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Chapter 3 The interview

Ben's eyes cracked open hearing the insistent beeping of the vid alarm. Getting out of bed his toes squashed an unfinished pouch of Buzzed beer soaking his foot. “Crap,” is the first utterance of the day. The remote stopped the wake-up beeping of the vid, and the help wanted section reappeared.

Reading the small help wanted ad once more he thought, “What do I have to lose? It's not like my schedule is overloaded today.” Wearing his most sincere suit, he waited at the autobus stop. As the vehicle pulled over, he heard his name being called out by a tinny voice and quickly stepped aboard.

Ben reluctantly examined the featureless one-story building. Only a painted street number above the plain metal door identified it. “What the hell,” he finally mumbled and entered the sparsely furnished lobby. A half-dozen people were seated on folding metal chairs. A pleasant young woman wearing a dark suit that looked vaguely like a uniform sat at the reception desk. Ben stood politely until she looked up. 

She smiled and said, “Here's your application tablet. Please fill it out, and wait until your name is called.” 

Ben started filling in the blanks when an agitated middle-aged man bolted out of the side door, and in much haste left. “That was certainly odd,” he thought as the receptionist called another name. She escorted the applicant to the side door where he was met by a young man wearing the same style of clothes. 

About thirty minutes later Ben looked up as he heard his name called. “Mr. Thompson, we are ready for you.” He walked to the door, and the receptionist stayed with him until the young man appeared. 

“My name is Jon, Mr. Thompson, I'm pleased to meet you. I'll be escorting you to the interview stations. Please follow me.” Jon led Ben to a small office and left. The furniture consisted of a small table, with two metal chairs. He picked one and sat.

The door opening caught Ben by surprise, but not as much as the man entering. “Yikes, what the...?” Extremely tall, cadaverous, scowling, and ultra-intimidating was Ben's first impression. Somewhat startled Ben stood, stuck out his hand, and with a smile said, “Hello, I'm Ben.” The tall man ignored him, sat down, and stared blankly at him. “What do I do now?” thought Ben. On impulse, he used his best number four grin and said, “I'd be happy to answer any questions you might have.” The man continued to sit still with a dour expression. Ben noticed that he didn't even seem to blink.  “Should I be doing something here?” Ben asked. Again zero reaction from the man. He looked more closely at the taciturn man. He's bald, wearing a white robe, and had a watch with a large digital face on his wrist, The pendant on a chain around his neck appeared to be more than jewelry. Ben smiled, this time sort of, and tried one more time saying, “What type of sales job is this?” Abruptly the man stood and left without saying a word. “What's going on here? This is the weirdest interview setup I have ever encountered,” he mused.

The door swung open, Jon stuck his head in, and said, “Are you ready for the next step?”

“I guess so,” said Ben. “Who was that Jon?”

“That's the boss, Jacob Grimm. I think you did okay. Believe me, you would have known if he wasn't happy with you. He's normally a fun guy when he isn't doing interviews.” 

“I can't imagine Jon, what's next?” 

“Follow me.” Ben tailed him down the hall to a much larger room with workstations equipped with a computer and headset. “This is a type of open book aptitude test Ben. You can use the computer to ask questions about anything you want to know, but the one thing the system will not do is give you a direct answer to any test question. The test does not end, you just go as far as you can, or think you should go.”

Ben sat down and put on the headset. The screen lit up with, “What is the melting temperature of iron?” Ben thought for a second. “It's pretty high, maybe about 1500 degrees.”“What type of iron?” Ben asked. 

The computer's pleasant voice responded, “Elemental iron, free of impurities.” “Can you show me its physical properties?” 

The screen scrolled about ten pages of information. “Ah, there it Is,” he thought, and said, “1538 degrees Celsius.” 

“Correct,” said the computer, and the screen displayed the second question. “Can aluminum be used to make an archery bow?” 

Ben asked for the history of archery to be displayed and started to scan the info. After thinking for a couple minutes, Ben said, “Yes you could, but it is too soft to work well for long. It's likely to shortly fail from metal fatigue. Some more exotic alloy forms might last longer.” 

“Accepted,” said the computer, and the screen displayed “How would you do an emergency appendectomy with things you could find in a kitchen?” 

Ben sighed, and said, “Can you describe the procedure please?” “Yes,” said the computer, and screen filled with text and photos. After three hours and many questions later, Ben thought, “My head is plugged up with things I thought I would never need,” and he pushed himself away from the desk.

Jon came over, and asked, “Are you done?” 

“I could keep on going, but I don't see the point.” 

“That's fine Ben, please follow me.” Ben followed Jon down the hallway to the first bare room he started in. Jon said, “Have a seat, someone will be with you shortly.”

Ben plunked down in the chair thinking he maybe should have worked longer on the test. The door opened and in came the cadaverous-looking Mr. Grimm, this time smiling, and not looking anywhere near as intimidating. 

Mr. Grimm extended his hand, and said, “You did well Ben, we would like to offer you a position.” 

Ben awkwardly rose and shook his hand. “During this whole interview thing, nobody ever said what the job really is.” 

“You're right Ben, a good point. The position we are filling is for a traveling encyclopedia salesman. We think you will be excellent at it.” said Mr. Grimm, “ and please call me Jacob.”