Yesterday evening was a quite horrific experience. I had an appointment at 7.30pm. An employment opportunity – in reality more a chance to talk about potential, future opportunities. I was in attendance at an event called ‘Move West’ which was a meet and greet with an agency to discuss employment possibilities in the west of Ireland.
A move back home is not imminent. But on the other hand the thought of it is always lurking like a forgotten turd, at the back of my head. I’m from the West (or the mid-west to be specific). When I returned to Ireland three years ago (hard to believe that my third anniversary since returning from Amsterdam was a few weeks ago) it was my intention to stay in Limerick, and if that was not feasible then to move to Cork.
I didn’t have anything against Dublin, it was more an inclination to avoid a big city. However with the employment market only beginning to recover, the opportunities were in the capital. Never having suffered from patience, I accepted a job in the wastelands of suburban Dublin and I have lived here since. It’s a good life. I reside in the city centre close to the action. Now that working form home is a more regular occurrence even the wastelands are less offensive.
But the thought of moving home is still present. One day maybe. In the meantime, keep my ear to the ground to see if there are any prospects.
The event was being held in a conference suite in a dreary, suburban, chain hotel. I got a lift from the office from a colleague who was passing on the way home. Although I was two hours early the agents could see me immediately, as it was more a drop in kind of event. Present were representatives from the agency offices in Sligo, Galway and Limerick. I had a brief chat with the Sligo agent. He was the only one available. I have no desire to live in Sligo – beautiful as that part of the world might be.
Next up was a chat with the Galway agent. Galway would be more appealing but still not quite the prize. Finally the Limerick agent was free. We chatted for about thirty minutes where he extolled the virtues of my native town – as if I was some kind of exotic blow-in who needed persuasion. I left him my CV and bid farewell. Let’s see if anything happens. Always good to keep an open mind about these things.
The hotel where the event had been held was located close to the Liffey Valley Shopping Centre in Palmerstown. This is a vast shopping centre – once the largest in Ireland – located west of the city. I reckoned that there would be good bus connections to take me back to town.
I walked for fifteen minutes from the hotel to the complex along the wide, gridlocked roads. As I was entering the grounds I noticed that the footpath had ended. Strange, I thought to myself. How are pedestrians meant to safely enter this temple of consumerism? I thought no more of it. Entering I saw the same shops that are present in all shopping centres across the land – Dunnes Stores, Tescos, Penneys, Marks and Spencer, PC World, Carraig Donn, and the usual chain restaurants. As Liffey Valley has notions of class, the Burger King was not visible. Instead it was Eddie Rockets. I had an extra hot portion of chicken, spicy rice and peas at Nandos, and decided to make my way to the bus stop.
If only it were that easy. I spent the next forty five minutes wandering about this utterly vast shopping centre – trying each exit to see if I could see the welcome sight of a Dublin Bus. They must have been hiding.
I felt the walls start to close in on me. It was all so threateningly cheerful. The logos were emblazoned across the walls in a deeply sinister manner – ‘Style begins at Liffey Valley’; ‘Fun begins at Liffey Valley’; ‘Family time begins at Liffey Valley’; ‘Me time begins at Liffey Valley’; ‘The weekend begins at Liffey Valley’.
Was Liffey Valley the cause of the big bang I wondered? It was like some sinister twilight zone where your value as a human being was being judged by how much forced jollity you could achieve through consumption. I have always felt overwhelmed by the shopping experience. It is the definition of hell on earth for me to be in a shop surrounded by desperate people in search of a bargain.
With a flop sweat forming on my forehead, I staggered over to a security guard.
‘My good woman, please tell me where I can find a bus to town’.
She looked at me in confusion for a moment. You could clearly see that this was not a regular question. She pointed me in the right direction.
The words ‘it will take about twenty minutes to get there’ rang in my ears as I sprinted to the exit.
She was not wrong. I walked through acre after endless acre of car park to the screaming motorway where I crossed the metal encased foot bridge to reach my bus stop.
With a sense of relief I sat down and waited for the bus. Running through my head was the confused thought of how a pedestrian was meant to access this vile shopping centre. Realisation dawned.
In this brave new world people single people travelling on foot are not welcome.
‘Social isolation begins at Liffey Valley’.