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Dublin called

Ireland, 2002 —

I was working at Heaton's, a small department store in the Market Cross Shopping Centre in Kilkenny. It was the first time I'd done that kind of work. I didn't mind it. The pay was terrible, but the work was easy, and the regularity of the hours was a welcome bit of monotony. It was a nice break from the kitchens.

In the end, I got called onto the carpet because the human resources office in Dublin wondered why I didn't have a work permit. At least, I think that's why.

I had a social welfare card, and could pay taxes. Somebody at the social welfare office had issued me the number by mistake. Another person at the same office later told me that I wasn't supposed to have that card, that number. But I have it. I've paid taxes, gotten taxes back, banked, and spent my money. I haven't gotten any social benefits, and I won't, with just this tax number.

But I had the number — and as long as nobody pressed the issue, that's all I'd tell them. Nobody ever pressed the issue. Nobody else, I mean. It doesn't mean I was legal to work though. That's Irish. I mean, I wasn't legal. Thing is, most people didn't know. Some people, maybe, just didn't want to know. I respect that.

Working in Ireland is an easy matter for me, especially because I never have to worry about getting anybody else in trouble. Why shouldn't an employer hire me and employ me and pay me? There's no reason for them not to. (I say easy. I mean, it's as easy as work anywhere—a pain in the ass when you can get it.)

But, anyway, in the case of Heaton's, the general manager called me into his office on a Friday at the end of the workday and asked me about it. He just asked me if I have a work permit. Asked directly, I can't lie about it. I don't have a work permit. So that was it. From one minute to the next.

I probably shouldn't be writing this. But I want to. I will probably want to work again in Ireland; and the internet is very local in some cases. And, it's the slip of the tongue that lost me my job at Heaton's — I think.

One day standing at the cash register after closing the till, talking and laughing with the office manager and another employee, I let slide a bit about my legal status. He told me later that he'd not said anything....

But there was more to the picture—of course, and as I've implied. Yeah, the manager had a reason to get rid of me, and no practical need for me, though I did a good job.

It was exactly the union that could have helped me, had I been legal. Stupid. I'd never had a chance to learn about being in a union.... [Volunteering to be] union shop steward, though, when you're not technically legal. Not legal at all, if you want to be technical about it...

Dublin called — according to Trevor.

— I worked at Heaton's in Kilkenny from February until September of 2002.