Monday, 16 June 2008

Stuck in a traffic jam

During the three weeks between the interviews I had Russian friends staying with me, which was just what I needed. We did some sightseeing, talked a lot, and avoided the C-word. Then I found myself once again at Heathrow, managed to fill up my Oyster card (a marvellous invention for a London visitor) in a ticket machine, took the dear old Piccadilly line to King’s Cross, the dear old Cambridge Express, bought a salad at the dear old Marks & Spenser at Cambridge railway station and walked to the dear old hotel. Déjà vu all the way. I enquired about a taxi at the reception, and they assured me they would get me one as soon as I needed it. I needed it a quarter past five, I had figured out, as my interview time was a quarter to six. Don’t ever trust hotel receptionists. When I was down ten past five they called a taxi and told me at would take five to ten minutes. I didn’t panic yet, with my at that point erroneous idea about the size of the city, but in the first place I hadn’t taken into consideration rush hours. Rush hours in Cambridge! When I anxiously asked the taxi driver if we were there soon, he wondered calmly whether I had any particular time to keep. I said my life depended on it.

No wonder I don’t remember much of that interview either. There was a long table with twelve angry men on the one side (well, to be fair some were women, but they “performed” masculine, as a queer theorist would say) and the little me on the other. I had a bad cold too and sounded like a broke-down tractor. I got exactly five minutes to explicate my visions of the prosperity that the University of Cambridge would achieve through my assistance, and The Judge timed it by his wrist-watch. If he had had an hourglass it could not have made me more nervous. But I know it didn’t show. I am best in the world when it comes to pretending I am not nervous. Many years of training. I learned later that I was the only one of the interviewees who didn’t read from a paper.

The last question was whether I had any questions. I had one: when would I know about my fate. “Pretty soon”, was all I got. I knew that according to the rules they were not allowed the make the decision the same day.

There was no traffic on the way back to the hotel.

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