‘I must be the only transition year student ever to fill in his work experience questionnaire at gunpoint’
Illustration: Alan Clarke
I ’m in my old man’s office on Fitzwilliam Square, looking out the window, quietly reminiscing about the time I did my work experience in here – or in actual fact down there in the cor pork, burning documents in a barrel. You’d have to say that was eight weeks well spent, considering what I’ve ended up doing for a living, although now I actually shred paperwork, instead of dousing it with petrol and dropping a match onto it, with Hennessy Coghlan-O’Hara standing over me, going, “I got a shovel in my car and a strong stomach. You breathe a word of this to a living soul and the next time anyone sees you, it’ll be as fossil fuel.”
I must be the only transition year student ever to fill in his work experience questionnaire at gunpoint.
“A penny for your thoughts,” I hear the old man suddenly go. I turn around and there he is, larger than literally life.
I’m there, “I was just thinking about what a focking crook you are and how it’s a miracle that you’re not still in prison.”
“Well, amen to that!” he goes, fixing himself a brandy from the bar globe drinks cabinet that Charlie Haughey supposedly bought him as a wedding present. “You know, I’m often asked by young, budding entrepreneurs, ‘What’s the most important thing you need to succeed in business?’ And I tell them, ‘You’re going to need a bloody good solicitor and a bloody good best friend. And if you can find those qualities in a single person, then you’ve got yourself a winning ticket in the lottery of life!’”
I decide to suddenly burst his bubble.
I’m there, “Whenever you’re pissed, you always say the most important thing in business is to have a Go Bag ready at all times.”
“A what?” he has the actual balls to go.
I’m there, “A Go Bag! Toothbrush, torch, tin-opener, fake passport, hair dye . . . ”
He’s like, “Oh, yes, of course! But who do you think taught me about the importance of the Go Bag? My solicitor, best friend and godfather to my son and heir to the family overdraft, Mr Hennessy Coghlan . . . ”
“Dude,” I go, “can we dispense with the pleasantries. Why have you called me in here today?”
He sits down at his desk. He’s suddenly serious. He’s like, “Kicker, I don’t think I could express in words just how proud I am of the success you’ve made of Shred Focking Everything. In the last 12 months alone, we’ve more than doubled our order book.”
“I’m patting myself on the back here,” I go, “but that’s mainly down to me putting in crazy hours. Last week I worked three days straight – and that’s literally.”
“Well, it hasn’t gone unnoticed, Ross. That’s why I think it’s time that we increased the company workforce. How would you feel about taking on an intern?”
“What’s an intern?”
“Let me put it to you this way, Ross. Someone who is prepared to work long hours in poor conditions for low wages is known is a sweatshop slave. But someone who is prepared to work long hours in poor conditions for no wages is known as an intern.”
He hands me a stack of pages, which turn out to be CVs. I stort flicking through them. “Oh my God,” I go, “some of these are actual women!”
“Women can make bloody good workers, Ross. I’m trying to think of some examples.”
“Hang on, there’s no photos with any of these CVs. Did you ask them to send photos?”
“Not allowed, I’m afraid. Illegal, according to the Great Man himself. Anyway, there’s a girl in that pile called Phaedra O’Neill. She’s outside the door there. You and I are going to interview her.”
I pull out her CV.
“Phaedra,” I go, weighing up the name. “I’ve ridden a few Phaedras in my time. It’s one of those names – she could end up being beautiful or she could end up being a complete dog. It’s very much an either or situation.”
“Yes,” the old man goes, “try to temper comments like that during the course of the interview if you can, Ross. The area of employment law is a legal minefield.”
I’m there, “Dude, I don’t need to be told how to behave myself. I’m a people person, remember?”
There’s a knock on the door. “Come in!” the old man shouts and in she suddenly walks.
I just go, “Oh! My! God!” and I can’t help it because she’s an actual ringer for Emily Ratajkowski. I look at the old man and I just laugh. I’m there, “This one’s unbelievable!”
He at least tries to keep it professional? “Phaedra,” he goes, “thank you for coming in to see us today,” and he shakes her hand – as do I. She’s wearing Dolce, I can’t help but notice, by Dolce & Gabbana. “As it said in the job description, what we’re offering here is an exciting opportunity to learn from one of Ireland’s fastest growing businesses. It may – and I have to put that word in capital letters, for legal reasons, and underline it as well – lead to paid employment down the line. May! Why, might I ask, are you interested in a career in the document disposal business?”
She gives her answer. Some piece of blahdy-blah. I’m not actually listening. I’m just staring at her, grinning ridiculously, like the first time I ever saw a Big Mouth Billy Bass sing Take Me To The River.
She has a lovely voice. She’s from, like, Dalkey slash Glenageary. In other words, she’s one of us. She finishes her answer. The old man nods sort of, like, thoughtfully?
I’m there, “Where do you hang out at the weekends – as in, what pubs would I find you in?”
The old man’s like, “Er, Ross, I’m not really sure where this line of questioning is going?”
“Well, she mentioned on her CV that one of her hobbies is socialising. I’m just trying to find out details, if that’s okay with you?”
There’s a lot more to me than just looks.
She’s there, “Er, usually it’s in and around Dawson Street – and obviously Krystle.”
I’m like, “My face is not unknown in that particular venue. Do you have a boyfriend?”
She looks at my old man, who has his head in his hands.
“Er, no,” she goes. “I did, except we, like, broke up?”
I suddenly stand up and I go, “Welcome to the firm, Phaedra.”