We walked down to Mrs Joy, who introduced herself and gave us a lift up to the school in her boy racer car. She barely spoke on the way up, but almost wrapped the car around a lamppost while eyeballing me through the rear-view mirror.
We pulled up outside a filthy five story building that had a café on the ground floor. I assumed we were meeting everybody in the café. How metropolitan, I thought.
I had visions of myself discussing progressive pedagogic techniques while sipping espresso. Dehydration delirium I suppose. At this stage my suit was starting to itch really badly. I wanted nothing more than to get the hell out of here. Not because of the vibe I was getting, just because I was so physically uncomfortable.
Mrs Joy turned around. “This is the school. We are on the 2nd floor.” It was delivered like a challenge, rather than a statement of fact. So much for my poncey espresso fantasy.
We disembarked from the Integra, entered a stairwell and got in to a tiny, jerky lift.
Mrs Joy put us at ease by turning around to face us.
“This is a religious school. Are you Christian?”
Before I had the chance to profess my allegiance to glorious Satan, herself subtly dug me in the ribs and replied:
“We’re both Christians. We went to Catholic schools for both primary and secondary education”. She had assumed Mrs Joy would have been placated by this. She wasn’t.
“We’re Presbyterian. Have you got a problem with that?” Fucking hell, this was turning in to a Drumcree stand-off.
I wanted to go in to a long winded explanation about how organized religion was essentially this global scam set up to take people’s money by convincing them that they would become members of an exclusive club after they died if they followed certain rules…blah blah blah
To save time I just lied. “Nope, no problem at all”. Then added, “Sure isn’t it all the same craic anyway?” Mrs Joy just glared at me after the last comment. I’m sure she didn’t understand it, but my delivery and the wink after it must have conveyed my flippancy.
Mrs Joy brought us in to a small office where two smiling receptionists shook our hands and gave us warm welcomes. We were invited to sit down at a small round table where Mr Boyle, the head teacher, and Mr Yun, the principal, would come and meet us. (Fake names, remember?)
A generously proportioned American man came in to the room. He introduced himself as Mr Boyle and warmly thanked us for coming. He had a slight southern twang to his accent. Southern America, not Cork, boy. He asked us a few general job interview questions and a few general questions about ourselves. I instantly liked him. He seemed like a really gentle and nice guy.
After a few minutes a man who looked like a Kim Il Sung propaganda poster entered the room. He had the most dazzling and spectacular set of white teeth that I have ever seen. He introduced himself as Mr Yun. His accent was very neutral, and his voice was a smooth baritone. His speech pattern reminded me of Akira from The Simpsons. I think it was the way he paused in his sentence delivery, and his laugh that came out as a series of “Aaah’s”.
He was very heavy on the old religion though. He kept saying, “Praise the lord!” and “God will show me the way!”, and “Jesus has given me a sign!” Mad shit that I’ve only ever witnessed from an eccentric uncle, or being ridiculed in a Bill Hicks special.
We didn’t do all that praise be shit in Ireland. Well, not in any church I’ve ever been in. Phrases like “Please God!” and “God bless you!” after a sneeze are ingrained in the Irish lexicon, but that was about the height of it. I hadn’t believed in God in about 15 years. This guy’s full on spiel was making me very uncomfortable, and I think he knew it too.
Next time: Tour of duty