It’s a known fact that whilst a number of people living in Ireland today are unemployed and living on social welfare, there are still a certain number that were lucky enough to remain in gainful employment.
Keen to peek back into the lives of my old colleagues, the ones, who incidentally didn’t snatch the redundancy package faster than you can say, “my first Gucci”, I decided to rock up at the old watering hole in town, where all the fat cats and rats used to hang out from three on Friday as an early welcome to the weekend.
Casting my mind back on those Friday evenings of olde where Gin & Tonics decorated the mahogany and we congratulated ourselves on having finished a week’s work. Monday was always a rocky start, by the time you caught the plane back from the weekend in Carcassonne or Nantes, it was usually one o’clock before you landed in the office, but that was ok, because you were working flexi-time and could work up the hours, hypothetically. Tuesday was usually at a slow pace, officially the first day of the week it was Tuesday by the time the fog cleared since the weekend. Wednesdays saw yourself getting into a steady rhythm of work, by Wednesday afternoon you were looking on to the weekend. Thursday morning brought with it a slight buzz of excitement as people were discussing their plans for the weekend and if there was to be a work night out, it would undoubtedly be Thursday night as nobody wanted to be hungover on their own time so Friday morning at work was mufti day with sausage rolls. Ah the good old days, where did it all go wrong?
Even work trips around the country weren’t that bad, just expense it. A few nights in Manchester to attend a two hour meeting was sure to cost the company a tidy sum between flight, accommodation, taxi to airport, dinner at some bistro mentioned in the in-flight magazine, it all added up, and needed to, if nothing else to compensate for the inconvenience of being away from home for two nights. Annual pay-rises were an entitlement not a bonus and any additional task to the original contract would need to be financially recognized.
So here I was, outside the bar where me and my workmates congregated every Friday evening, laughing and joking. We clapped ourselves on the back for leveraging one mortgage with another and guffawed with laughter at the price of the bottle of champagne being opened as we celebrated another great week in business.
Home for some fresh air before leaving for Indonesia and curious to take a peek at what the road not taken is like, I sat in the bar and waited for the onslaught of my old colleagues, we would laugh again, re-kindle the past for a few hours. Four-thirty, five and five-thirty passed and the door of the bar never opened. By six o’clock my gin and tonic had turned to syrup and I gave up hope of any reunion.
Leaving, I decided to take a small detour in order to pass the office and lo and behold I met an old colleague just leaving the office.
We stood to chat, she was rushing for a bus (I didn’t realise they did them anymore) but had time to brief me on a few changes. Firstly, over 50% of the original staff were made redundant over three years ago. 60% of those that were left were now travelling to Limerick, Galway, Dublin, Belfast and London on a regular basis. The staff that were kept work ten hour days in an effort to meet their workload, which has doubled since the cutbacks. The last three changes to the salary were cuts not rises and even the Senior Managers are car pooling to reduce cost. “What next” I said, “bringing in sandwiches!” and then I said it, the thing that people who are working hate to hear, I said, “but you’re very lucky to be working” she just looked at me with disdain as her lunchbox peeped out the top of her four year old Gucci Shopper.