Welcome to The Echo’s annual feature — Summer Soap. Now in its sixth year, Summer Soap is a daily fictional serial run over 12 parts, which started last Monday. Called Annie May And The Hit Brigade, this story follows a young woman from the USA to Cork, and was written by Mahito Indi Henderson, from the MA in Creative Writing Programme at UCC. Catch up with previous episodes at echolive.ie, where you can also hear a podcast of the story. In the eighth episode, a baptism of fire at work for Annie May...
In the morning, she is greeted by the Cheshire Cat grin of her new boss. He speaks almost exclusively in film and television references.
“You’ll be very much the Sidekick Simon to my Alan Partridge,” he says.
Annie May nods, trying desperately to keep up. She wasn’t even born when that show started.
“So you’re one of those Yanks,” he says. His faux American accent is surprisingly accurate. “Alright, alright, alright. Break room is over there.”
“Got it” she says, happy to at least get one of his references. Movie trivia, she knows. “McConaughey. Nice.”
He smiles. “Look over there.” He points towards a woman in a headset. She’s sipping coffee next to the photocopier. Annie May nods again.
“That’s Linda. Don’t trust her. You can’t trust people, Amy May.”
“Annie. Annie May.”
He enters the booth with a no small amount of flair, gesturing to a small step stool in the corner for her to sit on with a flick of his wrist. He grabs a bottle of something and scoops in protein powder from a vat of the stuff stored under his desk.
He had told her that her first day was to be a “knowing me, knowing radio” sort of deal. Told her she’d normally be behind the glass, but today he wants her right there in the booth with him. She gave one of those going-along-to-get-along sort of answers.
“Sure thing,” she said. “Sounds good to me.”
The producer counts down from five. “Five, four,” (and silently) “three, two, one.” The producer points at Annie May’s new boss and the “On Air” sign lights up.
“Goooooooood morning Viet-Cork!” he shouts into the mic. “This is DJ Hot n’ Spicy comin’ at you all steamy from Cork city!”
Annie May snorts coffee onto her notebook.
It’s a day of introductions. Hectic. She is told how to work the computers, the mics, and the phones, and she’s even quizzed on her new co-workers’ names. They tell her how she is expected to conduct herself (appropriately) and how many hours a week she’ll be expected to work (forty).
She is given a copy of the phone numbers that the station won’t answer: a blacklist of pranksters and families who run fraudulent schemes to win radio prizes. She’s told it’s a huge problem.
By lunch, she’s ready to call it quits. Even though she has the experience, she feels prepared for nothing. Everything is backwards here. She knows none of their references, none of their in-jokes. Why has she even taken a position she wasn’t sure about in the first place? One second she’s itching for the opportunity, and the next, she’s smothered in doubt. It feels like she is running into a plate-glass window, crumpling to a heap on the ground, picking herself back up, and doing it again.
After work, she sneaks into The Boole to meet Chris. He’s studying for his French oral.
“I just can’t get these words to translate in my head,” he says.
“That’s the whole point, isn’t it?”
“Yes, but I have to make a real argument. It isn’t just one of those vocabulary quizzes. I have to defend the French government’s views on race relations.”
“Eesh,” says Annie May. “Might be easier to fail.”
“You’re probably right. How was DJ Steam Machine?”
“Hot n’ Spicy,” she says. “Wild. I don’t know if I’m cut out for it, to be honest.”
“Awh, sure you are! Listen, let’s get coffee. I need a break anyway.”
He gets up and walks towards the elevators. Annie May is standing next to his computer and backpack.
“Oi,” she says. “You forgot your stuff.”
“Nah, that’s alright,” he says. “Let’s go.”
“What do you mean, let’s go?”
“I mean let’s go.”
“Yeah, but all your stuff is here.”
“I know. I’m leaving it.”
“But what if it’s stolen?”
“No one would steal it, let’s go.”
“What are you, insane? Of course someone will steal it.”
“Why would anyone steal it? Are you planning something?”
“I could be, you’d never know.”
“Well, everyone leaves their stuff here.”
He has a point there. Nearly every other empty desk is covered in students’ belongings. Computers out in the open. She can’t believe it. If so much as a scarf is left on a chair at her old university, it would be gone in seconds. There are no kleptos like Chicago kleptos. Once, while attending a 20-minute meeting with an advisor, her bike lock had been sawn through and her bike stolen. In 20 minutes. She can’t even tie her shoes that fast.
“That’s messed up,” says Chris.
“You get used to it,” she says. “But this. This is insane.”
He asks her if she’ll be in later. She won’t. She’s still shaking from her day at work. She wonders if she could afford a ticket home. The more she thinks about it, the better home sounds.