Hamza goes for an interview

Hamza snuggled up in bed wrapping the duvet a little tighter, a slight smile on his lips. Today was going to be a good day. One eye lazily flickered open, blurry vision strayed to the green illuminated digital bedside clock. 8.05am; there was a sudden thud as Hamza fell of the bed, knees scraping against the wooden floor and cheek squashed against a chair leg. He scrambled to his feet, duvet entangled legs tipped him over again. '*** hell!" He kicked free of his bondage hopping to the door in an effort to strip off his boxers. This time he went head first into the doorframe before sprawling once more on the floor. ‘Shhyyyyytttt!’ he screamed in pain. No time for a shower, he brushed his teeth, grabbed a handful of Kleenex and passed them under his armpits and neck. 'Damn stupid alarm!' Fortunately he had the foresight to pack his bag and lay out his clothes the night before. He wiggled into his blue pleat trousers, cotton white shirt and pin striped tie. A dab of aftershave and a comb through his black hair, Hamza glanced at the mirror doing a mental check. Clean shirt check, shiny shoes check, fresh breath check, documents check, travel ticket check, journey plan check, and house keys check.

8:20am. The chilled morning air hit him as he headed for the bus stop a few meters away.  He had planned this for three days. Mr Marshall, his missionary mentor, had told him about the opening at a prestigious establishment. This could be the opportunity he had been praying for to get into the food industry. Excited as he was he had agonised over putting in the application. It wasn’t the usual formal application form; this was more of a show and tell. They wanted to know his personality and skills set. He had written an essay about the time he spent as a child growing up in Morocco, visiting the olive plantations, harvesting dates with his father. He talked about the spices he learnt to use with his mother and where they came from. They even had a small yard where they had grown their own chillies and herbs. At the stop he checked the display board. It read 8:28am; thankfully expected time was in one minute.  He tucked his hands deep in his pockets sucking in the chill morning air.

He had described the aroma of freshly picked herbs and how to tell when a chilli was ready by the feel and colour. The red had to be vibrant like the approaching bus. Hamza settled in a corner seat for the fifteen minutes journey to the train station. It was rush hour. Good thing he had given himself extra time to get there early of which he had now lost fifteen plus all his prep time.

At the train station he checked his watch, 8.38am; his train was due at 8.40am. He had already looked up the trains and platforms. He legged it to platform one and looked at the boards.  ‘Status: On time’. Then the overhead speaker crackled, ‘Ladies and gentlemen this is Thornton Heath Station. We are pleased to announce there is a good service on all southern lines.’ Hamza still had a minute so he ordered a black coffee from the platform kiosk. When he faced the boards again due time was now three minutes. He cradled the paper cup warming his hands, every sip sending warmth right down to his stomach. The orange lights flickered on the boards and when they settled due time was ‘delayed’. Hamza gulped, swearing as he burnt his tongue, eyes glued to the board hoping to see a time come up. The crackling came again followed by ‘We are sorry to announce the 8:40am to London Bridge is delayed due to a slight issue on the tracks, please make your way to platform three where this train will come in. We are sorry for any inconvenience.’ Hamza breathed a sigh of relief; he could not afford to lose any more time. He joined fellow grumbling passengers as they marched down the dirty stairs some juggling luggage, ambled along the narrow corridor and up another flight of stairs to the platform. He could see a train approaching; perfect. Unbelievably it shot past at full speed, sending him scuttling away from the edge. Crackle; ‘Please stand well away from the edge of platform three. The approaching train is not scheduled to stop.’ Agitatedly he paced the platform as another two trains sped past. Hamza was not alone in swearing. Another crackle followed by ‘For passengers on platform three your train has just gone by without stopping. I don't know why. Please make your way back to platform three for the next service. Thank you.’

‘Did he just say platform three? Aren’t we already on platform three?” 

‘I think he made a mistake, he must have meant platform one.’

‘Seriously this is absurd!'

'Outrageous!'

‘Idiots!'

Hamza ignored the ongoing grumblings; he lifted his hands and tried not to scream. “Ahhhhhhhh!” All his carefully laid plans had just gone poof. He clenched his fists for the solemn march back to platform one. The departure board read 9:20am -1st arrival in 2mins, on time. True to its word the train was bang on time. ‘Ladies and gentlemen we are pleased to announce there is a good service on southern lines.’ Hamza gave the finger as he boarded.

He had been shocked when the letter came through inviting him for an interview. He had made ‘an exceptional impression’ and the establishment would be delighted to meet him today at 10am. The train came to an abrupt halt. Hamza hoped it was just a red signal light. Five minutes later it carried on sluggishly as if taking passages for a leisurely safari park ride showcasing London's elephant houses on the right and awful graffiti walls on the left. He could feel his shirt sticking to his back. He closed his eyes and prayed. His phone vibrated. It was Mr Marshall checking to see if he was OK. His short reply was 'Southern trains and I are in battle.'

9:55am the train strenuously pulled into London Bridge station. Hamza was already at the door repeatedly pressing the open button which refused to turn green. ‘For heaven's sake!' A soft ding and the doors slid open. He took the stairs two at a time elbowing commuters out of the way. Slapping his ticket on the barriers he half forced his way through. Outside he took a moment to calm himself. A church bell stroke ten times on the hour, he broke into a run two short streets down he rounded a corner heading straight for the huge revolving glass doors underneath the silver sign, ‘The Shard’. 10:01am he learned across the reception desk plastering his best smile on his face. ‘Hamza here to see Mr Patterson please.’ The receptionist looked up. For a second Hamza thought he was mistaken but no, it was definitely her. His unbalanced ex.

Georgette Taylor