Friday, April 28, 2006

The sombrero and the strawberry

So my mate's mate - let's call him Joseph K. - goes for an interview at a big law firm. He's sitting in the waiting area with the other candidates and they're all handed out this simple personal details form to fill in. The last question is a "do you have a criminal record?" tick box, with space to write the details of the offence if you tick 'yes'.

All the other candidates finish the form, except Joseph, because he's had to tick the box and is busy writing in details. The atmosphere in the room has gone a bit tense; the other candidates - who've all finished - are all looking at him curiously as he scribbles away. No matter: soon he's relieved of the stares, as he's invited into the interview room, where a panel of five interviewers sit. He gives them the form.

The panel are pretty surprised, as he's the only candidate they've had who's ticked the box - and it's not every day you get someone with a criminal record applying for a law traineeship. They ask him why he has a conviction. He takes a deep breath.

"When I was a student, me and two mates have this great idea. We decide to dress up in sombreros and capes and head down to Wimbledon during the tennis competition to sell strawberries and cream to the fans. We get there, and for two hours it's going great: we're standing with the crowds, selling loads of strawberries, and it's a hot sunny day.

"But then this guy who we've just tried to sell a tray of strawberries to tells us he's an undercover police officer. At first we think this is just a wind up, but then he shows us his badge, pulls out his notebook and starts asking whether we have a license (we don't), how long we've been doing this for, and what our names and addresses are.

"The policeman says that he's going to have to report us. I'm like, 'Listen mate, we're just students having a laugh, trying to pay off our debts. Come on, have a strawberry.' The guy has no sympathy; he says no, and carries on writing, telling us that we'll each receive a court summons in two weeks' time. We're are still thinking that this is just a big joke and someone's having a bit of fun with us. Nevertheless all head home, feeling slightly dejected.

"Anyway, two weeks later, I find out that it definitely wasn't a joke - a court summons arrives in the post. The big day arrives and I turn up to court wearing my suit. I meet my mates there, and, unbelievably, they're dressed in the same sombreros and capes we were wearing down in Wimbledon. But - here's where it gets really crazy - I find out that not only am I being prosecuted for unlicensed selling, but I'm also being charged for attempting to bribe a police officer. With a strawberry.

"I get a twelve-month suspended sentence."

So Joseph finishes telling the story and the panel of interviewers are rolling around laughing their asses off. Any kind of stern manner they might have been trying on the other candidates has been completely diffused by this, the greatest of anecdotes. All the questions that follow are kind and sympathetic and he having already completely won them over, he can do no wrong. He gets the job.

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