Even after an hour of wandering in our nation’s capital, and trying desperately to burn off the coffee I had chugged for nearly 2 solid hours rather than just asking out a pretty girl and being shot down in 5 minutes, I still had no idea whether I could really take this job. I know how to speak to people in all walks of life, I keep myself presentable at all times, and I am very good at putting in the proper research to do anything well, but it would mean living in London, the added expense and making new friends. I also might encounter snobbery, subjugation and other things starting with “s”.
After getting lost 3 times, I wandered into the Hotel, spent about 40 minutes in the gym and went back to my room to lie down. I was clean, my second-best suit was ready for use (camouflage again) and after a few attempts with the trouser-press, it looked in good shape. The only thing I could think to do before 12pm checkout was call about the job.
I sat up rigidly, knowing that your posture is always a factor in how well you communicate over the phone, and dialled the number. I can usually tell the attitude of a person from the tone of their voice - working in complaints departments for inept companies, it beame a a survival instinct. The man who answered the call on the third ring sounded world-weary, contemptuous and his voice was, it seemed, steeped in sherry and cigars.
“Sutherham residence,” he drawled in the poshest voice I have heard outside of a BBC period drama.
“Good morning, I saw an advertisement for the position of butler in your household. I was hoping to apply-”
“It’s about bloody time someone called. We had a load of applicants last month who were a bunch of poh-faced, snobby, workshy idiots - you’d better have a brain about you if you want to come here, sunshine,” he said, dropping 5 social classes in 5 seconds.
“Well, I’m not snobby, and I have never been without a job since I was fifteen, if it helps you with making the decision,” I replied with what I hoped was a little charm.
“I won’t be making a decision about it,” he cackled, “Sutherham himself will. If you’re lucky, he will make you my replacement - I’ll put you through now.”
I tensed when I heard this - if my predecessor was making me bone-judderlingly nervous, what would the man of the house be like? My stomach lurched during the pause while I was being connected - how would this go, and would I stand a chance at-
“Sutherham speaking,” said a lively voice after a few seconds. “I hear you’re looking to become our new man in charge here and I guess I should ask what experience you have.”
I groaned inwardly - this was always an awkward part of an interview when you have had more jobs than The Osmonds combined. “I am currently working for a restaurant where they specialise in silver service for special occasions, I am very good with kids because I pretty-much brought up my 2 younger sisters and younger brother, and I’m told I have the ability to speak with anyone with confidence and the proper respect... I guess that’s pretty much it,” was the weak finale.
He mumbled for a moment or two, clearly thinking over what I had said with due diligence. “Do you know what it takes to be a butler for even a small family like mine?” he asked, amusement highlighting his speech.
“I think it might be professionalism, a sharp eye for detail and maybe the ability to stay in the background, turning the gears to keep the machine running. That’s not to mention being able to deal with the children when required.”
“Sounds fair - have you any qualifications relevant to the post of butler? I am familiar with most of the major schools where you could learn to become one.”
I had taken a moment to research this: “Sir, have you heard of the British Butler School? They seem to be one of the finer places for such training,” I began.
“They are indeed a fine school - we have had many applicants from their halls come here to interview over the last few months,” he said with a hint of annoyance in his voice.
“I have not studied there, or anywhere else to become qualified, but if you decide to give me a chance, I would happily take their 2-day course and any others until you find me to be satisfactory.”
The silence was agonising for a couple of seconds, and then the man burst out laughing. “You know what - I think you’re worth a chance. A sense of humour, genuine enthusiasm and absolute bloody-mindedness are exactly what I like to see in an employee. When can you come for an interview?” he asked.
“I’m sorry - are you serious?”
“I rarely joke about anything that would be hideously embarrassing for anyone not realising it was intended in jest. Give me a date and time, young man.”
“Frankly, I have no free time in London apart from today. Would this afternoon seem overzealous, or would you prefer me to return next week?”
“Get a suit, your best shoes and try to look like an upper-class twit - my wife won’t let you through the door if you don’t. I’ll see you at 3:30pm - give me a mobile number so I can text you the details,” he said without hesitation. I read out the number, repeated it to ensure he had it correctly, and he finished with a cheery: “catch you later”.
My last thought before I started to get things ready was: He didn’t ask my name - how weird is that? It took some time before I realised I had a large canvas bag with me and 2 suit-bags that wouldn’t look good if I dragged them along on an interview. I got changed and buffed my shoes, then left the room to hand over the keys at 11:55.
“Is there any chance you guys can hold onto some luggage for me?” I asked the concierge who did not appear to be at all busy that cold morning. “I wil be back by 7pm, and I’m happy to pay a deposit if it’s not a normal thing to request.
He peered at me for a moment as though I was an unsightly blemish on his underwear, and considered this briefly. “No, you have already checked out of the hotel - we cannot hold anything for you. It would be against our best interests anyway... how do we know you are not a terrorist?”
“You have my credit card details, and know my address. I trusted you with that,” I replied. After a few seconds, I left the lobby (or foyer, or whatever it is called) and walked to the nearest train-station. Bizarrely, it had no lockers to spare and I had no idea where to stash my spare clothes. However, I did have a contact in the city. Hope she hadn’t opened the till and seen my stupid message.