Tennis, Seagulls, and Interviews


I notice that it’s retired professional tennis player Zina Garrison’s birthday today.  She is now 56 and living in Texas, but 25 years ago, in 1995, she was experiencing a summer heatwave in the UK and playing tennis at Wimbledon.

I know this because I was there.  I was living near Wimbledon at the time and I wanted to make use of the return ticket system, which meant that you could get into the grounds for a hefty discount after 5pm.  Getting there for 5 meant leaving work at 3, so that’s what I did.  Whatever fictional excuse I gave must have been believed because at a time when I was still supposed to be at my desk I was in fact sitting on the front row of one of the outside courts, still wearing my suit and perspiring gently in the late afternoon sunshine.

The third-round women’s doubles match in front of me featured birthday girl Zina Garrison and her playing partner Katrina Adams taking on Jana Novotna and Arantxa Sánchez Vicario, the eventual champions.


I remember only one thing about this match.  During a long mid-set rally one of the players hit a speculative high lob that dropped back in play but only after the ball had rebounded off the abdomen of a low-flying seagull.  They played on, but a lively debate followed concerning whether or not the point should stand.

It must have been a slow news day (remember those?!) because the main BBC news later that evening featured this incident as a headline item.  The cameras had a great view of my sunburnt face so there was no way I could deny having been there.  I had to field a few awkward questions the following day at work, but I got away with it because I gave a full and frank confession, and the humour of the situation saved the day.

Job Interviews

All this puts me in mind of what happens if you need to take time off work for an interview for an IT role.  What do you say?  Do you invent a dentist’s appointment?  Do you say you’re going to Wimbledon?  Do you just book time off for a holiday?  If you’re working remotely it might be easier to arrange than otherwise, but under normal circumstances a bit of subterfuge is often required.

I woudn’t actively recommend taking advantage of your employer’s good nature and looking for another job on their time, but if you have to attend an interview at short notice then do what you can.  Make up the hours later on if possible.

So what’s the point of this post, Matt?  What’s the lesson?

I think there are three lessons, and here they are:

  • If attending a tennis tournament or job interview, be discreet.
  • If you can’t be discreet, don’t get caught.
  • If you do get caught, come clean.

Happy birthday, Zina!

More interview advice is here: