The Dexterity Test.

There’s always a chance as a writer that you’re in the wrong job.

Every so often you have to test the waters of wealth in case there’s a chance you’d like a steady wage some day.

The screening started at eleven.

Young one.

Brown hair.

Doing her besht.

She was serious about the rules. No calculators, or phones, or anything to help you whatsoever.

The test would be timed, seven minutes per question maximum. If you passed this one, you’d be kept back to go on to “The next level.’

Here’s your login numbers.

Best of luck.

The first question didn’t make a lot of sense.

Someone was planning an event and sending an e-mail to someone else. We had to figure it out through Multiple choice.

A) Was Bob coming?

B) Was there an event planned?

C) Did someone send an e-mail?

D) Was it someone else’s job to plan the event, or Bob’s?

I went for an unsure B – there was an event planned. The computer seemed to sigh indifferently and pull up the next question. Something about a photocopier. Jane was in trouble. Couldn’t get it working.

A)Was it out of paper?
BWas it out of ink?
C)Did it need maintenance?
D) None of the above?

It went on like that. Next came the numeric section.
9+5 =
56 – 42 =
253 + 125 =

There was no chance to skip a question or go back if you thought you got it wrong. It was a one way street and the pressure was mounting. The computer whizzed like a bored whore and there was fanatical clicks and confident chairs squeaking around the otherwise silent room.

The fella beside me was in a race with no one at all. He banged the keyboard with his answers, like Jerry Lee Lewis in a frenzy on the piano.

His poor mouse was ready to capsize by the time he was finished clicking the multiple choice.

He was a like a child in primary school that wanted to be the first to shout: Finished!

The last section was all about language.
A) John was talking a conversation?
B) John was having a conversation?
C) John was doing a conversation?
D) John was laughing a conversation?

Later came the Dexterity test.

‘Now, Michael.’ She said in a well worn tone. ‘We need to test your Hand/Eye co-ordination.’

She picked up a handful of small steel yokes from a bowl, and held them over a box on the table with a series of holes in it.

‘These are the pins.’ She said. There’s a hundred holes in the box. And I need you to pick up the pins, THREE at a time, and put them in the holes. They’ll stand upright when you do. And when you’re finished, I need you to take them all out again in reverse order and put them back into the bowl.’

‘Can I use both hands?’

‘Are you right handed or left handed?’


‘Then you can only use your right hand, sorry. I’ll be writing as you go along and if you’re taking too long I’ll have to stop the test and we won’t be going any further.’


‘Ok, begin when you’re ready.’

I began. Spilled a few out the sides. They fell on to the wood table with a hollow scared echo. Hoped she didn’t notice and just sorta stuffed them in.

Be the finesht.

There was no one else in the room.
Just her scribbling.

It was like the driving test without the car.

Every time I dropped one she went mad scribbling.

After a while, I got into a rhythm. Picked up three at once handy enough, stuffed them in the holes. Picked up three more.

Ignored the scratch of the biro and the cramp in my hand and the impatient stopwatch.

An odd time I picked up four, stuffed them in too, sure who’s counting? Might even get extra marks for that.

After a while I was in a sort of a trance as I did it.

Thinking about lunch.

Hoped the car wasn’t clamped.

And where was all the other people from this morning, why was I here on my own?

Towards the end, things were awful quiet.
She’d stopped writing.
It was one big push to get the last ones in.

When it was done, I looked up and she was staring at the table in a daydream, mouth open, an argument in a niteclub somewhere, the day she didn’t get paid, what her boyfriend said last night.  I broke in and said: ‘Finished.’

‘Oh.’ She said, blinking. ‘You can take them all back out now, in reverse order, and put them back into the bowl.’

The pins were delighted. They jumped outta the holes like kids on the way to Disneyland.

Clatter. Clink. Thish. Frush. Ping. Crunk.

After, she said: ‘You should get a call by the end of the week.’

‘Did I pass?’

‘I don’t know, they don’t tell us the time limit.’

‘Has this got anything to do with the kind of work I’ll be doing?’

‘No.’ She said. ‘Not really.’

// <

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