Wednesday, 24 October 2007

Commuting. I really missed commuting. Not.

The plan for today was

1. Buy a Network Day card which gets me unlimited travel over the West Midlands by train, bus and tram.

2. Go into Birmingham casually dressed to go to the dental hygienist appointment at 10:50

3. Return to Wolverhampton to prepare for the interview

4. Go to University for the interview at 14:00

5. Return to Wolverhampton and collapse

This was a rubbish plan. As I found out at the train station when I found out about the power lines failing between Wolverhampton and Stafford.

This meant all the train lines were affected as diesels were being used to tow trains along the north bound lines. If there were any spare, that is.

I got to the dental hygienist appointment for 11:30. She had a "gap", but that meant waiting another 20 minutes.

I got a scale and polish as well as a clean bill of health and was off back to Wolverhampton.

I got home to change and sort out the web site stuff that I printed off and was off again. Without the soft casual Timberland shoes I usually wear, I was limping quite badly. The plantar fasciitis thing has been getting worse and the Ibugel which was prescribed isn't really touching it any more. I am going to have to do something about it. But not today. When I really didn't need the added stress of pain on top of a job interview.

I got to Wolverhampton train station again and rediscovered the joys of commuting. To my annoyance, I had just missed the "slow" multi stopping train which tends to carry on regardless of power failures as it is diesel powered and just runs between Wolverhampton and Birmingham.

After another dash to the new footbridge to get to Platform 4, I arrived on the platform to see the Virgin train to Plymouth inching away from the station. Terrific.

After being sent to two different platforms, via the staircases, I joined the commuting-savvy regulars on the new footbridge to watch for whichever southbound train came first. Every southbound train stops at Birmingham New Street.

We piled onto Platform 3 and got on the next Virgin train to London Euston. I got a seat next to a woman who was reading a pile of work related papers and a few seats down from The World's Most Boring Yorkshireman who was loudly regaling his luckless companion Peter about how he likes to drive the Xenon.

"Now Peter, you can tell me you like the Mondeo all you like, but I like the feel of the car as it drives....."

The woman beside me was loaded with a briefcase and a large handbag, both of which she had on her lap as she was reading Human Resources material about part time working. She was clearly on the Ladybird version. The first line of the first page was

"Part time working is anything less than full time working"

I turned away from the papers and looked out the window to the industrial landscape that was passing s l o w l y beside us.

"Now as you know, Peter, the Mondeo has its faults, you've acknowledged them...."

He went on to describe in tedious detail how he drove around his old home town of Leeds. Peter pointed out that Leeds was a city.

"You're quite correct Peter! I stand corrected. Or should I say sit corrected."

He then described how he managed to find the loopholes that got his wife off a parking ticket

"Now I was thinking, "Should I be cute and tell people about this?". I mean, I have written to The Telegraph before now and I have been published..........."

The woman beside me put the paperwork into her briefcase and pulled out "The Rise and Fall of the Yummy Mummy" from the carrier bag she also had with her down by her feet.

Then there came the usual unexplained delay between Smethwick Rolfe Street and Smethwick Galton Bridge.

By the time we pulled into New Street Station, Peter (and the rest of the carriage) had been told about how his pal had seen off Jehovah's Witnesses

"....and I told them that by standing on the doorsteps of total strangers, they were just asking for a reaction and if they didn't like it...."

and how he argued for better service from his internet provider or else they'd lose his custom

" I told them there are are plenty of other providers out there these days and if they didn't pull their finger out they could bloody well whistle for their back dated charges........."

I suspect the stampede and resulting crush to get off the carriage wasn't just because it was over 30 minutes late arriving at Birmingham New Street. Peter and his pal may have had a lot to do with it.

As I didn't know which train I needed to get to University, I needed Information. So did nearly everyone else.

In the scrum of people around the exit, there are queues of people buying penalty fares, queues of people getting out, queues of people getting in and queues of people wanting to know where to go next.

I joined one of those queues and when I finally got to the front, I was interrupted by an Asian guy. He was immediately slapped back by the woman behind the desk who told me I needed the 13:25 to Longbridge from platform 11.

I ran down the concourse with a small group of other people (not rivals for the job, surely?) and got stuck on the stairs behind two very fat (and slow!) women who were carrying a large pushchair awkwardly down the stairs.

We got to the platform to see our train pulling away. I turned to go back up the escalators as someone else made a comment to the two women who had held us up. I could hear an incredibly foul mouthed argument starting up as I left for the concourse.

I got to Information again and spoke to the same woman as before. She did an obvious double take before telling me I needed the 13:55 Longbridge train from Platform 11.

That was not an option. It was now 13:35. My interview was for 2pm.

I thanked her and limped briskly to the Taxi ranks after stopping briefly to get yet more money out of the cash machine. £20. At 13:40.

I was the only one in the queue and went to the front taxi. He looked at the map I printed off as if I had just handed him the latest Conservative Party Manifesto document printed in Japanese. He clearly didn't have a clue.

He pulled out his copy of the A-Z, and holding my map upside down, tried to compare the two. After taking an age to compare them, he handed my map back to me and agreed to take me. At 13:45.

We went through the city centre, out along Broad Street, down to Edgbaston and out through the leafy posh bits. He hit a main road, then took a turn off and we arrived in the University area (I recognised this bit from the job interview at the Blood Service lab). We carried on past the red brick Victoriana of the original University, past the comprehensive school visions of the sixties and on to a more modern red brick gated estate.

He swung round the driveway and left me in front of a door. He told me that I was at the Science Park and that here was where I wanted. Somewhere. At 13:55. He drove off with £15.

I took my map out and started walking away from the door, before I realised that it was the building I wanted. I yo yoed back, hoping the Receptionist hadn't seen the double take.

She had. She thought it was funny.

She directed me down a corridor and I met another Receptionist. She asked me to take a seat and that my interviewer would be with me shortly. The Reception area was barriered off from the offices with partition boards upholstered with scratchy, hard wearing, tweedy fabric in a tasteful grey pastel. They matched the chairs.

There were diet sheets lining the walls and information for new patients starting on the new prostate trial.

The Interviewer showed up, shook my hand and showed me into his office. We got on really well. He explained how the organisation worked, how the patients are managed and what my role would be if I was hired.

I liked the guy. He clearly enjoyed working there,talked enthusiastically about his work and his role and called his immediate line manager "inspirational". He was so fired up, he even got me wanting to work there. Even though I still had no idea about salary.

After the interview (where I showed up my lack of people contact yet again), he left me with a Administrative Leader who showed me round the rest of the site.

The patient files filled the massive filing shelves which lined both sides of a long corridor of a room. There were scrutiny areas where clients could check up on the work being done, patient consultation rooms and a drugs room which only clinicians had the keys to.

There was the Reception area. There was a small kitchen area. There was where I'd be working. And there was the Exit. Bye.

I didn't fancy limping all the way to the train station so I crossed the road to the bus stop. I took a bus back to the City Centre. It took the scenic route through the University campus, around Edgbaston and finally, after we stopped for the driver to visit a betting shop, at Birmingham New Street.

I called in to the bullring shopping centre. I needed the toilet and, while I was in Birmingham I could pretend to have money and go window shopping. I ended up in Debenhams where I received a call from Catherine who was eager to know how it went.

As we talked, I wandered through the Menswear section. There was music, pop videos on overhead screens and regular announcements about offers "....throughout the store!" forming a constant and intrusive background noise. I apologised to Catherine who had had to repeat some of what she was saying to me.

The pay was £14,000 per annum. Plus bens. I tried to sound enthusiastic, I really did. But, I had to face facts. £14,000 per annum would mean getting a second part time job simply to pay for the travelling costs.

Catherine rang off making enthusiastic noises (she would, she stood to make £700 if I was hired) and promising me that she'd contact me with any news.

Nothing. Nada. Not a sausage, since. Not a reply to my e-mail or anything.

I take it, by the silence, that I haven't got that job.

Quelle surprise.