ACTIONS AND CONSEQUENCES
Vusi was nailing his first job interview until a mysterious report changed the game
VUSI jumped up from his console game and rushed through to the other room to show his mother the email he’d just received. It was an invitation to a job interview – the first he’d received since graduating with a bachelor degree in communication. Slowly and carefully she placed the iron in its safety bracket, secured the neatly pressed shirt on the board and held out her hand to receive Vusi’s phone. As she adjusted her glasses to read the small text a smile spread across her face. She moved towards her boy, hugged him tightly and started to sing his praise names.
After the celebration, Vusi’s mom gave him a long lecture about how to prepare for an interview – all the research he needed to do and how he should present himself. She also advised him not to tell anyone – at least until he actually got the job – to avoid any jealousy or competition.
Mom rose to the clothing challenge. He looked striking in a charcoal suit complemented with a cream shirt and expensive African-print tie. Seeing him dressed and ready to go you’d have thought he was the one chairing the interview panel. His hair was plaited neatly on top of his head, and
the shoes she’d bought fitted him well and gave him an easy stride. He looked like a million dollars and he knew it.
OOZING confidence, Vusi clocked his interrogators. Sitting directly opposite him in the middle of the panel was an Afrikaner, an old timer who was probably the director of the company – he was certainly the chairperson of this group.
He wore a naughty smile under his heavy moustache and his stomach bulged through his undersized shirt – a sure sign he belonged to the boerewors and Klipdrift club.
He seemed uncomfortable with his excess weight but his handsome face and kind personality made up for any flaws.
On his left was a man in a kufi cap and a long tunic with grey hair and a beard. Over his long tunic he wore a snake-skin undercoat with a small, scented beard brush protruding from the top pocket. He added an exotic flavour to the room.
The third member of the panel was a lady who spoke as if she’d just swallowed a ballot box. Her voice didn’t match her beautiful dark face, and neither did her beige twopiece suit. Despite this, she was a real lady – always polite and smiling.
All three of his interviewers knew their games but Vusi was relaxed and ready for anything they threw at him. He knew the theory backwards but as a newcomer to the job market he lacked experience. Happily this was not something his prospective employers seemed particularly concerned about.
After Vusi made what he thought was a clear and clever presentation for a communication strategy for one of their clients, the panel put their heads together, whispering and nodding secretly to one another.
Vusi didn’t need a sangoma to throw bones to see that the faces in front of him were happy and impressed. It was written all over their toothpaste-advert smiles – they looked like they’d just unearthed a rough diamond.
“So far we’re happy with your performance,” the chairman announced. “We’re just waiting for a small IT report before we can finish up here. But don’t worry, it’s on the way.”
“What would you like to drink?” the ballot-box lady pushed the question through her perfect teeth. “I mean soft drink, of course.”
Vusi laughed at her joke and shuffled in his chair. “I’m fine, thanks,” he lied.
He just wanted to hear their final decision and rush home to his mother. His fingers were itching to kiss the keypads of his phone to share the results as he visualised the bright smile that would emerge below her doek-clad head.
WITHIN minutes, a lanky woman entered the room. She had a pink file clasped between her fragile hands, which she handed to the lady who then passed it on to the chairman. All three leaned forward to scrutinise the enclosed documents.
From the other side of the table, Vusi could see the faces of the people he’d charmed alter. As they compared notes, underlining and circling elements in the folder, their voices took on a more serious tone.
What was this IT report all about? Vusi had no criminal record. Was it a credit record? There shouldn’t be any issue there apart from his student loan repayments. But something was wrong – the sudden change in the chemistry between him and the panel was glaring.
The man in the middle cleared his throat indicating he was about to declare the panel’s verdict. His face had lost its bright, receptive guise and, as he surveyed the other two, Vusi realised their eyes were avoiding his.
“Do you drink?” the chairman demanded, as if he was about to offer him a bottle of something. “Do you drink?”
The urgency of the repeated question demanded a quick and clever response, but butterflies seemed to be scuba diving inside Vusi’s knotted stomach.
“Yes,” he replied, as swiftly as if it was a Siphiwe Tshabalala pass in a nail-biting Kaizer Chiefs game. “Do you smoke?” Smoke? Smoke what? What is this? An application for the priesthood?
Vusi’s brain was buzzing but he managed to spit out a simple yes to the second question.
The chairperson threw the open file down on the table like a man beaten and surrendering his hand in a game of cards.
Pages of downloaded pictures scattered in front of Vusi’s eyes. One caught his attention – it was taken at a friend’s party near the swimming pool and he was trying to force a cat to drink beer.
He glanced at another picture – Mamma Mia! Drunk as a judge, baring his backside to passing motorists during the #FeesMustFall protest march.
He remembered this one appearing on social networks, but it hadn’t bothered him at the time – it was all in the name of student rights, he’d told himself.
Vusi’s suit suddenly felt like an electric blanket and as the heat turned up beads of sweat bubbled on his forehead. His neatly ironed cream handkerchief was barely up to the task.
Three pairs of eyes were trained on him and an eerie silence prevailed. Vusi’s mouth was dry and he needed water but the words wouldn’t come out.
The chairman pushed the file into his direct line of sight.
“Do you recognise any of these pictures?”
He felt like a killer captured with the murder weapon in his hands. How could he deny it?
“Yes, they’re mine,” he mumbled. “They were on my Facebook page . . . ”
“Had we seen these pictures earlier we wouldn’t have bothered inviting you here today,” the chairman said sternly. “You did well during the interview but your character doesn’t fit our image.”
His words felt like bullets fired from an automatic rifle. Vusi was drained, his ego shattered – the consequences of his earlier stupidity were now plain to see.
‘Vusi was relaxed and ready for anything they threw at him.‘