‘I’m letting her do all the heavy lifting today, just to prove I’m not a sexist pig’


Phaedra, this new intern I’ve been famously showing the ropes at Shred Focking Everything, really is an amazing worker. There’s less meat on Stella McCortney’s conscience, yet she can carry four bags of documents, two in each hand, like they’re literally nothing – you’d have to say fair focks to pilates.

I’m letting her do all the heavy lifting today, just to prove I’m not a sexist pig, which allows me to follow a few steps behind her, quietly appreciating just how well she fills those trousers.

We collect eight bags of documents of a highly sensitive/incriminating nature from [name removed on legal advice] and then I tell her to get into the front of the van. She looks confused. She’s like, “Are we not going to feed those documents into the shredder?”

“There’s plenty of time for that,” I go. “I think we’ve earned ourselves an early lunch. We could drive down to Powerscourt. My treat.” That beautiful face of hers lights up like the Vegas strip. Staff morale is important to me.

So five minutes later, we’re on the Stillorgan dualler and I’m weaving in and out of the lanes, playing Traffic Tetris, as you do. I’m giving it, “I never thought that work would be my kind of thing. But I have to say that I actually look forward to it these mornings. And most of that, Phaedra, is down to the fact that I get to see you. And that’s not sexual harassment. I’d say that even if you were a total trogdor.”

I wouldn’t, by the way. I really wouldn’t.

She’s like, “Thanks.”

“Hey,” I go, “staff morale is important to me. So what are you up to for the bank holiday weekend? I’ve got permission from Corporate to go out on Saturday night. Corporate is one of the nicer nicknames I have for my wife. We could possibly hook up if you’re in town.”

And that’s when she hits me with it. She goes, “I’ve started seeing someone.”

I can’t believe she’s actually Boyfriend Bombing me.

I’m like, “Seeing someone? Who?”

She goes, “You wouldn’t know him.”

“I don’t like the sound of him.”

“I haven’t told you anything about him.”

“Sometimes you just get a vibe. And I’m definitely getting a vibe about this guy. Human waste – that’s all he is.”

She doesn’t say anything in response that point. But I suddenly slow my speed.

“Actually,” I go, “let’s forget about lunch. Let’s just grab a couple of crappycinos from the petrol station and work through.”

She’s like, “What, because I’m seeing someone?”

“Don’t take that tone with me. I’m the boss – bear that in mind.”

“You’re not my boss. I’m an intern. And by the way, that’s something I wanted to talk to you about.”

Now, I might be as thick as an embassy wall, but I know what’s coming next.

She goes, “When are you going to start paying me?”

You’ve got to be careful of that with interns.

I’m like, “Paying you?” somehow managing to keep control of the steering wheel. “That’s crazy talk. You do realise you’re talking like a crazed woman there?”

She’s like, “I’ve been putting in nearly 40 hours a week.”

“I’m tempted to say Sofa King what?”

“You have me doing all the collections, all the actual shredding. The only thing you do is drive the van.”

“Well, as my old man likes to say, Phaedra, welcome to free-morket capitalism.”

She gets into a bit of a sulk with me then. She doesn’t even say thank you when I hand her her petrol station coffee. In fact, we drive in total silence for the next 310 minutes, until a Gorda cor suddenly appears in my rear-view mirror, flashing at me to presumably pull over.

“That traffic light was orange,” I go. “You’re my witness to that.”

Phaedra’s like, “Maybe it isn’t about that light you broke. Maybe it’s about that incriminating paperwork from [name removed on legal advice] that we didn’t get around to shredding.”

My body goes cold. “Oh, fock! [Name removed on legal advice] is our biggest contract. If the Feds get their hands on that stuff – oh my God – [name removed on legal advice] could end up going to jail. He plays golf with my old man. Phaedra, please – think of something.”

As it turns out, she already has. Behind my head, there’s a vent, smaller than a sheet of A3 paper, connecting the back of the van to what we van drivers – I can’t believe I said that – know as ‘the cab’.

“I could actually squeeze through that,” she goes.

She could. She has a fabulous figure, although I don’t have time to compliment her on it, because the Gords flash their full lights at me a second time. They’re not happy rabbits. I can already tell.

I’m like, “Do it, Phaedra! Go, go, go!”

She turns around in her seat, so that she’s kneeling on it, then she rips the grille from the vent and slips through the hole like a rat disappearing down, well, a hole.

I hear the sound of the three shredders roaring into life and my shoulders suddenly relax. I indicate to pull in. And that’s when Phaedra’s face appears in the hole where the grille used to be.

“Eighty thousand a year,” she goes, “plus health insurance.”

I’m like, “What?”

“And 30 days holidays. Backdated to when I started.”

“Phaedra, you’ve got to stort shredding. I can’t keep driving. They’ll do me for resisting arrest.”

“I’ll start shredding the moment you confirm the terms of my employment.”

I look at her beautiful, smiling face in the rear-view mirror. We both know she has me by the proverbial undercrackers.

“This is bribery,” I go.

She’s like, “Welcome to free-market capitalism.”

The next thing I hear is the sound of a siren. The Gorda cor pulls into the outside lane, then drives up alongside me. “Pull over,” the dude shouts at me.

“Phaedra,” I shout. “Welcome to the firm.” ILLUSTRATION: ALAN CLARKE

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