After the Shanghai Fiasco™, I was still pleased to see that other recruitment agencies had found their way to my door. Well, at least another. Not that I am beneath begging and grovelling for a job like the next sales guy, but in this case THEY came to ME. Insert big hearty grin. It was the Friday before all went north of reasonable in Shanghai. I was leaving the office, and my BlackBerry was showing an email from a woman called NG/吳. I have a soft spot for Hongkies with the surname NG. Nine tenths of the planet can’t pronounce their family name at all, it can’t be easy for the NGs of this world, right? They deserve a break once in a while… And a big break she got, that one. What kind of retarded, deviant mind sends me an email titled Hello?!?!? This is the email equivalent of sitting at my dinner table uninvited. While eructing, farting and smoking. Dude. Get the fuck off my property or I’ll sick the dobs on you. And shoot you, just to make your day memorable. Seriously?!?
But okay, she’s called ng. Can’t be easy every day. All right, I’ll play. But remember the delete key is near. Especially on a Bold 9700… The email is standard cold-calling recruitment agency boilerplate. Sorry to bother you on your professional email address, not that I want you to switch jobs, but, hey, I have a job for you, Toto, so please here’s my office phone, my mobile phone, my sister’s phone, my hot cousin’s bikini shot, don’t be a stranger now! You my friend are desperate. It’s 7pm and change on a Friday night. Okay Miss, you’re called ng. I’ll play. For now. So I call her mobile. She can’t be at the office, desperate or not, right?
My God is she happy to hear from me, so fast, too. I think I heard her piss herself, but for all I know, she could have been in the loo, and she has a good excuse for the waterfall noise that I could distinctly overhear. It’s HK after all, people pick up the phone in the loo. Must be cultural. Or something. Nah. I think she was ecstatic and did piss herself. She is so happy to hear from me. She’d offer me her sister on a silver platter if she had one. Yeah that bikini shot isn’t her sister’s. Desperate times indeed.
We chat for a bit, yep, it’s a job similar to what I was competing for — and was about to be offered for a very wee short time by men with wee little balls — and although I wasn’t particularly interested, okay, she’s called ng, can’t be easy every day. I’ll play along. For now. Plus she has that energetic voice on a Friday night. She’s either on some good stuff that’s on a government restricted list (and a field trip to her office is thus required), or she’s a natural Energizer Bunneh, and I want to see that. Beats spending time with LadyBaat Po at the rock face. The prison, I mean. Ah well, the office. Anyway… So I agree to send my résumé soon (er, it’s like, er, ready anyway, considering that I am getting the job in Shanghai, right? Fuckers with wee little balls…), and we’ll chat on Monday. Ciao.
We all need a coffee break once in a while, Lady Baat Po included, well she more than anybody else, really. One day, really, one day I’ll have to expose 八婆女士 for the cuntshine that she is. But I’d have to write a whole book about that woman, not a blog post. Give me time and a million buckaroos so that I can take a year off to write the story. Thank you. In the mean time… Not that I want to get Marcellus-Medieval on the lovely denizens of HK and surrounding dumping grounds, BUT, seriously, people, could you get names that we can pronounce? Without laughing? It’s either family names that are beyond human capabilities like ngngngng my teeth hurt (get a vowel or two it’ll help) or some ridonkulous made-up comedy name like Kinki or Elvis or Trouble. On the subject of vowel-less syllables in Cantonese, it’s amazing and slightly mind-boggling that some of the most common words in that language are unvoiced: 唔 m5 [not], 吳 ng4 [family name], 五 ng5 [five], 午 ng5 [noon], 誤 ng6 [mistake]. It took me a while to identify the syllables and understand the sentence 明唔明呀? ming4 m5 ming4 aa3? The m5 in the middle is inaudible to untrained ears… Guys, fix that language…
So here I am on Monday, enjoying an early breakfast at my desk (10am-ish, but who’s counting anyway?), and my phone rings, well, it would ring if it wasn’t on “All Alarms Off” now, wouldn’t it? It’s more likely that the screen lit up and I happened to look at it. It’s Ms ngngng. She indeed wants to meet can we meet tomorrow afternoon 4 pm would be great what do you think? I think you’re not human — we humans need to breathe sometimes. Definitely on a controlled substance. Give. Yes. I’ll go and meet you ma’am. Yes. Ma’am. She didn’t even flinch. Desperate indeed. Me likes.
Tuesday comes and I take a leisurely stroll to Pa… ARE YOU DEMENTED!??!??!? IT’S 45°C OUTSIDE! I’m taking the MTR for one station and arrive right on the dot at the slave-trading-shop, wearing jeans, a pink shirt and Ray Bans™. Not a worry in the world, considering that I am getting the job in Shanghai, right? Fuckers with wee little balls… I ace the interview, I think. I didn’t even want to be there, except maybe for Ms ngngng’s stash of LSD. We part amicably, after a one-hour lecture on the wine biz in China and HK by yours truly, you can send my lecture fees to the office, thank you, and a 5-minute brief on the job. The fact that the job description has absolutely, fuck-all, nothing to do with what the job really is will only be revealed in round 3. But anyway. I walk back to the office, yes, I put myself through this misery because I really didn’t want to go back to the Bitch From Hell. Aka Lady Baat Po. In the process I learned that it’s not possible to go from Pacific Place 3 to IFC only using elevated walkways, but I made a serious attempt at it. I must be getting Hongkie DNA. Maybe in the food.
The week passes, I get a job, then lose it, Fuckers with wee little balls, and I’m in a severely bad mood. Not desperate, like Ms ngngngngng, but she may have a point here. Ring! Ring! Ring! Hi Missie, how’s it hanging? Any interview lined up for me? Tomorrow? Grand. Where? WHATDOYOUMEAN IN THE NEW TERRITORIES? I thought you said the job was in HK. Right, yes, I heard the NT belong to HK, the same way used toilet paper belongs to the toilet. Riiiiiiiight. I grab a map, well I virtually grab a map, Google Maps wasn’t invented just to contribute to global warming either, and OHMIGOD, is this for real? It’s like, like, almost like being in China — I’m sure my BlackBerry will switch to China Mobile if I go there…! So the message here is: God wants me almost in China, but not quite. But almost. I sneak another quick look at the map. Yup. Closer to China than to Central. Hmph. Alright. Your name’s ngngngng. But patience is wearing thin.
So the next morning I take a taxi from my abode in yes-I-know-I-live-on-Lantau-so-what? to the north-eastern NT, and I am really thankful that taxis in HK are cheap — such a ride in Europe would cost an arm and a leg. We pass through semi-desertic areas, is that, wow, trees? Woah lookit! These buildings! They’re 3 feet tall? And I thought Kowloon was quaint! Woop dee dah! I think the taxi driver is getting nervous now, judging how he keeps looking in the mirror. I mean, drivers in HK, taxi or other wise, do not ever look in the mirror for traffic purposes… This gwailo mumbling and laughing to himself worries him, apparently. Pshaw. There goes your tip, my friend.
There we are. At least there are buildings. Lots of them. And tall. What? No windows? Whachu mean nobody lives in there? Warehouses? Surely you jest! I get my dismayed self into a slightly better-looking building (but we’re starting with such low standards anyway…), and ask the lady behind the counter for a pint of the brown stuff and a steak and kidney pie. She asks me whether I’ve an appointment with HR. Apparently what we got here is failure to c’munikate. I’ll be back looking for you, sister, and it won’t be pretty. In the meantime, beam me up to HR!
Although the building has been renovated and decorated like a real building, and not the bleeding factory/warehouse that it once was, and still looks like, the elevators remind visitors of the building’s past. I have never seen passenger elevators this wide. Even Two IFC’s elevators look tiny in comparison. How do you say double-width cattle-movers in Cantonese? A typical HK taaitaai, 4 ft tall, 38 kilos, my age thereabouts, is waiting for me with a botox-impaired smile. She’s the HR manager in charge of my case. I may have frowned at this juncture. She dumps me in a padded cell a windowless 6 x 4 room with a million forms to fill out and sign. On the first page is “Position applied:”. We’ll come back to that one. I leave it blank for the moment, because I am not sure of the exact title. From what I have gathered from Ms ngngng I understand that it’s a new position as a fine wine buyer for China, working out of HK. I’m sure HR has a neat little title for that.
The interview itself goes well — a mixture of self-confidence (gathered from the fact that the men with wee little balls did offer me the job, albeit for 24 hours), and of anger-fueled determination gives me what’s needed to ace that one. There’s just a little hitch: during the discussion, the HR taaitaai tells me Tell me more about you, and let’s see whether I can find a job for you within our organization. WHADDAFUSKYOUMEAN? I CAME FOR THE NEW POSITION AS A FINE WINE BUYER! Of course I don’t yell at the woman. And I keep a straight face. Ms ngngng, you and I need to talk. Seriously… HR taaitaai informs me that the next step will be a meeting with the line manager (I told you HR nerds had cute little titles; seriously, line manager? What kind of caffeine-deprived, LSD-snorting brain came up with that one?!?). Good. I’d like to meet my future boss. And…? Whachu mean tests? Like the kind I take every so not-often at the Polyclinic, where really not cute nurses and doctors poke stuff into my body, and I really mean INTO? Ah no, the pen and paper kind. Not that I am enjoying the idea of taking tests. I’ve an unfinished PhD, and a couple of other degrees: I’ve had all the tests and exams one can wish (or not) for.
At one point, the HR taaitaai went through my résumé again (preparation is 50% of the battle, they say. Apparently she had missed that chapter in The Art of War; #fail), and commented on the fact that I spoke many languages. Yes ma’am, this is my one true skill. Oh, and you speak Cantonese too? Not quite yet ma’am, but I’m learning yes. Oh, so maybe we should speak Cantonese? What part of “not quite yet” was difficult to unnerstan’ ma’am? She’ll come back too that theme several times during the interview. Then she mentions money. That’s always a motivating topic to me. Whether salary or commission-affecting sales, you have my ear. So Mrs HR comes back to her now favorite theme: We should negotiate figures in Cantonese. 係啦, 你講先! Okees, you first! This has the wonderful effect of shutting her up. She switches topics, and will not come back to the Let’s Speak Canto theme. Score one for the away team. Mrs HR tells me she’ll be in touch soonest for the tests and next interview.
But first, a chat with the delightful Ms ngngng. She told me she wanted me to call her as soon as we finish. Sure thing. I summarize briefly the interview for her, and then ask her, as gently as possible — I am gentle Neanderthal after all — where could the wires have possibly been crossed over a job description. I’m not exactly feeling confidence swarming all over me on this one. Ngng reassures me that all is well and fine in the state of Denmark — like I care, we’re in HK, remember? It’s just because this is a new department, the company is actually very flexible on who gets to do what, and roles will be attributed according to skills and competence. Sure thang, ma’am, but I’m here for the buying role. Growl…
The next day I get a phone call from the delightful Ms ngngngngng who’s so happy to let me know that the company is really interested in me and they want to go to the next step which is the interview with the line manager and the tests, which will all be done in the same session. Slow down, sweetheart, you lost me at interested! I swear, this woman doesn’t breathe, or she has gills behind her ears. Must check next time. She did look a bit fishy. Mermaid-ish. Who knows… Well okee then. When’s the appointment? Saturday 9.30am? Surely this must be a mistake. You mean Monday right? Nope… I’m tempted to tell her that I don’t do Saturdays, but let’s introduce my life philosophy to these people one bite at a time. Well, I guess it’s alright, since I don’t have Cantonese class this Saturday. Emphasis on this Saturday. Apparently the “line manager” (I don’t think I can get used to that one any time soon) is away next week, so we might as well do it on Saturday. Hmph. Alright then. Let’s.
I arrive at the same near-Chinese location, and this time I don’t ask for a lager and a pie — I’d rather have a coffee thanks much. I am greeted by a lower-ranking HR manager (I guess the bosses do get to stay at home on weekends!), younger, cuter, and with a less functional level of English. This is going to be fun. Or not. We’re in the same padded cell. The tests, UK made, are overall very well made, very professional presentation and content. But I am not in a very admiring mood right now. So we start with a logic test, that has to be completed in 30 minutes. Basically, you read a paragraph, then a few statements about the paragraph. You have to decide whether the statement is true, false, or whether it’s impossible to say. After doing the tutorial together, the cutie leaves me alone, thank God for small mercies, I don’t have enough brain power this morning to deal with both a test and a cutie. I breeze through the test, and call back the chick. Might as well move on quick quick 快D啦.
Next is the interview with my potential boss. Scary lady. But very smart, knowledgeable, and amicable enough — at least she thinks she is being nice, but after HR Hot Pants, it’s a bit of a stretch. But anyways. We discuss my own little self, I field the usual question about Cantonese — except she’s the only person I’ve met so far who asks me in Cantonese whether I speak Cantonese. Smart woman. Then we discuss the position. And that’s where I have to clamp down firmly my jaws, as I am finally introduced to the truth. This is not a new position. This is not a new department. This is not fine wines only. This is an existing position where the former occupant has decamped to better climes. And I happen to know the previous guy. Since I sold him some wines. So yeah I know exactly what she’s talking about, and yeah I still want the job. Move along… But Ms ngngng and I need to talk… Whatever. She concludes the interview with You’re definitely on my short list. I’d kiss her on both cheeks if I didn’t think it’d compromise my chances.
Next up: the second test. Miss Hot Pants informs me that it is a very hard one, and that many candidates weren’t able to finish it in time — 45 minutes for 35 questions. So we go through the tutorial and instructions together, and Holly Sweet Louise, it’s not for kids! It’s a mix of maths and logic. You have a half-dozen graphs and tables, providing you with raw data. Every question is about one of the data sources, and you have to compute quickly figures and select the answer in the multiple choices that matches the answer. Hard. You know the kind, If train A leaves Birmingham at 7.30 and train B Liverpool at 7.45, and the conductor is drunk, when will they collide and where? I wish I’d snapped a few piccies so that I could show some examples, but I was determined to finish that test, and my brain was in overdrive. Why a wine buyer would have to go through such torture I have no idea, but there you go. Cutie-pie comes back, I’m almost done Miss, wait, wait! I rush through the last few questions, and ding dong! I’ve completed the test. Thanks mucho, can I have a lager and a pie?
Test number 3 is your run of the mill personality test, 248 statements about yourself you have to agree or disagree with. Many similar questions too, like I didn’t notice. Pshaw. Meep Meep, I’m hungry now, let’s do this Miss. Ten minutes later I’m a free man. Exhausted but free. I ask Miss Hot Pants whether I can get the results of the tests, especially #2. She says she can’t give me details — fuck that, it’s MY tests! Even the doctors give me the results… — but she can tell me that while I didn’t get 100%, I’m way up there. Thank you Missie, I’d kiss you too, but for a possible lawsuit for sexual harassment. So I’ll just say thanks and scoot. It’s past noon, the receptionist has left. I hand over my access card to the security fellow. 再見, matey, hopefully soon.
[tbc with round 4 next week]