Lunch in Portharlington

They rang and said they wanted the company car back but they’d give me a van instead. Wouldn’t you love a van? No, says I, what the fuck am I going to do with a van? 

–  You’ll figure it out.  

            Later, it was time to collect my team. Romania’s finest was waiting, patiently playing Backgammon on her phone and no interest in going working at all. She sat in, asked: ‘What is this?’ 

            ‘It’s a van.’ 

            ‘A van? Where is car?’ 

            ‘They took it back.’ 

            ‘Why? This is no good.’ She pulled down the flap yoke on the passenger side, freaked and said: ‘No mirror to see my lipstick??’ 

            ‘I know it’s a tragedy.’ 

            ‘We don’t need a van for this job…’ 

            ‘We do now.’ 

            ‘Where do we go today?’ 

            ‘We’ll chance Portharlington.’ 

            We got there about an hour later. After Moate, through Tullamore, bypassed Edenderry and straight in, just on time to be two and half hours late. Early sales are key, they say. Crucial to get ahead, can do attitude. We were tired after the drive and figured twas time to get the lunch. Raided the local Centra for chips, rolls and diet coke and found a park somewhere in the middle of the town. There was grass and kids and trees and a bench with a bin beside it. She opened up her roll, said: ‘What is doing Bitcoin?’

            ‘What’s it doin?’ 

            ‘Yes, what is doin it?’

            ‘I don’t know. Goin up, or down….

            ‘It’s goin to crash. The chart says so.’

            ‘The chart?’

            ‘Technical Analysis. It will go to Zero. And then I will be billionaire.’

            ‘I’m not sure that’s how them things works….’

            Wide eyes, with: ‘Of course. You don’t know how to short cryptocurrency…?’

            ‘No. And I’m probably better off too.’

            ‘You buy the bet token to say it will dive and then…whoosh. It goes down, and my token goes up, and we buy Lamborghini. No more bullshit vans with no lipstick mirrors…’

            There was a lad smoking on a bench across the way, a smell like burnt grass or strong green tea. The wind swept light, like angels made of soft moisture, and the sun was sneaking down, a lazy descent into the bruised midlands twilight. And there wasn’t a sale in sight. No lucky phone calls, nobody shouting across the street begging to give us business. Not a hope of a populated text to management later with any other figure than zero and we weren’t in the Bitcoin Business. It wasn’t the get rich going broke sort of scheme we were on. The best thing to do was take another bite of the chicken roll and hope something might happen. A gravitational change in fate, a slip into a parallel reality where everything made perfect sense and we could hit a moment of calm clarity that didn’t involve work. Your man finished the cigarette and got up and walked off. The first hint of rain fell like a phantom arrow, bounced off my wrist, and waited for the army of drops to follow. Sure this was no good, poor working conditions, unsafe, rained off site.

            ‘I don’t want to get drowned wet like a dog like last time.’ She said. ‘I got flu. For this bullshit? No thank you, sir. Puh. I’m not silly slave for big money companies.’

            ‘Sure we’ll sit in the van for a while and if it gets too bad we’ll tip back to Athlone again and see is the weather any better there.’

            ‘Sounding good. I’ll show you rich methods while we wait. Big money, oh my god, the future is so exciting….whoosh….’

The Left Bank.

One day the woman in the bank said: ‘Why don’t you have a debit card?’

         ‘I don’t want one.’

         ‘Wouldn’t it be handy?’

         ‘How so?’

         ‘You wouldn’t have to come in here any time you need money. You could just get it at the ATM.’

         ‘Wouldn’t you be out of a job then?’

         She laughed, haughty, said: ‘Oh no, don’t worry, we’ve plenty to do.’

         ‘Still, you’re grand.’

         She seemed upset. Filled out the forms, went for the cash, printed the receipt, asked me to sign it. She took the biro back like I might steal it and threw it in the drawer. There was a bit of a queue now. A farmer with a chequebook, some lad with a bag of coins and a woman with a wired child. All held up by the lad that could have just gone to the ATM.

         Next week, she asked the same thing. And will she fill out the form?

         I told her no, you’re grand. I like cash. I know where I am, then. Them cards, sure who knows? She shook her head, filled out the forms, printed the receipt, counted the cash like she hated it. Some lad behind me was waiting to make a lodgement and another woman working there asked him why he doesn’t just use the new fancy machine in the corner. Sure ya can lodge like that now, don’t ya know? Just use your card, put in your pin, and get the receipt. No need to queue at all. No need to bother the staff, sure we’re busy.

         The following week they were in a hurry because the hours were reduced. There was a man at the counter wondering if he could lodge money into his daughter’s account. And she was in Dublin, and he was in Mayo, and how would that work? They asked him if he had online banking and he said no, not really. They had a tablet alright, but he didn’t use it much. The woman there explained all the benefits of banking on the internet and how he could do all this at home, and there was no need to come in anymore, and all he needed was the computer and a few passwords and ask the daughter the next time and she’ll set it up for him. Sound, he said, and then it was my turn to take out the cash. Well, she said, eye roll, will we get you set up with a debit card or what?

         Go on, so.

         And it arrived a week later, and it was grand, and it was pure handy like she said and I must thank her when I see her again but I don’t go to the bank much anymore. And the farmer with the cheques probably doesn’t go either, and the other man with the daughter in Dublin, or the woman with the kid, or the fella with the bags of coins. Sure, there’s no point anyway cos the bank is closed since cos there’s no need for anyone to work there anymore cos it’s all so handy now.

*

Poor Craytures.

Got the call to go down to Marian. She wanted to sign up. I was in the area. How am I fixed?

This was good news on a bad Friday. Needed a fast sale and get home. Marian sounded the type that could just sign up, tick all the boxes, and the weekend could sing.
Got there and she invited me in with a flurry. ‘Come in! Come in….come in. I’ve been waiting for ye!’

‘Great.’

‘Sit down,’ she said. ‘This other crowd are robbin me.’

‘That’s what we like to hear.’

‘And I have a wedding you know?’

‘You do?’

‘I do. Tomorrow. A wedding. And I got this bill in the door – how am I supposed to pay it?’

‘Tis high alright.’

‘And I’ve no work.’

‘No?’

‘No. I used to have a great job but it closed down. I was a manager in a shop.’

‘Which shop?’

‘It was a high end clothes shop. Really expensive stuff. Someone like you probably wouldn’t know it.’

‘You’re probably right.’

‘And then it closed and I have zero. Zilch. Nothin. And a wedding tomorrow.’

‘Who’s getting married?’

‘Oh it’s a distant cousin on my husband’s side. But you have to go. Show face. We’re not paupers. You know?’

‘What’s the address here so?’

She gave it to me, I typed it in. She made herself a coffee. Didn’t offer me one. Sat back down, asked: ‘Are ye cheaper?’

‘We are.’

‘That’s good. I have to put €200 in a card this evening.’

‘For the wedding?’

‘Yeah. And we had to tax the car, pay for the holiday and I have to get my hair done yet.’

‘Flat out.’

‘I’m telling you. And by the time you buy a few drinks, pay for the hotel, and the day after, and all the rest of it. Oh my God….’

‘And no sign of work at all?’

‘Not a thing. I’ve been looking and looking and looking and asking everybody. It’s terrible.’

‘Tis. What’s your bank details?’

She called them out, went on with: ‘This government is a disgrace.’

‘That’s one word for them.’

‘The economy is supposed to be booming. Jobs everywhere. Where are they?’

‘Hard to know. Sign there.’

She signed. I told her about the contract, all that. She waved her hand, said: ‘Yeah…go on go on…do you like this job?’

‘I do.’

‘Really?’

‘Yeah.’

‘Oh.’

A knock on the door. Then a woman entered. Brazilian. Two kids. Big smile. Marian said: ‘Hi…Sonza…’

‘Hi, Marian.’ Said Sonza. ‘Do you still have…’

‘Oh yes. The bag, the bag. Of course. Hang on….’ She looked at me. ‘Are you alright there for a second?’

‘Sound.’

Marian went off. Came back with a black bag full of clothes. ‘Here you go, Sonza. Lovely to see ye. Are you calling around for lunch on Monday?’

‘Ok…’

‘That’d be lovely….please do.’

‘Ok. Bye. I see you.’

‘Bye…..’

Sonza left. Marian sat down. Rolled her eyes, conspiratorially, said: “Poor craytures.’

‘How do ya mean?’

‘I do give them all the old…crap we don’t want. Stuff I’d never use and can’t rid off. It was either that or dump it. Sure what can you do?’

‘What can you do?’

‘It’s the likes of all them refugees that are taking the jobs anyway. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not a racist or anything…’

‘Sign there again so and we’re finished.’

‘Oh great. Thanks. Then I’ll go and start getting ready for this bloody wedding.’

‘Do. And if you’re still looking for a job next week give us a shout. We’re hiring.’

‘Doing what? Your job? This?’

‘Yeah.’

‘Oh, I wouldn’t be seen dead doing your job.’