In my capacity as underemployed career failure, I've recently found myself undertaking any number of employment tests for temporary office admin jobs. Type this in as fast as you can, they demand. How many spelling and grammar mistakes can you find in these documents? What's 17 x 7? No slacking now.
All right. I've taken four tests. Look, four is quite clearly a member of the set of any number. If I'd been asked to undertake -7, 3.81 or pi tests, I could still have described it thus. Even the square root of minus one tests would have been within acceptable parameters. So there.
I've learnt a few things about the wonderful world of work (the original www). Firstly, it is vitally important to stick to the script. If you've been told to circle the errors in a letter to an imaginary customer, they're not looking for you to identify sentences which despite being technically correct are perhaps rather infelicitously phrased. In fact, they don't even seem to appreciate having them pointed out.
Next, don't overdress. These days, only management wear suits. Everyone else wears a shirt with a collar, but no tie. Far from conveying eagerness, dressing up too much smacks of lèse majesté.
Don't be fooled though. Despite the lack of starch, there is a chain of command in these places. They are there to test you, and not the other way round. So far I have seen no suggestion boxes marked How could we design these tests so they aren't full of stupid errors? This is a valuable clue to the level of their interest in your ideas.
Finally, be grateful. They've passed me as a medium Microsoft Word user. After fifteen years teaching it I certainly hoped I'd picked up the odd thing, but it's a boon and a privilege to have the fact confirmed by a pleasant young lady with trousers and a bun. And a nice smile. Maybe I reminded her of her father.
In the end it's worked, and I now have fifteen hours a week of office drudgery at the top of a hill. The view is lovely, but I won't see it. No window seats for us minions. It beats selling the Big Issue, or reading it, but I can't say I'm thrilled.