Anyone need a car guard?

2008-09-05 00:00

Last month, I was called for an interview with a security company that needed a bodyguard. I like to think of myself as a bull, not easily floored. During my school days in the township, I used to floor my opponents as they came. I was armed with this biographical reference in my curriculum vitae. Such confidence can be shattered the moment you get past the first minute of a job interview. It’s like realising you’re on a sinking ship and bailing water for dear life.

“What three adjectives do you believe would best describe you,” the interviewer asked.

“Strong, creative and excellent,” I replied while smiling, feeling like an American soldier who has just dodged an al-Qaeda suicide bomber. I had answered the question with speed that would have earned me an Olympic gold medal. I slowly chewed some muthi that my sangoma had assured me would make the interviewer ask only simple questions. So far so good.

“Good,” the interviewer said. “What do those words mean to you?”

At this point those clichéd tiny beads of perspiration began to form on my forehead. I thought I just had to come up with the words. Now I had to justify them. Being not so clever and not so stupid, my first thought on “strong” was to challenge him to arm wrestle, but when I looked at my interviewer, whose biceps resembled those of a wrestling champion, I quickly put that out of my mind, bearing in mind that I have no medical aid package at the moment.

“Strong,” I said. “I have strengths… um… I know what I’m good at and I know how to focus myself on that to make the most of my strengths.”

Although it was a freezing winter’s day, my hands were wet, but the boat was afloat. He stared at me and asked me if I was all right. I told him that I had flu and had not taken my medication that day. I doubt if he was convinced but he gave me an out on “creative,” saying it was a self-defining word. I wasn’t about to let him get away with that. I was going to prove myself. I was going to define it in depth.

“I am oriented on making things. creative in the manner of enjoying and revelling in the act of creation … imaginatively.”

At this point, with trembling voice and dancing feet, I was in neck deep and I barely realised it. Being always a suspicious person whenever things don’t go my way, I suspected that there was a heater underneath my seat. Yet, with some reserve of strength, I was able to pick up the signal flare gun and put it to my head.

“Excellent… well excellence is my goal, my credo, a principle by which I live. I will settle for nothing less.”

“So,” he said, “you’re not excellent?”


“You said it’s your goal. So you’re not excellent yet.”

My knuckle grew red on the trigger.

“No… I mean, yes I am excellent, but excellence isn’t a permanent state, a concrete goal. I’m not just going to wake up one day and say, ‘hey, I’m excellent, what’s next?’ Even though I’m already excellent, I have to keep on trying to be excellent because if I stop trying I’ll stop being, so it’s still a goal. See?”


At this point I felt like saying, “Yeah, well I’ve seen the work this company has done, and the work I’ve done kicks your butt. You need me.”

Anyhow, to make a really long interview (or at least it seemed long) short, they said they’ll call me. I’d say I’m not holding my breath, but somewhere during that interview the water got up over my head, so I am holding my breath, but I’m not holding it for them. See? I’m holding it because… ah, I was too smart for myself. Anyone need a car guard?

• Tiema Haji Muindi a Kenyan journalist based in Durban.

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