Forty Five Minutes in Stavanger

Forty Five Minutes in Stavanger

A job interview in Stavanger and the 45 minute ‘vacation’ beforehand!

Determined to find myself a slightly more rewarding role with my employer I
searched the company intranet regularly for a likely vacancy. Finally after months of
looking I came across a job that seemed to be ideal; it involved the same cutting edge
technology I’d worked on for my previous employer. I understood it, enjoyed it and
wanted to get back into it. Now a second chance had presented itself and I intended to
grab it with both hands. I filled in the online application form for the position in
Stavanger, Norway and hoped for the best.
Stavanger, like Aberdeen in Scotland is a smaller sized city that has grown in
prosperity over the past thirty or so years due to the North Sea oil industry. Both
started off as fishing centres and both are now European oil industry hubs.
A couple of weeks later my interview was arranged.
Knowing little about Stavanger other than what I’d managed to glean from a
paragraph or two in a small guidebook about Norway and some photographs found on
the Internet, I set off for Aberdeen airport. It was unusually cold and crisp for a July
morning even at five o’clock. Just the kind of weather one expects in Norway,
although perhaps not Aberdeen, at this time of year.
This would be my first time through an airport on my own. I’ve flown a few times but
never really paid attention to the procedures. Check in? Then what? But I had no
luggage to check in. I must have been somewhat unique in that respect; the only
international traveller carrying no luggage whatsoever. Would that make me look
I really wish I’d paid more attention on my previous trips through airports. I decide to
do exactly what everyone else does in these situations and just do what everyone else
does! I looked along the row of check in desks for my airline and wandered up to the
appropriate queue. Standing in line with my passport and the print out of the email
with my flight details from the travel desk at the Norwegian branch of the company
my turn finally arrived;
“No luggage?”
“No, no luggage.”
“Can I have your passport?
I handed the check in man my passport expecting a nod and a boarding pass; that bit I
remember from the other trips. He scanned the manifest. Stopped. Scanned it again.
Looking up, “You’re not on the manifest.”
“What does that mean?”
“You’re not booked on the Stavanger flight”
“But I’ve got an interview in three hours!”
Pointing across the concourse, “You’ll need to speak to her in that kiosk.”
Good clear, specific instructions. As a computer programmer there’s nothing I enjoy
Making my way through the small but steadily growing throng of early morning
passengers I got to the kiosk and handed over my all important email. The rather stern
and matronly woman behind the desk glimpsed at it, did the same to her copy of the
“You are. Follow Me”.
I followed her back to the check in desk, not daring to disobey and certainly not
awake enough to question her. She presented her copy of the manifest to check in
man, “He is”. A woman of few words but effective ones; I was duly given my
boarding pass.
Slowly wandering through the duty free shop on my way to the departure lounge I
wondered if everything they sold was tartan of some sort; small dolls in tartan kilts
with bagpipes, tartan shortbread tins, some green some red just for a little variation.
Not much just a little. Tartan everything. I’m pretty sure that even if Nessie did exist
he would be wearing a tartan Tam O’Shanter.
I made my way through to the departure lounge shrugging off the tourist tacky version
of Scotland as quickly as it had ambushed me and settled into a rather uncomfortable
seat to await my flight. I had the feeling of sitting in gold fish bowl as I looked out of
the departure lounge window onto the tarmac; all those planes with their noses
pressed up against the window looking in at us.
Eventually the Bergen and Stavanger flight, now combined due to technical problems
with another ‘plane, is announced and we make our way from the departure lounge,
out over the tarmac and up the steps into our little grey Dornier. Looking slightly
smaller than an average single deck bus inside, it has two rows of seats; on the right a
row of double seats and on the left single seats. It’s a quiet flight so we have our pick
of seating; I choose mid way down the aisle for no particular reason and sit down
beside the window.
As we taxi away from the apron toward the runway I look out toward the industrial
estate surrounding the airport; this has to be better than a day in the office even if it
does feature a job interview in the not too distant future.
We line up at the end of the runway and with a sudden burst of energy from the
turboprops the ‘plane lurches forward and we begin to hurl down the runway
rumbling across the tarmac faster and faster until that very instant we take off. You
always know the very instant you’re airborne by the way the rumbling tarmac is
replaced by a sudden smooth quietness as the wheels leave the ground.
The ‘plane tips me backward in my seat as I look out the window to enjoy the four
stages of flying; the slight rush of adrenalin with the speed and lift off, watching the
real world below transform into a living moving toy town, then toy town disappears to
be replace by a big map. I always look at that map, trying to follow the roads to my
home or office or somewhere familiar but the map stage, like toy town, falls away too
quickly and before we know it we’re into the final stage; Christmas cake.
Once you get into the clouds it always feels like flying over an endless Christmas
cake; nothing but white icing everywhere. For just over an hour I watch expectantly
for a break in the clouds; something to indicate that we’re over land, over Norway.
Finally the pilot announces final approach and I settle back into my seat and watch the
four stages of flying all over again in reverse order.
We thump down onto the wet tarmac of Sola airport and taxi to the terminal. I always
expect a foreign country to somehow feel different from home but I’m always a little
surprised by how similar they are; like Aberdeen, Stavanger is slightly chilly and
damp. The small trail of passengers from the flight makes its way up into the terminal
building and, after being reminded by the security man to get my passport renewed I
made my way on to the concourse looking for the way out. There’s no clue as to
where to go; some signs pointing me to the duty free shop and the airport cafe. And
the baggage reclaim. But I’ve no baggage to reclaim so why would I need to go there?
After a few minutes of wandering around what is one of the quietest airports I’ve been
in I decide to follow the baggage reclaim sign in the hope that it’ll lead me to some
other clue as to how to escape this silent, white marble maze. Sure enough the
baggage reclaim sign leads me straight down a flight of stairs and deposits me in front
of the main entrance and the taxi rank.
I’m often convinced that taxi drivers, while parked in ranks, like nothing more than to
confuse their potential fares. Dyce train station, just outside Aberdeen, being a prime
example, a random scattering of taxis in a car park and each driver sends you to
someone else who they claim is at the head of the rank! Sola airport which serves
Stavanger has its own little quirk; two parallel taxi ranks. I decide to opt for the
closest one as, if Dyce is anything to go by, whatever driver I pick, I’ll be directed to
someone else. Sure enough, the driver waves me across to the other side of the road
and I find a driver willing to take me to my interview in Stromsteinen.
Depositing me in front of the office forty-five minutes early I look around and wonder
what an earth I’m going to do with myself in this quiet corner of a strange town. At a
time like this there’s pretty much only one thing you can do; wander aimlessly. Which
is exactly what I do. Strolling slowly around the immediate vicinity of the office I
found myself in the photographs I had found a few days previously on the internet.
It’s a strange feeling standing somewhere you’ve only previously seen in a picture.
Almost as though you’ve stepped into it. I found the bridge, the grain store and what a
colleague and I both thought was a pub overlooking a lake. It turned out to be a cut-
price supermarket overlooking a small pond. Not quite as appealing but I’m sure a
cut-price supermarket is a useful thing to find anywhere in Scandinavia.
As the hour of my interview rolls around I head back toward the office and into the
large marbled reception area. Very quiet and very empty save for the receptionist. I
inform the receptionist that I have an appointment with my contact and I take a seat
and wait. And wait. I flick through a copy the local newspaper glancing briefly at the
pictures and not understanding a word of the articles; probably in Bokmal but
possibly in Nynorsk, I’ve no idea which.
Just as I was starting to relax on the soft, low down sofa an impossibly tall Norwegian
enters reception and introduces himself. Thankfully we wouldn’t be conducting the
interview standing up as I’d end up with a very sore neck. We make our way out of
the main office and into the building next door which looks like a renovated, white-
washed old church.
The interview opens with a presentation of all the projects this department are
working on. A considerable array given the group hasn’t been formally created yet. I
listen closely, nodding at the appropriate points and put forward suggestions as to how
this shiny new technology could be put to use in my current branch of the company all
greeted with enthusiastic nods and the words “Exactly, exactly!”. All seems to be
going well; better than I’d expected in fact. Until that is, my interviewer describes
another of the positions he is recruiting for, that of System Analyst. It was exactly the
role I thought I’d applied for! My mouth went dry and a cold trickle of sweat ran
down my back as I realise I don’t have a clue what I’m in Norway for! What was the
job I’d applied for if not that? All I can do now is hope that I don’t get accused of
being some sort of impostor and hopefully make it to the end of the interview without
looking too ridiculous. I mean, I still worked for this company and had to go back to
my own office tomorrow. Then the dreaded question, “Why should I hire you?” I
have absolutely no idea. Why should he hire me, and more importantly for what? If I
knew what I was interviewing for I might just have be able to come up with a
convincing answer.
I sat and watched my coffee get a little colder.
Somehow, I manage salvage the situation by talking about my interest in the
technology and how I want to be part of something interesting and exciting and that I
have plenty of ideas to contribute to the group. I hoped desperately that it would be
enough to convince him that I was right for the job. I mean I couldn’t just blurt out the
truth and say something as banal as “I’d like to live in Norway.” could I? No, I
thought better of it and kept that reason to myself. After what seemed like the usual
job interview eternity, it can’t actually be eternity as I’ve had more than one, it was
I stepped out of the office into the cold Norwegian air and, feeling the first drops of
rain, got into my taxi back to Sola from where I’d catch the afternoon flight back to
An interview for a job I had no clue about, a forty-five minute vacation and back
home the same day. Not the usual day at work.
Six months on I’m still waiting to hear about that job. I get the occasional email from
the Human Resources department saying they haven’t decided yet. When they do
make a decision I guess I’ll have to figure what the job actually is!

Forty Five Minutes in Stavanger

Matthew Colvin de Valle

Aberdeen, United Kingdom

  • Artist

Artist's Description

A job interview in Stavanger, Norway and the 45 minute ‘vacation’ beforehand!

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