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Cape Fear Voices/The Teen Scene

Cape Fear Voices/The Teen Scene

Cape Fear Voices/The Teen Scene

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Billable Hours

Dan Dodge

I had a friend once, Duncan L, and we often frequented the same bar [The Bank at College Green in Dublin] for a couple pints of plain and a bit of craic*. Unplanned, chance meetings. Kind of eased the way into the evening. We apparently enjoyed each other’s company, and he seemed fully engaged in the moment. The topics were far and wide-ranging–philosophies, politics, football, recent books and movies sampled, latest musical offerings– to name a few. Much of it was a kind of cultural concierge service that we provided for each other. We never set a date for these chance meetings…that would have smothered the spontaneity of the idea. I didn’t have his secretary call my secretary or anything…it wasn’t that formal. There were days and days when we never chanced to meet; other times, we were literally falling over each other.

Then one day something happened. At first I didn’t notice the difference. Then I began to notice small changes. His bathroom breaks seemed to take longer, and invariably he would return with a cell phone clenched in his left hand. Soon he began to sneak a look at that cell phone and hurriedly put it away again, mumbling something incoherent all the while. Then, one afternoon, he excused himself and went outside. I paid it no heed until I noticed him, outside the window, pacing up and down the sidewalk outside, engaged in serious un-craicly conversation.

One afternoon, I brought up the subject, tentatively. He told me that he seemed increasingly more preoccupied with work, but I  couldn’t help but notice these small twitching ‘assignations’ he was holding with his cell phone [which, indeed, turned out to be the latest iPhone]. He brushed me off with a not-a-bother gesture, and for the remainder of our meeting, steeled himself to be cell-deprived. A couple of times I saw him surreptitiously reach for his left hand pocket only to quickly retrieve the hand and place it somewhere where I and the world could see it.

At our next meeting I heard this insistent, vibrating sound emanating from his lower waist area. He excused himself to take a call outside. The following meeting he took three calls inside the bar [that’s when I noticed that it had Wi-Fi], so I started up a conversation with a young man on my right hand side at the bar. Call it craic-interruptus or something, but it was like he was there and wasn’t there. At our penultimate meeting, he spent almost the entire time outside talking on his iPhone.

At our final [though I didn’t know it then] meeting, I asked him point blank what was happening to him. He looked earnest for a moment–his eyes “sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought”[Hamlet]–then he said in a seemingly prepared, terse statement: ‘I was recently made a partner. It’s all about billable hours……….’

*an Irish word meaning amusing and enjoyable conversation

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