The Fall And Rise Of Enver Hoxha
Donal Horgan (copyright 1998)
It seemed like yet another ordinary day in the Operations Room of the bus station. Aquinas Mooney, grade 3 is performing that most essential of life's tasks - making the buses run on time. In this, he is ably assisted by Noreen O Sullivan, spinster, hypochondriac and grade 2 respectively. There also in portrait form if nothing else is Enver Hoxha, one time ruler of Communist Albania and role model for Aquinas in his Herculean dealings with senior management in the form of Mr Thompson and his sidekick Jim Cremin.
On this day of days, the somnolent atmosphere of the Operations Room is suddenly rocked by two events. The first is the arrival of Jason McCarthy, an alarmingly ambitious grade 1, primed with all the jargon of the new workplace. The second is the imminent publication of 'Turning The Corner', a radical restructuring plan for the company which promises to ruffle more than a few feathers in the Operations Room. The resulting drama touches on everything from Mother Teresa's Albanian connections to the economics of the free market! So who are the winners and losers in this search for a leaner and fitter organisation? Or do the politics of the organisation finally win out?
In late fifties. Dressed Conservatively with tweed sportscoat, wide tie and thick glasses. Has spent his entire working life with "the company". Sustaining Aquinas in his daily travails is a portrait of Enver Hoxha, former Communist ruler of Albania. For Aquinas, Enver Hoxha's reign over Communist Albania represented some form of constancy in a world of rapid and, at times, bewildering change. Totally unable to use both the jargon and the technology of the new workplace, Aquinas is starting to have grave doubts as to whether he has a future with the company. While he loves to hate the company and the Machiavellian antics of Mr Thompson and his sidekick Cremin, it is clear that Aquinas dreads the prospect of retirement even more.
Forty something. Prim and proper. Views life through the bottom of a glass of alka seltzer. A devoted hypochondriac who in turn has become something of a walking pharmacy. As well as functioning as office secretary, Noreen provides her own oblique commentary on life, death and bowel disorders.
Young idealistic and ambitious. He joins the company brimming with all of the jargon of the new workplace. However, he is naive when it comes to the politics of the organisation.
The interior of a decidedly old fashioned and repressive office. There are several clocks on the wall, all of which appear to have stopped. On a filing cabinet there are stickers reading "The Buck Stops Here", "Work Fascinates Me - I could stay watching it all day". There are three desks visible - one is cluttered with old reports; another has a typewriter and the other has a black phone. On this last desk there is a portrait of Enver Hoxha. Noreen O Sullivan, grade 2, is at her typewriter, taking medicine bottles out of her handbag and carefully arranging them on her desk.
Aquinas: (enters sleepily)
Morning Noreen! Any sign of that young fellow Personnel are supposed to be sending over?
2 red ones three times a day.......or is it 3 red ones two times a day?
Aquinas:(taking off overcoat)
Will I ever forget the day I walked in those gates in 1954.....
Noreen: (in exasperation)
Will we ever forget?
Aquinas: (with Noreen silently mouthing his words)
Go down there, my father said, and get a job on the buses. Stay with the buses and you'll get places. (laugh) Mind you, an office on the 2nd floor isn't exactly Hawaii.
(suddenly checking coat pockets)
What is it I forgot?
The part about you lighting up an Afton Major for Coffey behind the Supervisor's Office.....
Aquinas: No, I mean today. What is it I'm after forgetting?
(Phone on Aquinas' desk rings)
Good morning. Bus Transport Operations Room. Aquinas Mooney speaking. How may I help you?
(sudden aside to Noreen)
(sudden change of tone)
Cremin, you ould bollocks, why didn't you say who it was. You know that spiel is only for outsiders and top brass.
(urgent aside to Noreen)
Noreen, our grade 1 is on the way from Personnel. Quick, clear the spare desk like a good girl.
So Jim, what's this I hear about a new plan for turning the company around?
Yah, ....easier drain the Shannon than turn this outfit around. That's what I says. Sure there'd be a national outcry if we made a profit. That's public enterprise for you.
(sudden note of false importance)
Listen Jim, I'll leave you. I've a lot of work to get through.
(looking at empty desk)
Yah, the work is piled up on my desk.
Was it to get your good brown shoes soled?
Aquinas: (taken aback)
The thing you forgot.........
Aquinas: (trying to remember)
Oh yes ........ No, it wasn't to get my good brown shoes soled.......
(polishing portrait of Enver Hoxha on desk)
Where is that grade 1 gone to? You'd swear he was Lyndon B. Johnson being sworn in on the plane to Washington. Although knowing Cremin, he'd have gone by Greyhound Bus. That's Cremin for you, the company man.
Oh I'd kill for a Bisodol Antacid!
Jason: (knock on door, Jason enters apologetically)
Is this the Operations Room?
Aquinas: (in jest)
No, this is intensive care - you'll find the operating theatre down the corridor.
(Jason moves to exit)
Come back will you! You'll catch your death walking around those corridors.
Jason: (Jason re-enters)
I'm Jason.....Jason McCarthy. Mr. Cremin sent....
Aquinas: Look here Noreen - our new grade 1. This is Noreen - she's a grade 2 and I'm Aquinas. I'm the grade 3 around here. And look, your own desk.
(aside to Noreen)
Noreen, will you get Jason a few invoices. You can be looking at those for a few hours - 35 years doesn't be long passing around here!
(Alarm clock rings. Noreen opens one of medicine bottles and takes tablet)
Aquinas: Now Jason, I hope you don't have a complex about the buses. You get a funny crowd travelling on buses. Small farmers wives and young fellows with earrings in their nose, that sort of crowd. The trains - now they're a more refined crowd. They're the type you'd find helping lame and indigent nuns across the footbridge at Mallow.
Jason: (surveying the office)
What a museum! And you've even got a typewriter!
You needn't let that worry you. The typewriter won't bite you at all - it's for Noreen.
Jason: (curiously, pointing to picture of Enver Hoxha)
So who is the geezer in the picture?
Oh you mean Enver - Enver Hoxha former ruler of Albania and role model for middle management. That was him photographed from his good side with his red telephone. Our Enver was very partial to red telephones - although knowing Albania you'd be very lucky if any colour phone worked!
Jason, you do know what Albania gave to the world, apart from red telephones?
Aquinas: Mother Teresa and a particularly virulent strain of Communism. Not bad for a country that banned religion, was it? Ah yes, I often thinks that Mother Teresa was to tea towels what Gianni Versace was to hats. 'Twas the Mediterranean climate that went to their heads.
Noreen: Was it to collect black pudding and half a pound of sausages?
Aquinas: (puzzled look from Jason)
No......it wasn't to collect black pudding and half a pound of sausages.....
Jason: These invoices are in a real mess. I wonder if I could ring accounts just to sort a few things out......
Ah....I wouldn't do that really.... they're a picky crowd in Accounts....
Just until I get my own phoneline....
I said not a chance.
(trying to make light of the situation)
Look Jason, give me those invoices. Noreen, would you ever get Jason the complaint letters. Sure you'll wear yourself out worrying about those invoices, that's what I says. The complaints would suit you more.
Mr. Mooney always says that the complaints letters give you a good idea of the type of person we have to deal with....
Aquinas: So tell me Jason, did Cremin mention anything about the restructuring plan?
Jason: "Turning The Corner" oh ya, he said they were expecting delivery of it sometime this morning.
Aquinas: Did you hear that Noreen? And Cremin didn't say a word earlier, the auld snake. Of course, himself and Mr. Thompson are like that.
There's a letter here from a Mrs. Breeda Murphy......she says she left a pig's head on the bus at Roscrea..... perhaps I could use your phone just to check things out with our people in Roscrea....
(slight pause as tension builds)
Aquinas: Not a chance.
Jason: But you haven't used the phone all morning.
Aquinas: That's the thing about phones isn't it? Just when somebody like Mr. Thompson wants to ring you about the restructuring plan, there's some grade 1 on the phone talking about some wan who left a pig's head on a bus at Roscrea.
(Jason scratches head and Continues looking at letter)
Aquinas: What was it Mussolini said: "I will make the trains run on time." Was there ever a higher calling than public transport? That's what I asks myself.
Jason: (standing, making approach to Noreen)
Ah...... Ms O Sullivan...I wonder if you'd take a letter....
(Noreen and Aquinas exchange shocked glances, Noreen begins
Dear Breeda......I was very sorry to hear of the loss of your pig's head while travelling on one of our buses recently. I am making prompt enquiries into this matter and will be in touch with you again shortly. I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for travelling by bus. Have a nice day, Jason McCarthy.
(tense atmosphere as Aquinas stands)
Aquinas: Ah Noreen.... I mean Ms. O Sullivan...will you take a letter...
(Noreen begins to type under obvious pressure)
Dear Mrs Murphy.... Further to your correspondence of the first instance regarding the loss of pig's head, quantity one, on the Dublin-Cork bus at Roscrea, I would like to draw your attention to Rule 34, subsection 18 of the "Rules for passengers on company vehicles". Rule 34, subsection 18 expressly prohibits the carriage of cats, dogs, poultry, fowl and pigs on company vehicles. On this occasion, I will let you off with a warning but should this matter arise again I will have no choice but to fine you.
Aquinas Mooney, grade 3
P.S. Please note that all queries relating to lost property should be made on Form 72.
Aquinas: Noreen, would you ever put on the kettle like a good girl. It's nearly break time.
Jason: Could I use the em.......I was wondering where the ah......
Aquinas: (helpfully pointing)
The toilet......right out there, second door on the left.
(Jason exits at speed)
Noreen: He seems like a nice boy.
Aquinas: A bit forward for a grade 1, isn't he?
(Aquinas and Noreen anticipate the return of Jason, who returns in due course in some distress)
Jason: It's locked. The door is locked and I need to get in .....real bad.....
Aquinas: I know it's locked. Sure why didn't you ask for the key before you went out?
If I knew it was locked I'd have asked. Just give me the bloody key before I burst.
Aquinas: Before I do, I think I should outline a few company rules
(opening well-thumbed rule book)
Ah yes... here it is: Rules for the use of toilets and urinals by grade 1's during office hours....
For Christ's sake, just give me the key.
(takes key and exits)
Aquinas: (kettle boils, Aquinas and Noreen start
to make cup of tea)
I'll teach that pup a trick or two yet. Grade 1's should know their place in society. That's what I says.
Noreen: The four spoons of sugar, I suppose?
Aquinas: Just to see if it would make me sweeter than
I am. That's what I says.
Will I ever forget the day I walked in those gates in 1954.....
(look of pained resignation on Noreen's face, Jason re-enters
looking greatly relieved)
Ah Jason, I was only saying will I ever forget the day I walked in those gates in 1954. My father says get a job with the buses and you'll go places. (laugh) Mind you, an office on the 2nd floor isn't exactly Hawaii.
Jason: (Looking at watch and checking with clocks
My watch appears to be running fast.......
Aquinas: Not at all. All our clocks stopped years ago. You know in the travel business the way they have clocks for Paris, London, Tokyo..... that sort of thing. Mr. Thompson was always very impressed by the clocks on the wall.
Noreen: Mr. Mooney says that a stopped clock is right at least twice a day.
Aquinas: Albania .... now that's a country. Every evening Enver Hoxha would come home for his tea after his day job of running the country and who'd be there before him only the missus. He'd hardly be inside the door and she'd say: "Enver, would you ever put out the bins like a good man". He'd be just about to sit down with the zapper to watch Sky Sports and he'd hear from the kitchen: "Enver, would you ever run down for a pint of milk like a good man". No rest for the wicked, not even if you're running Albania, that's what I says.
Jason: They say that free market economics have finally reached those communist countries. What a mess!
Aquinas: ..... Noreen will you ever forget our "Turning The Corner" barnstorming day in the hotel?
Aquinas: Ya, that's what I said - our barnstorming day.
Noreen: (Noreen commences to pour some Milk of Magnesia
into her tea)
A lazy bowel is a terrible thing.
Aquinas: Well anyway, management said they were going
to turn the company around so they hired this yuppie in a tight
Dunnes suit to speak to us all. Cremin, the lick, was up the front
with Mr.Thompson of course. Coffey and all the lads from Maintenance
were behind me and Gerry - wasn't it Gerry Moran from Accounts
- he was alongside me. Across the way was Noreen and who did she
get stuck with but Russell the Wreck. ..... dead from drink and
dead from the lack of it. Well this fellow in the tight Dunnes
suit comes in and says: "Lets talk about the culture of work".
Says Coffey back to me, if I'd known you were talking about the
Riverdance I'd have brought my proper shoes for dancing.
Tell him about the team building exercises.....
Aquinas: Well anyway, your man in the Dunnes suit said
we'd do some team building exercises. So he says break up into
groups and form an inner circle and an outer circle. (bellylaugh)
The idea was that the inner circles would close their eyes,
fall back and be caught by the outer circles. Mr. Thompson fell
into Cremin's arms, of course. And who caught our Noreen only
Russell the Wreck. Falling into Russell's arms is like falling
backwards into a brewery vat and our Noreen being such a sensitive
girl. All the lads in the canteen gave her a fierce slagging over
(look of embarrassment on Noreen's face)
(Jason tries to hide a yawn)
Jason: There's some real deadwood in this outfit alright!
Aquinas: (annoyed look on Aquinas' face)
So then came the next bit and your man in the Dunnes suit says "So what's your mission statement?" Gerry Moran leans back to me and says "Jaysus Aquinas, before we know it the Redemptorists will be driving the buses around here."
(Aquinas collapses with laughter)
Jason: You know, that's just what this organisation
needs - a mission statement.
(Aquinas suddenly stops laughing)
I mean - it would weed out the deadwood once and for all.
Jason: I beg your pardon....
Aquinas: I said my arse ........ and that's my mug you're drinking out of.
Jason: I had no idea......
(moves over mug, heavy pause)
Aquinas: And that's Ms. O Sullivan's seat you're sitting on.
(awkward shuffle as Jason and Noreen swop seats)
You're a nice lad Jason but remember living is an imperfect science so just watch your back. Do you follow?
Jason: My back?
Aquinas: So anyway.... I went to the toilet to relieve
myself... real posh it was with music. What was it - Music Of
The Mountains -
(commences to imitate pan pipes version of Don't Cry For Me Argentina)
And who comes up alongside me only your man in the Dunnes suit. "I bet you feel centred now" he says to me. Quick as a flash, says I back "I was a bit chesty earlier in the year but I'm much better now Thank God". The gobshite.
Jason: Downsizing - that's what this company needs. I mean most companies in the nineties have to downsize and take on board the Information Technology revolution. You know - the Information SuperHighway.
I've been listening to you all morning with your smart arse comments about telephones and that wan with the pig's head. Now get this clear, Jason, you are a grade 1; Noreen, I mean Ms. O Sullivan, is a grade 2 and I am a grade 3. Do I make myself clear?
Noreen: Was it to get a novena and two masses said for the souls in purgatory?
Aquinas: No...... it wasn't to get a novena and two masses said for the souls in purgatory.
(getting up from table and heading for door)
Anyway...... I'll go for a scout around. Who knows Accounts might have some word on this "Turning The Corner" business. Noreen ... you'll look after things until I get back. And you (looking in the direction of Jason), we'll have no more lip out of you.
Jason: So what's he really like? You know old Enver whatever he calls himself.
Noreen: Mr. Mooney? Very regular in every way although he can be a bit chesty at times. It's because he sits on those public benches. I'm always telling him that a body is prone to attack from that quarter. I should know.
Jason: Yes, but I mean what's he really like?
Noreen: (after a pause)
Are you interested in In Memorium notices?
Jason: Not particularly......
Noreen: I have some of my favourites here if you'd like to hear them.
(searches handbag before commencing to read)
Your dinner was in the oven
when I left.
And the table was all set.
I did not get a chance to say goodbye,
You have not gone far,
You have just slipped into the room next door.
Aquinas: (enters smoking cigarette and looking stressed)
Accounts seen your man in the suit crossing the yard talking into one of those mobile phone things.
(nervous glance out window)
Jason: The global village - doesn't it just amaze you?
Aquinas: Gerry Moran says he's been in the office with Mr. Thompson for the last hour. We're all for the chop I tell you, that's what Coffey and the boys in Maintenance are saying. There's a meeting for grade 3's with Mr. Thompson at 12. "Turning The Corner" - I'd turn that fellow's neck if I could lay my hands on him.
Jason: It's inevitable really. You've just got to downsize this operation.
Not you again. Didn't I say I didn't want any more lip from you. You've hardly got your arse on a chair round here and you're playing God.
Jason: You just have to face reality around here. This
is the 21 st century we're staring at.
(phone rings, Aquinas answers with feigned politeness)
Aquinas: Bus transport operations room, Aquinas Mooney grade 3 speaking, how can I help you?
(feigned note of surprise)
Oh it's you Mr. Thompson, I didn't recognise you there for a minute. What's that .... the report has been delivered. Well isn't that great news now. And you want all grade 3's at a meeting in your office at 12. You know ..... as Enver Hoxha would say .... let them eat jam.
(pause as note of concern registers on Aquinas' face)
What do you mean .... "Who the fuck is Enver Hoxha?" Remember I was telling you... yes Mr. Thompson, I'll get my ass over there at 12.
(replaces handset slowly)
Jesus Christ, Thompson would go through you for a shortcut. We're all finished, I tell you.
Noreen: Was it to get a packet of Sweet Afton and a box of matches?
Aquinas: (His mind on other things)
No ...... it wasn't to get a packet of Sweet Afton and a box of matches.
Jason: You should see this as an opportunity ...... perhaps you could set up your own transport consultancy - you know maybe work from home.
But don't I put out the bins......
Jason: In the workplace of the future, it's reckoned that up to 70% of all work could be done from the home.
Aquinas: Do you know - I've had you up to the back teeth. You remind me of one of those fellows with the roundy glasses who spend their time talking about the way the world should be. We've had your sort before with their reports.....
(pulling open filing cabinet and throwing reports onto table)
"Making The Difference", "Time For Change", "A New Beginning" and now "Turning The Corner" if you don't mind. But it doesn't make the buses run on time.
Jason: (trying to calm things)
Maybe you should start taking things a little bit easy - you know enjoy the finer things in life like gardening and old folks outings .... well I don't really mean old folks in that sense of the word.....
Aquinas: (Contrived and forced laughter)
Ha, ha , ha..... I'm laughing .... I tell you I'm laughing ...I'm laughing so much there are tears coming down my face ...... Aquinas in a wheel chair at an old folks outing .... ha, ha, ha......that's the funniest thing I heard in years....
(silence interrupted by Noreen's alarm clock, Noreen takes tablets)
Aquinas: (regaining composure)
You see Jason, there's a certain class of person who doesn't care as long as it looks right on paper. Take Albania, a country with which I have more than a passing acquaintance. When things got bad what did Enver Hoxha get the people to do - make jam. And do you know - when they got used to it the Albanians were dingers at making jam and the worse things got the more jam they made. Things got so bad that a fellow would open a press and what would he see before him only pots of jam. A fellow would open the boot of a car and what would he see only more jam. They couldn't eat the stuff half fast enough. But it was the one thing they could do and it always sounded good. Instead of saying that the arse had fallen out of the grain harvest again this year they could always say that jam production rose by 10%. And in a year when half the population of Albania was gainfully employed trying to catch the last known chicken in Albania, you can be damn sure that jam production broke all records. Why? Because it looked good on paper.
Jason: But that's ridiculous - you can't compare some tin pot dictator to this company.
This company is like .... is like ....... an octopus. It's testicles...
Jason: (Interrupting gingerly)
I think you mean tentacles....
I didn't interrupt you so you don't interrupt me.... as I was saying... this company is like an octopus and its testicles reach into the lives of every man and woman in this country. Where would that yahoo who lost the pig's head be without the buses, I ask you. And what are they going to do now only turn the whole thing upside down on the word of some jackass who wouldn't recognise a bus if one hit him. "Turning the Corner", my arse!
How much time have I got Noreen?
Noreen: It's just gone ten to Mr. Mooney.
Aquinas: (reflectfully, pulling on cigarette)
I goes home the other evening and herself was out the back with the curlers in talking to Mrs. Shanahan over the hedge. And what does she ask her ..... "how's your climatis?".
Before I'd ask any woman a question like that......
(putting on coat and adopting tone of military press release)
Comrade Mooney was captured while operating deep behind enemy lines. He was executed by firing squad at 12.00 hours. He died like a soldier....
Will I ever forget the day I walked in those gates in 1954. My father says get a job with the buses and you'll go places. Mind you, an office on the 2nd floor isn't exactly Hawaii. .... I remember the cold frosty mornings in the bus yard .....the smell of diesel and the way Coffey would throw back his head and let out a puff of smoke.........
(finishes buttoning coat and goes to shake hands)
Well goodbye now Noreen and I hope your trouble down there sorts itself out. Goodbye Jason. You can have my mug...... (moving towards door and turning)
Ah Jason....would there be any chance of a fellow getting a start driving a bus on this Highway thing you were talking about?
Jason: Oh the Information SuperHighway ..... not really ....
Aquinas: I see.
(Aquinas extinguishes cigarette, turns and leaves)
Noreen: (starting to sob)
He was such a nice man.....
Jason: Ya... pity about the old timer alright.
Noreen: Will I ever forget the day I walked into this office in 1971.
(Jason yawns and throws eyes up to heaven)
My mother said get a job in an office and you'll go places. Mind you, the Operations Room isn't exactly the bank.
(Sobbing, Noreen commences to root through handbag)
Surely to God I've a Bisodol Antacid in here somewhere .....
You know... the whole landscape of work is changing. I can see the virtual office of the future. Operatives logging on to the Information SuperHighway. Modems, PC's..... Yes the future has arrived......
Aquinas: (Aquinas makes triumphant re-entry)
Meet the new Operations Manager, if you don't mind. You know, Jim Cremin, myself and Mr Thompson had a good talk and we came to the conclusion that we needed some corporate downsizing. Jim said that we needed an organisation that was flexible and responsive to today's market needs. I couldn't agree more, says I. So we decided to put all grade 1's on flexi-contracts to reflect the needs of a more responsive organisation as outlined in our blueprint for the future "Turning The Corner".
Jason: This is obscene!
Aquinas: Jason, I think you'd better go and see Mr. Cremin
(Jason moves towards exit)
Oh and .... close the door on the way out.
(Aquinas removing coat, suddenly remembers and takes book
Well if it isn't that.
Noreen: What would that be Mr Mooney?
Aquinas: The thing I've been trying to remember all morning.
(reads title of book aloud)
"Beetles in the Dung Heap: How to survive and thrive in Organisations". I'll just return this to Jim Cremin. He gave it to me to read a few weeks ago.
(moving to exit)
I didn't want to tell him I had no interest in gardening.
Noreen: Now that we've turned the corner, maybe we can all start getting back to normal around here.
(Takes tablet and starts typing)