The interview was going OK. My answers had been positive, eye contact plentiful, and I had listened hard to everything said by the HR woman, Hayley, and by Nigel, who heads up the hospital’s portering and security teams. I was mirroring back bits of the information they had provided about the job, relatively confident that my keen but considered attitude was keeping me in the picture for the post.
As they talked, I let myself project forward a little. I added together the 2.5 hours of lunch breaks, 37.5-hour week, and the half hour walk to and from Broomfield Hospital each day. 45 hours a week…yet I needed a part-time job, to be able to maintain the quality of input to the newsletter I still write each fortnight. Was I biting off more than I could chew? Probably.
The next question – how did I feel about dead bodies? – broke my reverie. Naturally enough, the portering services team regularly wheel the deceased to the hospital mortuary, they explained. Was I comfortable with that? Well, I had sat for several hours with my mum in the interim between death and funeral; and had visited Maureen’s dad as he lay at the hospice, shortly after his death. “I’m sure there might be a period of adjustment, but don’t think it would be a problem,” I suggested. “Death should always be treated with dignity and respect of course.”
My eyes stayed on their faces, but thoughts of afterlife crept in while Nigel told how gallows humour pervaded his team. “That’s hardly surprising,” I replied. “I’m quite comfortable with that.” More thoughts were creeping in, of whether my own sense of humour might be too unpredictable, or unusual. And were they thinking that I was over-qualified for portering?
Now Hayley asked if I would be comfortable transporting young babies around the hospital? Seemed like a no-brainer. “Yeah, I love being with very young kids,” I said, still thinking about acclimatising to mortuaries.
As I let the thought pass, they looked rapidly at each other. Their spreading frowns triggered my shrillest internal alarms. Bollocks, I had let my full attention slip, having described myself to them as a ‘good listener’.
I spoke up immediately. “Sorry, I think I misheard you……you were asking about babies that have died? I honestly thought you meant healthy babies. My apologies, please strike out my comment if you can!”
Nigel grinned. “I was about to write ‘This man is a monster’,” he said. We moved on, to more questions, but I had surely just left the job behind. A two-sentence e-mail the next day confirmed it.
It would have been good, honest work. But not to be, this time.