Fired From The Merrion
My fourth year placement wasn’t as liberal as my time in Switzerland. It was in the Merrion Hotel in Dublin so I was living at home with my folks. Weed was not an option so I had to settle for drink. I always much preferred weed. After a joint I was in a good place. I didn’t need drink. The highness I reached was very satisfying. In fact, I wouldn’t even bother going to the bar if I had smoked a joint on a night out. My ideal mix would be 3 pints, then a joint. If no joint was available, I’d keeping drinking until I reached the same level of high I’d get from the mix. In other words I’d black out.
One evening during my fourth year placement I went out for drinks with mates. A friend of ours had momentarily come home from America. I fancied her. I was actually kind of obsessed with her. Her awesomeness intimidated me to the point that I’d have to be pissed drunk in order to be able to even talk to her. I’d be speechless around her otherwise. That was a very long night. A night of extremely heavy drinking. I got home at about 4:30am and needed to report for duty in the hotel at 5:30am. I somehow managed to order a taxi to pick me up at 5:15am.
I decided not to go to bed when I got home. Instead, I just laid on the couch for the 45 minutes available to me. I fell unconscious and was awoken by the taxi driver calling my phone. I didn’t have time to have a shower and was just as drunk when I woke up from my mere forty winks as I was when I got home from town.
When I got into work I put on my uniform, grabbed my pager and staggered up to the Private Dining department where I was supervisor. This was probably one of the most unenjoyable jobs I have ever had in my life. It was boring as hell and oftentimes demeaning. Private Dining was effectively conference and banqueting, but because it was a 5-star hotel, such common words couldn’t possibly be used to describe the department. They were by no means pompous enough.
There were about 8 different Private Dining rooms. Only when functions were taking place in these rooms were there any humans to be seen in them (apart from the staff). For a large part of your day, you’d be setting tables, polishing glassware, folding napkins, all in empty rooms. Some of the staff were good craic, but others were just plain fucking boring.
When guests would enter these rooms, there was always a fair chance they’d be people of the wanking variety. In 5 star hotels, you have two types of guests. Those with money and those who pretend to have money. Interestingly enough, those with money are usually very pleasant. For example, Liam Neeson would come into the room, shake your hand and treat you like a person. He was one of my favourite guests.
Guests who pretended to have money would be the pricks who’d click their fingers at you. They were in the hotel to ‘be seen’. They wanted to ‘be seen’ to have money. They want to ‘be seen’ to be important. In actual fact all they ended up ‘being seen’ to be was complete wank stains.
On that morning we had a group of American guests coming in for a private breakfast at 6am. There were only about 15 of them, but every single one of them was a head-wrecking arsehole. The coffee wasn’t hot enough. The buffet didn’t have enough sausages. They wanted cream instead of milk. Sweetener instead of sugar. Nothing was right for them. The worst part of it all was; they never fucking left. I was still steaming drunk and urgently needed to help myself to the Full Irish breakfast buffet, but I couldn’t. They were still all sitting there, shiteing on about kissing some rock in Blarney. Between their incessant complaining, their continued inability to leave the room so I could gorge on sausages and bacon, and the significant amount of intoxicating liquor still circulating around my bloodstream, I decided “I’ve had enough”. I threw my pager on the desk, staggered back down to the locker room, took off my uniform and walked out of the job. I didn’t tell anyone. I couldn’t have given a flying fuck. I walked down to Grafton Street and got my own Full Irish in Bewley’s.
After breakfast, I got on the 46A bus and headed for RTE to find a real job, but that’s another bog entry entirely. When I returned to my house, sobriety kicked in. A realisation of “what have I just done” hit home hard. I hid in my bed. My parents weren’t home. My phone had died as I hadn’t been able to charge it the night before. As it charged and life returned to the device, there were notifications by the second. The phone wouldn’t stop beeping. My voicemail was full to capacity with calls from various levels of management in the hotel. The house phone was ringing intermittently too. I wasn’t going to answer it obviously. I didn’t want to deal with the world. I couldn’t face the music.
I heard my mum come through the front door but didn’t alert her to my being in the house. Soon after she returned, the phone rang. My mom answered. She was in the hallway so I could vaguely hear what she was saying. I remember the words “no, Paul is not here, he’s at work” followed by, “he’s not at work?…what do you mean?… he got a taxi to work this morning…”.
Then I heard my mother coming up the stairs. I didn’t know what to do. She was going to come through the bedroom door and whoever she was speaking to was still on the other end of the handset. She peered into the room, to her surprise she saw me lying in the bed. She proceeded to hand me the phone, to which I responded, non-verbally, with body language which, if translated into written words, would read “no, no, no…I’m not here…tell her I’m not here…PLEASE MOM”.
My mom was both confused and worried in equal measure. She didn’t have a clue what was going on. So, in the absence of knowing what to do, she all but threw the phone in my direction. I couldn’t possibly answer, I was too ashamed, so, I did what I felt was the right thing at the time, I pressed the end call button. My mum tried to establish what the hell she had just witnessed. I couldn’t tell her. I went back to sleep and covered my head from the world.
This all happened on a Friday, I spent the whole day and night in bed. On the Saturday afternoon, I surfaced but was still full of guilt and shame. I couldn’t leave the room, never mind the house. I was not due back to work until the Sunday but hadn’t made contact with the hotel since walking out. On the third day I rose again (in accordance with the scriptures) and built up the courage to call the hotel to tell them I’d be ok to come back to work that morning.
When I rang, I asked to speak to my manager. She wasn’t there. Instead, the Food and Beverage manager answered. I decided to play it casually, not to mention, or perhaps somehow play down the anarchic event that took place merely two days prior. I said something along the lines of “hello Marianne, it’s Paul here, eh…just to confirm my shift starts at 11 today?”. The F&B Manager replied along the lines of, “Paul I think it’s best if you come in to talk to HR tomorrow”.
As you can probably guess, I was fired from my job the next day. Below is the actual report the hotel had written on the incident.
This wouldn’t have been such a major deal if it had been a standard, full time job, but don’t forget, this was my fourth year college placement. I was representing the Shannon College of Hotel Management. My dismissal would need to be communicated to the college. I wrote to the college telling them I had been let go and they summoned me to a meeting in Shannon. I drove down for a meeting with the director and deputy director of the college. As I had let down the college in an act of such gross misconduct, I was suspended from the college for a year. I was advised that I could appeal the decision to the disciplinary sub-committee of the College Board.
I’ll never forget one question the director posed during that meeting. He asked me if I “had a problem with alcohol”. He said he had been made aware of the ‘various cocktails’ I would drink on a night out in Shannon Knights. How would he have known about this? I’ll never know the answer to that question. Of course I strongly refuted the claim that I had a drink problem.
I could handle being fired from The Merrion, but the news of my suspension did not sit well with me. I wanted to graduate with my mates. I couldn’t be left behind to graduate with a different year. I thought I’d be in a stronger position to appeal the suspension decision if I were reinstated in The Merrion so I wrote a cute, hand-written letter to the General Manager of the hotel apologising for my behaviour and asking for my job back. After various meetings in which the management established that I wasn’t a total head case, they gave me a second chance. How wrong were they (about the head case bit).
The main condition of my reinstatement was that I’d be located as far away from other human beings as possible. I was stationed in the switchboard office which was a room the size of a coffin located in the basement of the hotel. There was little to no human contact. I had to answer phones. All day. I liked it, but it was boring as fuck. However, as I needed to prove myself, I did the best job possible and within three weeks I was moved up to the reception desk as receptionist where I was nearly fired again for carrying out a 999 prank call a matter of weeks later.
After a disciplinary sub committee hearing in the college, the board decided that my suspension would be lifted subject to my fulfilling a number of criteria. I’d have to pay €300 to a charity. I’d need to receive 8 weeks of counselling. I’d need to have a squeaky clean file in the Merrion until the end of my placement. I’d need to make regular calls to the Head of Hotel Management letting her know that I was behaving myself. I felt a bit like a criminal signing on at the Garda station every week. There were one or two other conditions that slip my mind, but no matter what they asked me to do, I did it. I really wanted to graduate with my classmates and nothing would stop me.
As part of our degree, we had to submit a thesis in August of the following year in advance of graduation in November. There was a very strict deadline. It needed to have physically arrived at the college no later than 6pm on Friday 21st August. Even if you had posted it before the deadline, but it didn’t arrive until the Monday, it would not be accepted and you would not be able to graduate.
I did what Paul does best. I procrastinated. I left it a whole year to do the thesis and started a few days before the deadline. I was getting a couple of thousand words done a day but left a fair chunk until the very last day. I had an appointment with the thesis centre to have it bound at 11am on the Friday and then a friend was going to drive down to Shannon with a number of theses to hand in just before the deadline. I was up all night on the Thursday working away on the thesis and must have written a good ten thousand words in that one sitting. At about 7am I had no more than an hour’s work to do. The content was there. It was now just a matter of formatting it all. At that point there were many different windows open on my computer. Most of them were MS word documents from which I was copying and pasting. To tidy up my work space, I proceeded to close down the unnecessary windows. I got myself into a rhythm of pressing the X then clicking no when asked if I wanted to save my work. Pressing the X, then no. The X, then no. X, then no.
When it came to my most recent draft, which contained over 50% of the thesis, what do you think I did? I pressed X, then no. I had not saved my work since the night before and in two clicks of a mouse, I lost both my thesis, and my ticket to graduate with my classmates.
Part Five of Why I Gave Up Drink will be posted tomorrow