermarket and I’m not confident the fire would still be going by the time we got back. Plus I don’t really want to go outside to get the wood I’d need to build a fire. Still, a fire would be nice. I stand in the centre of the living room with my hands on my hips and I try to make a decision. My phone rings. I guess my decision has been made. I can’t light a fire while I’m talking on the phone. I better answer the phone.
I collect the phone from the couch and stare at it. It’s the first time I’ve accepted a call on this new phone so I have to concentrate. I swish my thumb across the screen, the call has connected, there’s someone waiting on the other end. I hold it up to my ear and I say hello in my brightest sunniest voice, raising the oh at the end so it sounds like a question. Hello?
It’s a woman, a stranger, but she needs to talk to me and she has a bunch of personal questions to ask me. She wants to know if I’m okay with that. She wants to know if now’s a good time to talk. I’m okay with that. Now’s good. I smile down at my smiling baby, reclining in his bouncinette batting at his toys. There’s no one else here. Now is definitely good.
The woman begins her line of questioning. She is polite and respectful and keeps explaining that she asks everyone these same questions, that I have no need to worry or feel judged. I’m not worried. I don’t feel judged. I don’t know this woman and I might never even get a chance to know her so why would I care? Why should I care? I’m an open book these days anyway. I give her my answers in an upbeat, cheerful, chirpy manner. I move around the room casually. I swing my arms. I lean on the fire guard. I bend down and pull faces at the baby. I act like I have this sort of conversation every day. I act natural. I act like myself. It’s not really acting at all. It’s just me.
It’s been half an hour, and the woman is bringing our interview to a close. She thanks me for my time and she thanks me for my honesty and she tells me to keep an eye out for the letter she’ll be sending me. I’m getting an appointment because she thinks I need an appointment. I’m not sure how I feel about that. I hang up the phone and I try to figure out whether I answered the questions correctly. I try to remember everything I said and the way I said it, and as I contemplate our conversation I remember…
My alarm starts ringing and I sit up in bed and I’m nervous. Straight away I’m nervous. People always say you get butterflies in your stomach when you’re happy or excited, and it actually kind of feels like that right now. My arms and hands and fingers are all jittery too. Shit. I wonder what they’re going to ask me.
I get out of bed and I go and find the cordless phone and I bring it back to my room. I shut the door. I take the phone over to my desk and I pick up the paper and the pens I put out last night in preparation. I’m ready. All I have to do now is wait. I check the time time. Yep. They should call any minute now.
The phone rings and I get a fright. I jump. My heart feels like it’s in the back of my throat. I can’t breathe properly. I focus on inhaling and exhaling, I let the phone ring through three times, and then I answer. I hold the receiver to my ear. I state my name. I’m expecting them. I want to impress them from the start. I try to speak clearly and confidently. I try to sound like a teacher.
The line is a bit crackly and echoey, and I press the phone as hard as I can to my ear as a voice introduces itself. The voice tells me its name, and then it says there are another two voices with them, and the original voice introduces the other voices and all of a sudden I’m on the phone with three voices and I can’t really hear any of them. I don’t know what’s going on. I hear someone ask if I’m prepared for this phone interview and I say yes. I tell them I am ready. I sit down shakily at my desk with my paper and my pen and my phone. I don’t really feel ready anymore.
The voices start asking me questions and I’m listening really hard, trying really hard, but I’m struggling. I’m floundering. I’m drowning. They want me to solve maths problems, they want me to demonstrate my English language skills, they want me to impress them without ever actually laying eyes on me. I can’t hear. I can’t think. I don’t even know who the hell I’m talking to. I feel stupid. My voice is weak. I can tell they’re not impressed. I know what’s going to happen.
It’s only been five minutes and one of the voices rings out louder and clearer than any of the voices have been so far. The voice sounds friendly enough, and the words sound friendly enough, but it’s not friendly. It’s not friendly at all. The voice thanks me and the voice declares that we don’t need to take the interview any further. The voice says that I can keep an eye on the mail box, that their decision will be posted out to me. I hang up the phone and there are tears in my eyes. I don’t need their stupid letter. I already know the answer. I already know they don’t want me.
Yes, my original application to Teacher's College was rejected. A couple of months later I went into the university to see if there were any other courses I could take and the man I met with was outraged that I hadn't been accepted. Nek minnit, I was accepted into the course. Nek nek minnit, I dropped out. What a bloody rigmarole.
P.S. I might be mental. That's what today's phone interview was about.