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Anything but you
United Nations High Commission for Ghorbuneh Cheshaat Beram

By Alidad Vassigh
May 14, 2002
The Iranian

Certain readers may have seen, aghast, that I was called a madar-qahbeh [can be literally confused with "your mother is coffee", although it means "son of a whore"] for denouncing the Tehran mob and their feet [Plight of fashion]. I am abandoning politics as a result, not before condemning my critic, indeed any critic of mine, as a communist agitator, or simply mad.

The editor also likes to term my contributions "rants". Well this one's serious Mr. Editor, a sober and necessary reflection on labour markets and things.

We all have to look for a job at some point in our lives, except a friend of mine in Tehran who used to ring me to go for Chelo-Kabab.

Job hunts bring two sides face to face. Employers [WHY ARE YOU SO BORING?], and applicants [me, just kidding]. I tried to get a job for years. I really did. Years and years and years. When a friend said, you're sitting on your arse all day, I said are you mad? I got top grades at school and university then marched into the 'real' world [grappling with war and obesity], which ignored me. The world was clearly ignorant.

This was fine and a bit of a laugh while my friends were also being ignored. Then the sneaky little things became bankers and lawyers behind my back and I panicked, like the little boy who misses the school bus.

My mummy had said I could do anything I wanted because I was lovely and spoke French, apparently indispensable. Her charming friends would gently pinch my cheeks and declare "ghorbuneh sheklet beram shirini bokhor" as I stretched for another Danish pastry and rehearsed my speech to Henry Kissinger. So what happened on planet Earth?

Some employers did give me interviews, unless I'm dreaming. These are tedious affairs devised by calculating bores at university who studied employers' manuals while I denounced socialism and my landlady. She looked like a Portuguese Man-of-War and hissed.

Why do interviewers always adopt the demure-zombie look for the big day? They're probably lovely and relaxed at home, or when they're discussing dyspepsia or the Balkan wars with their buddies. There's usually one called Nigel, or Geoffrey or Bryan, presumably by their mothers [WHY? Why not Osgood or Bagher Aqa?], or Janet or Pat if female, though it's difficult to tell.

Nigel is naturally serious, which is why he's there and I'm here. He likes cars, I like curried prawns. He likes football, I like foot massage. He watches action films "to relax", I don't. He thinks Jane Austen is the cashier at Walmart. Janet, or Janine or whatever is nicer; women usually are, until you contradict them.

One or other asks why I want the job. The answer, apparently, is not that I want money to spend and enjoy life and go to the beach and drink myself silly. It's this: Since I was four I have dreamed of becoming a PR consultant / marketing manager / auditor / boring nerd. Nigel and Betty are not convinced when I tell them this. They stare at me - or they've turned into chicken fillets.

Then the nice one, Janine, says with a smile, "Tell us about yourself." So I say, flattered, "When I was five, I wanted to be Napoleon Bonaparte, then Louis XIV, then an oriental despot in my teenage years. More recently I have dreamed of becoming an international singing sensation like Ricky Martin or a Telenovela star playing a Mexican steel tycoon called Gloria with a bouffant hairstyle -- by implication, anything but you dear."

I got the job, I thought; they wanted "personality". But weeks later, I get a letter from Kevin/Pat informing me that "after due consideration" [I'll give you consideration], I'm not qualified for the job, which I can now tell you in confidence, was boring as hell anyway, though hell will not be boring, I can assure the communists among you.

Qualified indeed: I didn't attend toga parties at university so Janet could tell me I can't work miracles on the stock market, which I can't.

Janet and Geoffrey are pale. Like most Europeans, they are made of half-baked dough. Try poking one next time, your finger will leave a print.

What's going to happen to me? Does the United Nations know? I suggest another UN body: the UNHCGCB, United Nations High Commission for Ghorbuneh Cheshaat Beram. It will need a 60-man team to find me an "interesting" job (keep looking guys). They can serve me champagne while I wait: cheers!

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Alidad Vassigh

By Alidad Vassigh

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