Working the Streets: Part 2 – The Night Shift

Ranelagh Luas Stop

Vodka swishes in their Evian bottles and amidst ‘Is Jack coming?’…. ‘Yeah I texted Alice but she’s babysitting or something’ their phones buzz incessantly. Their toes point to the carriage floor: their heels hoist them far above me. They smell honey sweet. It’s post pre-drinks and The Palace is free in. They hop off at Harcourt and I lose their trail.

Sailing down Harcourt Street

There is a group of English girls and they are dressed as sailors who would freeze at sea. Having built up an enormous appetite crossing the Irish channel, they lean into the Chinese man behind the counter of a hot dog van. Intimately and with an air of confession they seek from him a double cheese burger. He obliges as they navigate their way through foreign currency, stumbling and biting, excited and raring to explore unchartered waters.

I approach him with caution and request the price of a hot chocolate. It is extortionate and so I buy a 7 Up. I stay there watching. ‘Do you like your work? I ask him finally. ‘Not much’, he mutters. ‘I just saw those girls’ I offer. The insinuation is lost in his worldliness and he replies, ‘at this time it is still okay, later on, people are even drunker and then they become difficult and break things’. One preagnant pause later he walks away to the corner of his van where he talks to a co-worker. I wander away.

The Rickshaw Driver: Grafton Street

He’s got a UCD hoodie and a cart. Before I give him a proper look, I have begun my spiel: ‘Hi… I’m writing a feature on people that work at night…I would love to know what it’s like pulling a rickshaw’. ‘No problem, Kate’, he grins. Scarlet, I recognize him as a former colleague. (Memories are context dependent). Redeeming myself I offer him a take-out coffee in exchange for a chat: ‘No, no, you’re grand’ is his gallant reply.  

 King of Security: Grafton Street

He’s enormous in his reflector jacket and he won’t let me into Burger King with my can of 7 Up. I stop at the entrance and explain that I’m a student, from just over there who would love to ask him about his job. He regards me a moment: ‘You understand, I get paid to work, to protect this place and not to have chats’. He has a point and so I apologize. He looks at me quite kindly as I make to walk away.

The Rickshaw Driver

Our paths cross again. It’s a handy student job’, he tells me. ‘I’m employed by a company from which I effectively ‘rent’ the rickshaw. When times were good, you could earn €300-400 a night, but that’s gone down recently. Still, the money’s not bad’. But what about the stories? ‘There are too many to tell’ he laughs. ‘Once I ended up hoisted up with my rickshaw into the garden of somebody’s party.’ Is it not dangerous? ‘I only take direct routes. Generally I stay around the city centre. I don’t go down back roads and lanes. There’s enough work around here not to make it worth it’. Apropos enough work to be getting on with, I leave him and tell him to look out for the sailor girls.

The Ladies in Doyles

I drain the can and bin it outside Doyles.  Inside, a hand assembles a row of deodorant spray cans behind the wash-hand basin. A mass of Chubachubs and gums are piled already in a little wicker basket: sweet and fresh. I emerge from the toilet cubicle and she hands me a paper towel. I take it, awkwardly. ‘It’s getting cold’ she says remarking on my purple winter coat. I smile in agreement ‘Yes, it’s that time of year again’. ‘It’s still quiet here’ she says. ‘It’ll pick up in an hour or two’ I reply and imagine heels and lollipops and deodorant and tissue paper on the floor. I wonder if she knows winter from home and whether her family waits up for her.

The Rickshaw Driver

He’s sure doing his rounds. We wave and he’s kind enough to stop, again. What’s the relationship with the other rickshaw drivers like? I want to know. ‘It’s great fun’, he tells me ‘we know each other and greet one another on the way’. The problems we have had are with the horse and cart drivers. They feel we’re taking their business away and so they have tried to run us off the streets. At one point, the Guards had to come and sort out the trouble. It’s quite competitive out here. There’s a lot of money to be made from this kind of thing.’

Temple Bar

A can of Bavaria bathes in a pool of vomit and an entrepreneur challenges punters to ride a colourful bicycle past a line of white selotape. They queue in an orderly fashion and fall off, one by one. ‘Come on now, four gos for a fiver to win 20 quid if you pass the line’: ‘oye could do da. Gissa shot!”.  ‘It looks easier than it is: the handlebars are reversed’ remarks a shewd young woman: ‘that’s why it’s so hard!’. A bronze blond in a puffy red jacket hands out fliers for a lap-dancing club. It pays the rent.

 The Rickshaw Driver

He’s just dropped off another group of satisfied customers. ‘You must be exhausted’. ‘Ah, I’m okay’. Are you sure you won’t have that coffee?’ Ah, go on so’. A Maccy D’s muffin and a double espresso later, he’s stoically avoiding the 1 am slump and we’re discussing how to pimp his ride.

I’m back at the hot dog van in Harcourt Street. An intoxicated passer-by bashes in the door and leaves the vendor pick up the pieces: he has seen it all before. The night is only getting started but I toddle soberly home.

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