Thursday, May 01, 2008

The Government Stooge

I have a new hero, and she blogs over here. She writes about life as a civil servant with the flair and wit of a female Flann O' Brien or an English-speaking Máirtín Ó Cadhain; her guide to the typical civil service day is eye-watering (parts one, two and three). What I really love about her though is that she could have been me. Or I could have been her. I'm not sure of the semantics, to be honest. What I mean is that I came horribly close to taking a job as EO with the Civil Service.

Having finally graduated from UCD in 2004 with a degree and an MA in nothing particularly useful, I panicked. I hated my part-time job in the bank with the kind of passion I usually reserve for commenters who correct my grammar, but I hadn't a clue what else to do. I tried teaching for a short while and had what I can honestly say were the worst two months of my entire life (a story for another day) but given that that was the only thing I could obviously apply my qualifications to, I worried that I would end up stuck with it. My previous work experience had seen me work as a fruit picker, shelf stacker and professional ironer of other people's shirts so I was starting with pretty low expectations - the civil service's open competition for executive officers sounded like the short-term answer to all of my prayers. I rattled off an application and a short while later found myself sitting an exam with 50 gazillion other hopefuls of varying shapes and sizes, a sizable chunk of whom looked like they might be dangerous and/or mentally ill. The test was a piece of piss compared to the car crash that was my MA - I just skipped all the bits with numbers in and had a bit of craic with the word puzzle ones. A few months later again I got a letter, I'd done alright in the tests, alright enough to be allowed to repeat the experience.

This was to be a more intimate and intense affair - three short exam papers, an Irish oral exam (optional bonus round) and an interview. Again, the papers were a breeze, bar the one with all of the numbers on it which I more or less ignored. The super Gaeilge bonus round was fun, as evidently the examiners had been expecting some dolt who was just scooping for points and couldn't string a sentence together, so they were thrilled when I proved both able and happy to converse with them. A short break and a cup of tea, then it was time for the interview proper.

I sat in the comfy chairs in the lounge and fidgeted for a bit. Wandered off to the bathroom to use the loo, paused to check that my face was still on straight, nodded to the competition and sashayed confidently back out into the lobby (I was wearing my favourite interview combo of black poloneck, mustard swing skirt, fishnet stockings and stiletto heels). A grey and worried looking man came out to fetch me and ushered me ahead of him into the interview room, where two other grey looking types awaited me.

It was an interview format I hadn't come across before and I've not come across since, in that they asked me if I'd like to consult my notes and reassured me that they would be asking the same questions as they'd asked on the original application form. Em, notes? It seems that all of the other candidates were aware of this bizarre let-me-read-you-what-I-wrote style interview process, and had come along with their scripts to hand. I was the only fucking idiot who hadn't read the small print and had planned on ad-libbing my way into their hearts. Already unimpressed by my non-conformity, they kicked off anyway with a barrage of questions that all started with "It says here that...". I relaxed after a bit and got into my stride, waxing lyrical about my superpowers and beaming smiles at them in a vain effort to lift their grey pallor. And that was when I realised that I could feel the cold plastic of the chair under my thigh. Just the one thigh though, the right one. I shifted in my chair, puzzled. And then realised that my skirt was tucked firmly into my knickers, and had been since my earlier trip to the jacks. The sashaying around the lobby, the confident stroll into the interview, all done with my arse on display.

I spent the remainder of the interview shifting in my seat like one plagued with piles, thankfully dislodging the hem of my skirt just before I had to shake their hands and scuttle out of the room again. The bitch I'd nodded to as I was leaving the jacks earlier was sitting there with her notes, looking smug, thrilled that I'd made such a literal arse of myself. I shot her a filthy look and sloped off home.

A month later, my results arrived. No. 1 on the panel. Fuck her and her trouser suit.

13 comments:

Chanberry said...

I too almost ended up in the service...I took the AO exam and, like you, skipped all the numbery bits. Pie charts and graphs and percentages may as well be sanskrit to me.

I have to say though, there are worse jobs. I worked in a government department for six months and had a blast - but mostly because of the insanely long tea breaks and the flexi time. Flexi time rocked my world.

Primal Sneeze said...

The bit that amazes me is the bitch ... sitting there with her notes, looking smug.

Why in the name of the mother of the seven sniffling infants would anyone be excited about a civil service job? Why?

Annie said...

swing skirt, fishnet stockings and stiletto heels Good interview tactic, I like it. They'd be so distracted by your legs that they wouldn't be listening & the pressure would be off.

You were saved from a fate worse than death though Rosie.

Govstooge said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Govstooge said...

Brilliant stuff! By the sounds of things you had a lucky escape. And all those mentally ill/ dangerous candidates are now HEOs in my department.

The tea breaks are fantastic though.

Thanks for the kudos!!

redwinegums said...

So I've taken the EO exams... What should I do...

Rosie said...

see, i played a smart game (entirely accidental) and got a job with a semi-state body, running a start-up office where i can do what i like and still get flexi time.

jammy!

because, Primal, when you're young and green and very very poor, a job is a job.

it's more that i don't own anything one could reasonably describe as business casual, Annie.

you're welcome, Stooge. keep it up, every post of yours i read makes me feel like a lucky lady.

play along, Red Winegums, and then find something nicer in the year it'll take them to actually offer you a job.

Govstooge said...

At the rate things are going it could be two years. Things move very slowly in the CS. There's an EO vacancy where I work but fuck knows when it'll be filled. And the lucky eejit that gets it has to share an office with a smelly nutjob! (You are allowed poke him with sticks when there's down time though.)

Govstooge said...

At the rate things are going it could be two years. Things move very slowly in the CS. There's an EO vacancy where I work but fuck knows when it'll be filled. And the lucky eejit that gets it has to share an office with a smelly nutjob! (You are allowed poke him with sticks when there's down time though.)

conortje said...

Priceless stuff :-) I'd give you a job anywhere, anytime! (Mainly because I've seen your superpowers in real life).

Rosie said...

sweet of you, Conorín a chroí. i was just thinking this morning that it would be oh-so-hilarious to write a series of reviews of the bloggers i've met over the course of the last year but at the risk of upsetting applecarts it's probably best that i don't.

you'd get 5 stars, obviously.

out of 5.

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