Cashless Connor

Today was one of those days when I wished I was in a lucrative profession, like uploading videos of cute sneezing animals to YouTube.

I didn’t wake up in the best mood. My pay from Vietnam was apparently transferred on the 31st August. It normally takes about six days to get to me. The longest it’s ever taken is nine days. Until now. Today was Day 11 and it was nowhere to be seen. I had borrowed some money from my brother at the weekend and spent it all on petrol, motorway tolls and electricity top-ups. My bank account has MINUS thirty four euros and my soul has plummeting hope.

I was also annoyed by my phone in the morning. For some reason, 80% of my apps had decided not to work, including both maps apps, and all my browser, email and messaging apps. This wasn’t a good omen.

Besides my Vietnam job, I have three other online jobs, none of which are very profitable, and one “meatier” one, which involves visiting English language schools and government bodies a few days every month. I was off to do a day’s work for this particular job in Dublin today. It pays well, and all journeys, meals, parking etc are covered by expenses. Expenses are great. But they’re only great if you have the money in the first place. If I can’t afford a parking meter ticket, then I can’t claim it back.

As this was day 11 of my wait for pay, I left home this morning on the assumption that I would surely get paid by lunchtime. It couldn’t possibly take any longer! It was early in the morning and I didn’t feel up to having a breakfast. That was a decision I would later regret.

Because of my phone problems, I pulled over at 9:00 am to ring Three Ireland’s customer service. Three Ireland’s customer service never ever serves the customer and that didn’t put me in a better mood. Then I made my daily call to Sky. I ordered broadband for my new house 24 days ago and I’m still not connected. Natasha in Sky is lovely, and I’m getting to know her well, but I’m getting increasingly frustrated with Sky’s inability to find rural addresses.

I continued driving to Dublin, but I had to take a detour from the motorway. I didn’t have enough money for the toll. If you’re interested, the Enfield toll avoidance route is my favourite one in Ireland. The bypass of the toll in Portlaoise has too many roundabouts and avoiding the Fermoy toll takes you off the motorway for too long. The Enfield one is quick, direct and is not the Festival of Roundabouts that Portlaoise is.

I arrived in Dublin with plenty of petrol left and in plenty of time for my morning meetings. I had been on hold for so long on the phone and I had re-started it so many times trying to fix it that my battery ran out just as I got out of my car. My charger was in Longford. I wouldn’t usually forget it. It really wasn’t a good morning for me and I was feeling stabby.

A day without money is one thing. A day without money or a phone is quite another.

I left my car without paying for parking, because I couldn’t afford to pay for parking and I trusted myself to the Gods of Clamping. I came out an hour later to find a clamper inspecting my car, but it had not, as yet, been clamped. I pretended not to see the clamper, and then drove off, pumped on adrenaline. There are few better feelings that not being clamped.

I didn’t know where I was driving. My last meeting had finished at 12:15 and my next one was at 3:00. I still presumed I’d get paid within the next few hours. I wanted somewhere: 1. where I could park for free. 2. where I could be near an ATM, 3. where I could buy lunch and 4. where I could buy a new charger cable for my phone. I’m sure there were places that were nearer that met all these criteria, but the only one I could think of was the Square Shopping Centre in Tallaght – I really don’t know many places with free parking in Dublin.

I drove out to Tallaght and went to an ATM. I still hadn’t been paid. I tried again and again, for 2 hours. There are ATMs inside and outside the shopping centre, on three different levels, so this added variety to my wait for money. No money came. It was time for my next meeting, and I still had no phone and no lunch.

I couldn’t remember the address I was going to. I went into a phone shop and sneakily used one of the iPads on display there to check my email and to check Google Maps to find where this place was. According to the map, it was one street beyond Merrion Square. Easy!

I drove to Merrion Square, and then I drove to the next street. It wasn’t there. I drove on to the next street, just in case. I drove as far as the canal. The street was not where I thought it was. I parked the car along the canal, at the bottom of Mount Street. I was only a ten minute walk from Merrion Square, it was 2:55 and the meeting was at 3:00. I asked a man in a suit for directions to my destination (Denzille Lane – it doesn’t even sound like it’s in Ireland!). I was only ten minutes from Merrion Square, but my destination was ten minutes from the opposite side. Sigh. In my calculations of where it was, I had been foiled by the fact that Merrion Square has four sides. Apparently it was in a laneway behind the house opposite the Alexander Hotel. Because I’m Connor, I went to the wrong hotel first.

I eventually arrived at my destination at 3:25, panting and sweaty. #ProfessionalConnor

The meeting was great – she hadn’t even noticed I was late. We talked a lot and I left her office at 4:25. My next meeting was at 4:30. I hadn’t googled the location of this one, but I knew it was “somewhere on the quays”. There was no iPad shop to sneak into and check the address, so it was time to just run for it.

i hurried along the street. I didn’t really know which way to go. I needed to get to the river. Then I saw Liberty Hall. Great! That’s right on the quays. I walked towards it, and I walked and walked, but it didn’t feel right. Then I realised that I hadn’t been walking towards Liberty Hall. I’d been walking towards Dublin’s other tall building, the one in Grand Canal Square. Aaargh!

Sweating, and losing hope in all good things, I tried to find my happy. I thought about Liam-from-One-Direction’s biceps. It only kind of worked.

I stopped to check an ATM. I could get a taxi. (I imagined jumping into a taxi and saying “Take me to the quays” and hoping I’d end up in the right place.) But there was still no money in my account, still MINUS thirty-four euros. I found the river eventually and walked down the quays in the direction I thought my next meeting was. I walked for a long time. In fact, I was still walking at 5:30, an hour after my meeting was due to start and I was at O’Shea’s Merchant Bar. I still had no phone and no money. My ear hairs were sweating, along with every other orifice, fold and crease on my body. My feet, in work shoes, were on fire – a bed of blisters. I couldn’t find the school and it was probably closed. Another ATM check told me that my account was still empty. And now that it was 5:30, the banks were closed, so my balance wasn’t going to change and I was facing another moneyless night.

I gave up on finding the school. I was an hour late and I had no way of finding where they were. I leaned against a building and my soul bled.

I now had to make my way back to my car, at the bottom of Mount Street. The thought of the walk was Everestesque in my mind. Suddenly, I realised I had a Leap Card! I could get a bus. Joy! I crossed the river and got the 83 as far as the canal.

The walk along the canal was stressful. It was after 6:00 pm, I had been up since 6:45 am and I hadn’t eaten since the previous day. I was feeling headachey and faint from the walking and the lack of food and water. I hadn’t paid for parking and my car had been in the same spot now for almost 4 hours. It was bound to be clamped. Unclamping costs €80. Could I spend the night in the car? Was that realistic? I was bound to be paid tomorrow and I’d be able to afford unclamping. Could I borrow money from a friend? That’s a lot of money to borrow. And I couldn’t phone and ask them first. I started wondering whether pay phones still allow you to call people reverse charges, and then I realised I don’t know anyone’s number, even if they did. I had no more credit on my Leap Card. Whose house could I walk to (more like “whose house could I stagger to” at this stage) and ask for money? It was a lot of money. And I didn’t feel able to humiliate myself and I didn’t feel able to walk.

The walk along the canal was longer than I expected. At one stage I stopped someone to ask directions to Mount Street. Maybe I’d already passed it. I wouldn’t necessarily recognise it and my car could have been towed away. In fact, it hadn’t. The walk was just longer than I thought it would be. My little banger of a car came into sight. It wasn’t clamped. Wonder of wonder! Miracle of miracles!

I collapsed behind the steering wheel. My feet couldn’t work the pedals at first, but eventually I drove off. I left Dublin and took the same route home, avoiding the motorway toll. My petrol warning light was flashing as I drove down the tiny country roads. What would I do if I ran out of petrol on one of these narrow winding roads in the dark? I couldn’t phone for help. Maybe I could roll the car into a ditch and hitchhike home? SO MUCH STRESS.

I made it home. I had seven glasses of water, a bowl of pasta and a little cry. Tomorrow will be better.

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