Right, this was when I was eighteen so don't judge me too harshly. Or if you think drugs are cool and I'm a legend, fill your boots. Anyway, at the time I was working through college in Dublin with bar shifts at [redacted] music venue. One day I get a call on my day off.
Way the gig worked, you'd either get Fri or Sat off. This week it was Fri, happy days. My manager, let's call her Dympna, pipes up on the phone: "So, when you come in this evening, just a few things to remember". I'm like, hold on Dympz, I'm off this eve, jog on. She corrects me.
"Remember I said you could get all of Saturday off if you just worked 2 hours tonight?". And of course THEN, I did suddenly remember, she'd said it to me as I was leaving the building and my conscious work brain was doing somersaults to get out of the place.
She could have told me I was to have my foreskin tattooed with a harpoon and I would have given her a smile, thumbs up, and a flurry of yeps to get out of the place. I was eighteen. On minimum wage, and - bear in mind this is really saying something - my absolute minimum effort.
So, I'm bang to rights and I say "yeaaah, of course, sorry just got my days mixed up, I'll be there no problem" and she says, "this evening will be fine, just the head of the [redacted] and some VIPs, few hours then you can take off".
I was a fairly sheltered kid before college, and didn't even drink til I was well into my late teens, never smoked even. I was very green. So too, coincidentally, was the homebrew ketamine that said pal was making IN HIS OVEN when I arrived.
My pal had gotten it in liquid form and, for some reason, it had been dyed green - he has subsequently told me he thought it was a St Patrick's Day promotion, and I've always thought it a charming entrepreneurial flourish on the part of his enterprising ketamine wholesaler.
(Ketamine wholesalers are often vets, and the stuff originally for cats. People always say horse tranquiliser, either to make it sound more sordid or more badass, but ketamine is used on many animals, and vets have more use for cat tranqs than horses. Not quite as sexy is it?)
Anyway, for want of a better idea, I took him up on his offer of a line of this thick, vaguely slightly clumpy bright green powder, knowing I had nothing else to do for the evening. Felt nothing. Had a tiny further bump 10 mins later. It was at this point that my phone rang.
FLASHBACK ENDS, WE'RE BACK IN THE ROOM. So I'm definitely sweating after the call, not like instant come-up, more worried ABOUT the come-up. Never done this in my life, I've no idea how it's going to feel. But, absent any other idea, I get my stuff together and head to work.
On way to work, starts kicking in. You know when the roof of your mouth starts politely folding your brain in half, and your chest flutters like a cathedral filled with bees? I was holding it together but knew if I stopped concentrating for one second, I would become time itself.
By the time I reach work (twenty mins later) I am sweating like microwaved bread, eyes on hinges, convinced my fingernails owe me money. I have an overwelming urge to yawn, just to get the memories out WHEN in comes Dympna with the rota for the evening.
D: Thanks again, know it's short- oh, you look a bit hot and bothered, did you run here ha?"
Me: Hmnnnnnyes, I did - the dids is"
D: OK, just you tonight and the top man, he's showing the President what's going on for the next while"
Me: Sorr din you sez de presddyen?"
D: Yes, Mary McAleese is in to see this season's programme of events.
D: All you need to do is stand in the corner and offer them drinks every fifteen minutes.
Me: Ahhh yesssshnshh
D: Maybe have a wash beforehand
So the gig is this: Mary McAleese (the *original* MMA) was to go round this room upstairs which had upcoming acts for the season illustrated with photographs and programme notes. The director of [redacted] would walk her around and say "fricken great, Madge innit?" or whatever.
My role is pretty weird, I have to stand in the corner and then every 15 mins, INTERRUPT this live-wire pair to offer them drinks, which protocol dictates they must refuse. I have barely processed any of this before I'm grabbing a tray and heading upstairs.
The tray, btw, contains a white wine, a red wine, a G&T, a whiskey, a rum and coke and some mineral waters. Always found that mix weird. Imagine the President of Ireland seeing the rum and coke and going "oooooh nice one, ta - now tell me about this Latvian choir again".
Right now I can hold it together when stimulated, when the adrenaline and fear is keeping me just ticking over - I'm weird but with it. Problem is, my job is now to stand silent and motionless in a room on my own until the President of Ireland arrives.
Time passes on my own. Empires crumble and glaciers dissolve, stars die and oceans melt, out on the dusty planes of mother earth, hot bursts of young love gift the miracle of life; children are born, raised, stricken infirm and die of old age.
By now, having been alone with my thoughts for the entire Cretaceous period, I am no longer mildly weird but deeply, extravagantly deranged. As the President of Ireland walks in, with my boss's boss's boss's boss, my first impulse is to greet them like I own the place.
It would be rude, surely, to not acknowledge their presence? Out of order even. Best thing to do would obviously be to say "hello guys" like it's my home and I live there, in this big white room, where I stand in the corner, alone, holding a tray of drinks, like you do, at home.
Anyway, by the divine grace of the infant Christ, they somehow do not hear me say this, and begin their itinerary round the room. I clench my entire head and focus on not shouting across the room to let them know that they should always feel at home here in this room of ours.
I become extremely aware of my hands, and how I haven't felt them in a very long time. They're detuned to static , which would be worrying even if they weren't holding a tray of drinks filled with noise and judgement. I hold no faith or creed other than "do not drop these plz".
I begin walking over to them and I move so abruptly that the glasses clink and they turn to look at me. I did this too fast. Now I'm thinking wooooah slow down there martina hingis, so I self-correct to a much slower speed. Watching my breath, nice and casual, you got this buddy.
Guys. GUYS. Now, I'm moving far too slow. I started at this speed and I'm to embarassed to change and now it's gonna take me like 5 mins to cross the room. They are watching me, frowning and sweaty, traversing the 5 foot between us like it's a wooden plank on the Crystal Maze.
I'm moving so slow my legs are cramping. I think they're wondering why it's taking me so long. It's way harder than walking at normal speed. I'm shaking so the drinks are making noise again. For what feels like minutes.
Do this another two times - how long was this presentation anyway, is this what the President does all day? Give her a brochure and a carryout ffs - and they say no. By the end, I've calmed down a bit in physical side (sweating, shaking) but I still feel completely batshit.
"Yeeerrrsh" I say, with a goalkeeper's glove in my mouth. She starts talking about her experience coming down to study here, how it can be a real scenic change, but the making of you if you keep your eyes open to new experiences.
She's a lovely woman, and very open and generous with her time, giving me ample space to answer her questions which I mostly do with sheepish, one-or-two-word answers. Finally, she asks me if Dublin is everything I thought it wou-
Mary McAleese flinched for what seemed like half a second, then flashed her best your-mum's-sound-mate smile and replaced her white wine on my tray. The boss man nodded at me, they walked out of the room and I waited a few seconds before making my way downstairs to the kitchen.
So at this point I'm thinking, wellll, I'm definitely fired but this will one day make a great story on an Nazi-riddled microblogging platform. I make my way to the staff area, wipe my sopping face and check my phone. I had only been in the room for 35 minutes.
The boss man had indeed related the events upstairs to Dympna, but rather than a frightened waif hepped up on cat tranqs, he'd seen a political nerd deeply, irretrievably starstruck by contact with the 8th President of the Irish Republic, Mary McAleese.
And you know what, she kinda is. She was always very nice to me each of the subsequent times we met - me doling out the drinks, her asking me how Dublin was getting on, all the while the other staff eyeing me to see how I was dealing with such close contact with my hero.
I'd gurn and fret, play up to it when she'd be coming in, "oh what am I like". I'd bat away suggestions I fancied her from the more ribald members of the changing room, and laugh along with the usual jibes, safe in the knowledge my nerdy affect had saved my bacon.