Stephen Fahey: The Clondalkin Shuffle

Those of us who have worked in large offices will know the often-time difficulty of trying to book a holiday. Every January 1st numerous scoundrels book out all the bank holiday weekends, school holidays and midterm breaks, Easter, St. Patrick’s Day, their birthdays, and sometimes even Christmas. Many companies won’t confirm Christmas holidays until the beginning of December, but if you aren’t lightning fast or if you don’t bribe Jane from Admin, you’re at the mercy of chance. If you have kids then you’ll know the dates of their midterm and summer holidays, so it’s in your best interest to join the race once the new year begins. However, if you’re not a parent, you’re still better off lacing up some running shoes. It’s that or be prepared to quietly slip a few quid under Jane’s desk.

Bar these options, if you aren’t capable of predicting the future, you are bound to the scraps. You can kiss a summer holiday goodbye. You won’t be nursing a hangover on the day after St. Patrick’s day. You won’t be taking a long weekend for your birthday or your wedding anniversary. And you will be driving on empty to and from work while the rest of your family sleep in or eat the Christmas leftovers on St. Stephen’s day. This is the cold and unforgiving reality of the modern office system. The first come, first served democratic assumption, enshrined right there in the company handbook for all to see is entirely worthless, as long as Jane needs some new shoes. And she always needs new shoes. Because she is a vain and empty excuse for a human being who sells her morality to highest bidder. All I said was, “Go home to your husband” and it’s straight to the bottom of the pile, every time, as if I was in the wrong. But enough about Jane.

Thus, a black market barter-system inevitably emerges, wherein days off are traded like fresh fish in a prison. No one gets all the days off they want, even the lifers, for whom special occasions are sought and offered on a basis of individual value. Otherwise the universal stock-value is assigned, same being the maximum pounds of flesh obtainable. Sneaky inmates will keep secret the true cause for their seeking a specific day off, only revealing their mother’s funeral, their wife’s due date or their daughter’s wedding if and when all other hope is lost. Those inmates in good standing, whose word is know and trusted, as much as a caged incest’s word can actually be trusted, will ask a fair price, except the standard mark up (including potentially having to cover a dreaded Saturday shift), and move on with their lives. But the Jane’s of this world, with their blithe self-importance and cheap perfumes exist on a plain above mere humanity. Their abuse of the Proletariat, as an attempt to live a more comfortable life, is understandable. But the blood on their hands will never, ever wash off.

As for the newest, often youngest members of staff, they may as well assume that they won’t even see sunlight for their first two years. These “menial creatures”, these “slugs”, if Jane is to be believed, are the primordial gunk in which the roots grow, from which stems the worthless flesh spring forth for no other reason than to support the “beautiful flowering buds of majesty”. Such poor unfortunates take advantage of whatever assistance other inmates may offer them, for a duly inflated fee, of course, but only as long as the wench is not in ear short. For her cronies are everywhere. Her maleficent spies roam incognito like so many ranks of the Gestapo. And yet there is a way. One by which one’s own dignity remains, more or less, intact.

This bizarre ritual is known as “The Clondalkin Shuffle”. First, you show a shinny thing to someone near your office’s Jane, making sure that her cocked beady eyes latch onto it, and then, in that perfect moment when the foul mouthed, untrustworthy, warden-loving whoor is fixated on the shinny thing, you then use her password (which you’ll have previously bribed George in I.T. for), to access her profile. You must immediately reset the internal clock on her PC to January 1st, so that all time stamps are in order. Next you access the annual leave folder, oust Mary from her honeymoon, Ultan from his coming out party, and Conrad from his bypass operation, before replacing their days with your days. Making sure to change the clock back to the current date, you then sign out as Jane – because she’s a horrible and ultimately meaningless globule of wasted DNA that stands to learn a few lessons on the path to becoming a functioning member of society. So don’t feel bad. Her world-view must collapse before she can grow into a thing of any substance. In the long run you’ll have done her a favour.

Stephen Fahey

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