July 25, 2001

I haven’t REALLY written for a while and it’s making me a bit antsy.  I regard that as a rather good sign.

I’ve been having these vivid dreams that I probably should write down because they are really quite fully-developed stories.  I keep getting these strange déjà vu moments when I wake up that the dreams were all novels I will write, or they are gifts of books from my mind that all I need do is transcribe them – it’s only through my own laziness that I’m not published.  The dreams are funny quilts of easily identifiable elements – last night I worked in a store behind a counter but I didn’t really want to be there and there was a girl who worked there who looked like Sheila the one nice hotel person and I walked to France – to Lourdes, actually – but there was nothing there but books which were all ones I read about in the Times this past Sunday.

{I ate toast with a million boots marching in the empty ivory hall of my head.}

What’s odd is that rarely, if EVER, do I remember my dreams.  And not only do I remember these, I seem to be half-aware of the state I’m in while asleep, and I can even wake up enough to go to the bathroom and still fall back into the same dream.  I think it must be caused by the same urge that compels me to write – there is so much inside of me but no one with which to share it.  So I share it with myself.  I also wish that I did more creative writing, but I’m so far behind on recording what has actually happened that I don’t really get the chance.  Except in that sheaf of papers on my dresser.  I still feel like I’d like to write plays, plays with great monologues, but I’m still in need of great work in recording how people talk.  We THINK that we listen but really we just filter in the words and translate what’s said into our own speech patterns.  Like the way that Holly would always convey to me things Rosemary said – I got to the point when I thought Rosemary talked like Holly.  It’s the United Nations and we’re all listening to the simultaneous translations through our headphones that conveniently but everything into our own language, but we’re never ACTUALLY listening to who’s talking and the precise words they’re using.  And look at how effective the members of the UN are at communicating with each other, much less reaching a common ground.

{I don’t like the taste of whole milk.  It is thick and heavy.  Like sand.}

I’ve definitely noticed this about myself.  I’ll listen very closely to someone speak, like Angela or Aiofe or Declan, but when I try to reproduce it in writing or tone I am left high and dry.  They use words that I don’t use so they don’t penetrate my brain.  Their pronunciation is different but it all gets cleaned up by my – for ONCE – too efficient brain.  So TRULY listening, like auditioning, is an art and I need to practice.

{Aren’t words wonderful?!  I am both catholic and discriminating in my tastes, but neither Catholic nor discriminating.}

And I guess that’s a bit of a warning about all of my transcribed conversations.  They fall terribly short.

I need to catch up on a few things, especially Mister USP – the man who made my first solo day at work so unpleasant.

So it was that first Saturday and everything had been going just fine, aside from being terribly bored.  But I had managed to suffer through and had just got to the point where I thought, “Well, maybe this job isn’t so bad after all.”  Then, of course, the rug was pulled out from under me.

At 1:30 – a mere half hour before I can count my first day a success, after making it for 5 ½ lonely hours and getting up at 6:00AM – Dublin does it to me again.  Into the shoebox runs a wildeyed, shaved, white water-rat, pink eyes and all, and when I asked the scrawny young track-suit wearing man if there was anything I could do for him, his reply was:

– I was wondering if you could save my life.

Those are the kind of words that make your heart just sink.  It wouldn’t be anything simple like, “Do you have cough sweets?” or “Can I have change for the telephone?”  No, those were the words with which Dublin would bend me over the teacher’s desk and introduce me to the splintered broomstick.

So Ritchie spins this incredibly complex yarn that I can’t even begin to dissect.  It was all shot out of his mouh in a smooth con-artist wave, never leaving you a second to catch your breath, just sweeping you along for the ride.

He used to work there, he just got his last paycheck the day before, he’d been to every bank, pub, cash-a-check, rich socialite, illegal hoarder of pirate’s gold in all of Dublin in an attempt to cash his check and no one would do it.  Even the bank off of which the check was written wouldn’t cash it.  His credit union said it would take 7 days to clear.  So did the cash-a-check place.  Sound fishy yet?

And it wouldn’t be so much of a problem if it wasn’t the timing, you see.  It was his girlfriend’s birthday the next day and he had to give her a present.

Why such urgency?

Well, you’ve heard of post-natal depression, right?  Well, his girlfriend’s got SERIOUS post-natal depression.  Oh, yes.  An unexpected pregnancy, but now they’re engaged, still each living at home, she’s five months along and he doesn’t have a job.  So she gets really depressed.  Fits of lunacy!  She’ll be all fine one minute and then she’ll start yellin’ and screamin’ at him for no reason.  I wonder if him having no money and no job might contribute to that.

And as it’s her birthday tomorrow if he doesn’t get her something really nice then Lord only knows what she’ll do!

So where do I come in?

He wants me to cash his check out of the daily take.  That’s why he came right at the end of my shift.  Sounds seriously suspect and a little too dramatic to be real.  I tell him I shouldn’t and Angela told me not to cash checks for people that said they worked there – EERIE FORESHADOWING!

He pleads with me – please!  The girlfriend!  The depression!  Birthday gift!  C’mon!  Help a brother out!

I tell him to wait until Angela comes in – she’s supposed to come oversee the transition from myself to Aoife and help us close out our shifts.  I keep telling him to wait.

Aoife comes and Angela still hasn’t shown, nor will she.  Ritchie was right about that.

So what does he want to do with his life, as working in the newsagent’s is not part of the plan?

– I want to be a rapper.  I’ve got a tape and all.  I’ve got about four songs, and that’s not bad for, umm, you know five months of writin’.  Yeah, they’re not great quality studio tapes though.  I talk bits of songs and put them together on a tape, then I put two tape recorders up next to each other and I rap while the one plays and so they both go onto the other tape.  The thing is that everybody needs to have their own USP.  UNIQUE SELLING POINT.  Yeah, Eminem – he’s my hero.  He’s got 2 USP’s.  First, he’s white.  “What is that?  A white rapper?  Who ever heard of a white rapper?!”  Second, his second USP is that he goes around slaggin’ everybody.  “Fuck you, fuck you, fuck you.”  My USP?  You know everybody sings and raps in an American accent.  Why?  So I’m straight out of Dublin, you know, so I’m not gonna hide my accent.  I’m going to be the first Irish rapper.  The first Irish rapper.  My USP is going to be my accent.  The first Irish rapper.

Angela never shows.  It’s a quarter past, he’s pleading with his hands together and his eyes wide open.  He helps us close, as we are quite confused and really could have benefitted from having Angela there, but I certainly watched his quick agile fingers whenever they went near the cash drawer.  He was never gonna leave.  Angela was never gonna show.  I caved.  I cashed the fucking check.  I hated myself for doing it because I could just feel myself getting conned.  I could smell the shit as he spread it over my body.  And I knew I’d get yelled at and probably fired and I didn’t need this and why did I even try to get a job and why am I here when I could be home and why does life SUCK?!  Why am I weak?  Why didn’t I just say, “Sorry, I feel bad for you but I was told not to and I won’t.”  AND ON MY FIRST DAY, NO LESS!

However, things are never as bad as they seem, and no one ever said anything about it to me, even though Aoife kindly told me she’d back me up to Angela that he would not have left otherwise.  She’s pretty cool.

In fact, when I got my first £18.80 paycheck Angela told me to do just what I had done for Ritchie.  So I guess it was all right after all.

So what did I learn?

1) USP – Unique Selling Point
2) It’s never as bad as it seems.
3) Be strong.
4) If you can’t be strong, then don’t sweat it.
5) If I make a mistake, it’s all right.
6) If it’s not all right and I get fired – THEN WHO CARES?!

Off to work –

When you buy two souvenir shirts you’re supposed to get a free cheesy Ireland cap and we’ve run out.

“What do I do if someone asks for a hat?  We’re out.  Are there any more upstairs?”

“No, there’s not.  He hasn’t paid they bill, y’see.  He’ll do that.  He’ll pay them then just stop paying then start up again and do a few more and then stop.”

“So what do I do?”

“Well, a man came in today and bought two shirts and he didn’t ask for them.  So I kept me mouth shut.”

“Well, that’s true.  People usually don’t notice and I remind them that they get them free.  So I just won’t mention it.”

“Yes, that’s what y’do.”

“But if they do ask?”

“Just say, ‘I dunno.’  That’s what we do in Ireland.  ‘Oh, gee.  I dunno.’  You’ll hear that a lot in Ireland.”

Had a great night out at the pub last night – I decided to go out as I will not be reduced to a dehumanizing work/sleep/work schedule.  It was Declan and Maeve and I and we even got Rafal and Kate out with us for Kate’s first Guinness.  We went across the road to McGrath’s.  It was odd as we were in the lounge which was very large and open with sofas and table lamps and televisions on the white walls.  It was like being in someone’s sitting room.  But we had a couple of pints and a really good chat and for the first time I didn’t feel totally third wheel but part of the group with something to say.  Rafal was slow going through his cider – still on his first as we were half through our second – and we wondered where this famous “vodka head” is that he talks about.  “Polish head” – excuse me.

Last call had come and gone, signaled by a very long and severe couple of descents into darkness, not so much a flipping of the lightswitch but a leisurely examination of the difference between lights on and lights off.  I thought it was a blackout!

Two pints in me, I bemoaned the passing of last call and said that I could do with more alcohol.  Just then Rafal spilled his last half a glass all over himself and me.

“When I said I wanted more alcohol, I didn’t mean on my pants!”

The Cigarettes Cheatsheet:

Silk Cut:
Purple = King Size
Blue = Extra Mild
White = Ultra (no one says “White”)

Blue = Lights
Black = Regular

Lambert & Butler
Gold = Lights
Silver = King Size

Back to the significance of color!  Apart from the GAA there’s the differentiation of cigarettes by color, not quality.  Silk Cut Blue, Purple, Superkings Blue and Black.  Gauloises Red and Bleu.  Even Rizla cigarette papers are green or red.

“Do you have the green Pringles?”

The Orangemen.

Color is everywhere and ever important.

Marlboro Reds!

She just pushed forward her hand, heavy with useless silver, and shook her head saying, “Could you, please?”

I wonder if people ever think I’m ripping them off when I pull change from their hands.  I never will, as I have much more respect and patience for them than the ones who pick in their hands for ten minutes, intently clucking their tongues complaining about the “funny money” only to end up handing over a mix of foreign currencies which I haven’t the strength or desire to sort out.

I love it when people with two or three young children ask for condoms.  I want to say, “It’s a bit late for that now, don’t you think?”  They don’t work retroactively.  Too little, too late.

It’s the last fifteen minutes here that kills me, especially when someone is hanging around the postcards.  Shouldn’t you be at a pub?  Or in bed?

And by “last fifteen minutes” I mean the fifteen minutes before the ten minutes I take for closing.  When I say that I work until 9 that means it’s LOCKED at nine!


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