‘I need to find the biting point between what’s sexual harassment and what’s legitimate chatting-up’
Illustration: Alan Clarke
I meet Phaedra at the usual pick-up spot on the Upper Glenageary Road. She hops into the van and I tell her she’s looking well this morning. “Not that you don’t always look well,” I go. “Because you actually do. I’m just saying that this morning you look majorly hot. A tan definitely suits you.”
She doesn’t respond at first, then, when we’ve driven for a minute or two, she goes, “Ross, has anyone ever spoken to you about what’s appropriate and inappropriate to say to an employee?”
She’s not an employee; she’s an intern – although it’d be pretty petty of me to point that out to her. Instead, I go, “Am I coming on a bit too strong for you, Phaedra?”
She rolls her eyes and shakes her head. But at the same time she smiles. She’s like, “Look, all these compliments are very flattering. But the first thing you do when I turn up for work every morning is to comment on my appearance. There’s, like, laws about that, Ross. I don’t want to be defined by how I look.”
Then stop looking like Emily Ratajkowski. I say that in my head.
Out loud, I go, “What if I cut the compliments back to every second day – would that work for you?”
She’s like, “Maybe you should cut them out altogether.”
“They tend to slip out Phaedra. I’m a chormer. Ask around.”
She actually laughs this time. She genuinely likes me.
She goes, “Look, you’re not exactly a creepy old man. Like I said, I’m very, very flattered. I’m mean, you’re a really good looking guy.”
“I’m going to accept that compliment without quoting the law to you.”
“All I’m saying is . . .”
“You’re saying I need to find the biting point between what’s sexual harassment and what’s legitimate chatting-up.”
“A lot of married people I know actually storted off that way.”
“Ross . . .”
“Okay, I’m going to give it a go. I’m going to give it a definite go.”
Our first collection this morning is in Ballsbridge. It’s from . . . Actually, I shouldn’t tell you where it’s from. We’re a supposedly confidential document disposal service? I pork the van a discreet distance away from the building. Believe me, these people – you actually know them – do not want to advertise the fact that they use Shred Focking Everything.
We get out and we stort walking towards the building.
“What about your wife?” Phaedra goes.
I’m there, “We have a very much open marriage, if that’s what you’re wondering.”
I hate myself sometimes. But then it tends to pass.
“What I’m wondering,” she goes, “is whether she’s okay with the idea of us working together. She didn’t seem to be a couple of weeks ago. I mean, she followed you to work, Ross, just to check me out. And when she saw what I looked like, she told you to fire me.”
I’m there, “Remember I mentioned that famous chorm of mine? Let’s just say I talked her around.”
I didn’t, by the way. I told her I fired her.
“Well, anyway,” Phaedra goes, “she didn’t seem like a woman who thinks she has an open marriage.”