“’So tell me Madam,’ said Chichikov, ‘have many of your peasants died?…
You could always let me have them, you know’.
‘Let you have what,’ said the old woman. ‘The dead souls,’ said Chichikov. ‘I might
even buy them from you.’”
- Dead Souls Nikolai Gogol
Jack was left, in 2009, without a job for the first time in his adult life, with a golden handshake which would not pay his end of the family’s huge mortgage for more than six months, and very little in the way of prospects due to his failing health.
For a month or so he kicked around the house. He enjoyed looking after the kids and walking with the neighbour’s giant dog when he got the chance but he knew that couldn’t go on. He would have to start bringing in some money some way, if his marriage, his dignity and his sanity were to survive. He started to spend the majority of his days in front of the computer (one of the computers) looking through jobs websites. There was nothing available that would bring in even half of what he had earned in his previous job but he continually reminded himself that he couldn’t return to that past, best viewed now as a different life, and he needed to move forward in any positive way he could.
It was particularly disheartening when he was turned down for jobs which he considered he had lowered himself to apply for as ‘over-qualified’ or for no specific reason at all. He was in a since a lion waking to discover that he was, in fact, an ant.
He answered an advert in the newspaper for ‘production assistants’ at a publishing company called Oak Tree Press. He was invited for interview rather quickly and found himself hoping that this meant they were desperate for people. How strange to find that in the course of just a month or so he had rethought himself as someone fit only to be employed out of corporate desperation. Well if they needed bodies, he had one. It wasn’t functioning so well he would have to admit, but he definitely had one.
The company was located on the second floor of a grey concrete building at the end of Beglinn Street just off the south quays. It sat atop a labour exchange. “Just to drive the point home,” Jack thought as he arrived for his interview.
He walked up the stairs and through the door of Oak Tree Press for the first time-
It was essentially a large, open plan office with small sections of desk each with a phone and a computer terminal, the type of thing Douglas Coupland once dubbed ‘veal fatting stations’.
There were four smaller rooms along the right side of the office that had their own doors bespeaking the presence of important people behind them.
He asked the nearest person for Mr. Lynch, head of the Production Department.
Ronan Lynch was about the same age as Jack. He was also about the same height and build. They both had the same peculiarly Irish combination of dark, curly hair and blue eyes.
Turned out they had more than that in common. They were both Christian Brothers educated (though that was true of pretty much every Irish man), with similar backgrounds and attitudes.
They got on easily and the interview went well.
Ronan explained how the job worked-
“The sales people contact clients and get them to take out ads, then they pass the client on to you to confirm the details of the ad. You pass that onto the art department. They do up an ad and you fax it to the client to get them to sign off on it.
“Sounds simple enough but there are one or two other things to explain. The sales people work on commission so sometimes they may exaggerate just how ‘sold’ an advert might be. So you are here as much as anything to check the client has really said yes. You can expect some friction from sales if you send the client back to them and you can expect more friction from the higher ups if you send too many ads back as, after all, that is how the business makes money.
“Also, you need to understand the kind of stuff we publish here…”