Friday, May 01, 2009

The Acquisition - 2

The enormous company owned the sixth floor and the fifth floor too, possibly the seventh. We exited the elevator six, in the lobby between two wings, one keycard-protected and the other guarded by a three-seat reception console. A large flat-screen TV on the wall behind it broadcast news from the cable station the company ran in partnership with a major network, the anchor burbling as atrocities and market prices paraded mutely in the crawl.

We were instructed to sit in a waiting area beside a glass-walled cluster of enterprise servers; tall, black towers with blinking lights, sinister, mysterious. Computing God-knows-what for whatever reason. A display of what you're meant to never see.

We were greeted by Buckley Bean, a rotund and genial man in his forties. We were to have rotating interviews with him and his three colleagues, who were waiting in separate, windowless rooms, as though to turn us against each other. I hoped we'd get our story straight.

My first was Buckley. He questioned me cheerily, tapping away at his laptop. He wore braces and consequently spoke with sodden diction; each syllable seemed to emerge out of a puddle. Frothy spit accumulated at the corners of his mouth and a droopy strand ran from his upper fang to the back of his retainer, giving him the curious air of a rabid puppy, or a cherub with a venomous bite.

The interview was going well.

"OK, here's kind of a weird question," said Buckley. "It's not my idea to ask this question, we always ask a question like this."

"OK," I said. I'd heard about these questions.

"There's no real right answer. Well, there is a right answer. But we don't expect you to get it."

"OK. All right."

"I don't want you to worry about this question."

"Sure. I won't."

"It's just a question we ask. Kind of to get you thinking. To see how you think."

"Sure, sure."

"OK! So don't think this is too weird. Ready?"

"I won't. Yes."

"Keep in mind you don't have to get it right. But I'll ask you why you answered how you did."

"Got it."

"How much tea is there in China?"