My first job after I left school was in 1986, it was a small computer company in Dublin which sold both computers and software development. On my first day I was introduced to everyone and shown my desk and given my duties which were basically everything from answering the phone, typing, making tea, going to the shop, general dogs body would have been the perfect description.
As I met everyone, nodding and smiling and trying to remember names, I saw this guy who looked remarkably familiar. He had a big grin on his face. Barbara Lonergan, what are you doing here he roared? I couldn’t believe it Paul Donlon. I grew up with Paul in Portmarnock, he was in my class in school from the age of 4 til I left after leaving cert. Paul was working in the Stores Dept. while he studied for his Computer Science degree in Trinity at night. As we got the same trains to and from work we struck up an immediate friendship. We had a very similar sense of humor which involved finding the funny side of everything and being unable to hold a straight face while talking to each other. A few days after I started in the company he turned to me and said ‘you know you were famous in here before you even started working’. He had told them all about this girl in his class and how one day in commerce in 2nd year we were learning about the ‘mail clerk’. Thinking the teacher meant ‘male clerk’ I asked, why was there no ‘female clerks’, the class erupted into laughter and I was mortified. For the first few weeks the guys in work kept referring to me as the ‘female clerk’ as they roared laughing at me. After my initial embarrassment I saw the funny side of it and even referred to myself as a female clerk to them.
After a week or two I got the gist of the job. There were about 15 people working there and two of us were female. The programmers were the kookiest, they were oblivious to all humour which made a funny situation even funnier. The sales guys were crazy, the lies they told and things they got up to make a sale still leave me smiling. The Maintenance Dept, now these guys were hilarious, any opportunity they got they would start the slagging, they were relentless. You definitely needed a thick skin and to not be offended easily to work there. The language was always blue. The underlying aim of everyone was to laugh and complain, whether it was retelling stories of customers complaints/queries or simply taking the mick out of each other, I remember my shock when one guy slagged the other because he had a pigs valve in his heart due to a heart bypass. I needn’t have worried about his feelings being hurt because he returned the jibe with something so cutting, it was perfect. Nothing was taken seriously and everything was on the table when it came to banter. We laughed a lot and complain we did, we complained about everything from the state of our paycheck to how annoying our boss’s were. This was my first experience of being immersed in the adult world of work. Little did I know that this wasn’t how normal people carried on in work, this was a unique experience and one to be enjoyed, I loved it. I looked forward to Monday morning as it meant a week of fun with some work thrown in.
At the end of the week religiously we all headed off to Kitty O’Shea’s straight after work to discuss and laugh at the weeks goings on. Quite often we saw Ruairi Quinn, the U2 boys and various other ‘celebs’. By now I had gotten the reputation of being quite clumsy, if I walked into the pub late, there would be the declaration ‘HOLD ONTO YOUR DRINKS, BARBARA’s HERE’. Six months into the job myself and Paul were thick as thieves and such good friends that we almost knew what each other was thinking. We still got the train most mornings and evenings together. Our usual conversation on the train was giving out about our boss’s and how bad our salaries were. Paul always said the same thing after about 20 minutes of hurling abuse at them. Ah we’re lucky to have a job I guess. This reduced both of us into convulsions of laughter with tears rolling down our faces.
This one particular Friday we all headed off to Kitty’s, there was only 5 or 6 of us and a few had to go home early so it was going to be a quick one or two. I had two bottles of Ritz, yes that sickly sweet drink, it was all the rage back then and someone had offered me a cigarette, I didn’t smoke, but decided to give it a go. I went on to have a second cigarette, I didn’t like it and felt queasy. It was time to leave. Myself and Paul decided to walk down to Abbey Street to get the bus, one of the other guys was driving into town so he said he would give us a lift.
Driving down Pearse Street I continued to feel more and more unwell. Paul was in the front passenger seat and I was in the middle behind. I told Nick, who was driving, I felt sick and could he stop the car. He immediately turned slightly hysterical, Paul turned to me, I looked green, Nick kept shouting ‘Dont puke in me car for feck sake’ he used stronger words than feck. He was driving so fast at this stage that he kept missing the red lights so he could let me out, still shouting the same thing. Nick was frantic to get me out of the car as quickly as possible, and I can’t blame him. Paul agin turned around to see how I was looking, I was still green and had that horrible feeling you get when you know you’re going to throw up. As he turned around to look at me I got as far as saying ‘I’m going to pu…..’ that was as far as i got, I threw up right into his face, he was destroyed. Nick started going crazy, jesus christ, ffs, oh my god, you’ve ruined me car he kept shouting. He was naturally horrified, he finally pulled in opposite Pearse Street Garda Station, realising where he had pulled in he panicked, he had drunk two or three pints and should not have been driving, get out of the car quick he kept shouting. We did and pretty quickly Nick tore off like he was in a high-speed chase.
There was just myself and Paul standing on the street, me crying and him with a face full of sick. We had no tissues, I searched my bag, nothing even resembling a tissue, all he had was an Easons bag, the striped blue, green and white one he was using to carry a magazine. Luckily the street was empty, no passers-by to laugh at the ridiculousness of the situation. He used the Easons bag to clean both of us up. By the time he was done, the Easons bag was little more than shreds of paper. Still crying I kept saying I was so sorry, finally he started laughing hysterically and told me to shut up. Phew I thought, my tears very quickly turned to laughter too when he asked ‘you weren’t eating peanuts earlier by any chance were you’. After the worst of the damage I had caused was cleaned up, what he asked next shocked me, ‘Will you go out with me to the cinema tomorrow night’. I started laughing and thought how would he want to even speak to me after what had just happened, I said yes and as we looked for somewhere to go to clean ourselves up the times were arranged.
Our date did not go so well, it was quite a disaster really, however, Paul still remains my best friend today and despite the fact that he now lives in America, we still speak daily. Quite often we will just mention Easons and the memories of that evening coming flooding back along with laughter.