Wednesday 3 September 2008

Stand and Deliver

"The Man" looks after us pretty well.

Each year "he" takes us away for a weekend of fun and debauchery partying. And not a power point presentation*, getting-to-know-you game or team-building exercise in sight.

Over the years we have been whisked off to a balmy part of mainland Europe to go skiing, eastern Europe to shoot guns and try our collective hand at olympic fencing, the UK for some all-terrain shenanigans before going sailing in Waterford last year. Year on year, as the company has grown, the destinations have become progressively less far-flung - so with the all-encompassing credit crunch, we expect this years event to be held in Coolock.

"The Man" also puts on a pretty good Christmas party - we leave the city and check into a hotel in some rural town and meet for a meal before drinking and laughing deep into the night. Best of all, it is a Christmas party in name only. There is no turkey and ham, no party hats or Christmas crackers and certainly no zany DJ playing "Last Christmas".

A couple of years ago the venue of choice was Cashel and I decided to take a spin down on the bike.

With the emailed directions printed and the winter bike jacket and thermal face mask keeping the December frost at bay, I set off - only to stop after a few miles when it proved difficult, not to mention somewhat dangerous, trying to hold the sheet containing the directions in one hand while tearing down the N7. (Things got a bit hairy at one point when they slipped from my grasp and got stuck on the visor completely obscuring my view). With the directions folded securely in my pocket, and confident that I knew where I was headed, I set off again.

All was going pretty well until I took a wrong turn just after entering Cashel. While the directions had stated the hotel was 5 minutes from the main road, I had been driving for just over half an hour without finding it. As if this wasn't enough of a give away, I had been stopped twice for passport checks at border crossings.

Eventually I found myself in the type of tiny country village that has nothing more than a small shop, 15 pubs and a tree. Time was pushing on, darkness had descended and seeing that the shop was fully lit and the proprietress (who was at least 200 years old) was still behind the counter, I pulled up outside, took off the helmet and headed in to get directions.

A bell chimed, signalling my presence, as I opened the door. She looked up from her paper... saw a man dressed in black motor cycle gear with a mask covering half his face walk into her otherwise empty shop...and froze. Presumably convinced she was about to be mugged or worse, after an initial moment of inertia she jumped up with look of sheer terror on her face, hysterially screaming "Take what you want, take what you want!" I've never seen a facial expression that cried "Holy Shit! I'm going to die" in quite the same way.

Quickly pulling the mask down and making the globally accepted sign-language for [scouser accent] "calm down, calm down" [/scouser accent], I explained that I wanted nothing more than directions - and maybe a packet of polo mints.

You could almost see the tension flood from her body when she realised I meant her no harm.

I don't think I've ever seen anybody look so frightened since - if you don't include the episode with the CPF last winter.

* There are actually a number of power point presentations on our network with file names such as "Company Weekend 2005.ppt" but these are created after the fact and are solely for the benefit of the Tax Man - apparently the weekends are not tax deductable if they are not in some way work related.

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