When I was a young lad and in school, I got a job behind the counter in the local shop. It was at this tender age of sixteen that I was to get a harsh lesson on marriage. The shopkeeper, Mr. Murphy, was a very good sales man... full of the chatter, our very own localised Arthur Daly as it were.
At the time he employed a Chinese guy to work in the storeroom, taking in deliveries, opening the gate etc and stacking the shelves. As you can imagine in the eighties it was unlike today and to see a China man on the Northside was a novelty in itself.
Ki – Lok was originally from China and had moved to Europe with his family coming through England to live in Dublin for a while. The thing was that he had very little English, and at times could be quite shy. Due to the language difference it was hard to determine if he was just quiet or simply didn’t understand.
Anyway, the shopkeeper, Mr. Murphy thought that this was the best thing he had ever done.
“Look at us, the first to employ a non national in the area. People will see how open minded we are here,...can’t be bad for business”, he told me one day as we unpacked boxes of biscuits for the shelves.
This was all well and grand but Ki-Lok was very quiet and on the odd occasion it was good to get an ‘Hello’ from him. I concluded that he just didn’t understand, because he was always smiling. A big set of pearly teeth beamed from him each morning. It had to be said, he was very good natured.
I don’t know if it was the work that got to him or if he was homesick but for a few days he didn’t have his happy smile each day and we took it he was down or depressed.
Mr. Murphy who was full of the joys of his new employee enhancement scheme noticed this too and put a consoling arm around KI-Lok.
“KI-Lok....I like to see all of my employees happy.” He winked over at me letting me know he was in control of this situation and was giving me a lesson in employee welfare.
“Ki ....can I call you KI?”
KI – Lok nodded rapidly.
“KI, I‘ve have noticed you aren’t in your usual happy mood. You seem,...what we would call... a little under the weather. A bit depressed.”
Ki Lok looked on confused but he wasn’t stopping Mr. Murphy.
“So Ki-Lok when I find this happening to me, I find the best thing is to get away from it all. I go home, spend a lovely morning with my wife. She will make a big breakfast – we will go upstairs and make love and then come back down and maybe have a glass of wine. Sit out in the garden holding hands... Do you understand?”
Ki- Lok had the confused look again and I started to fidget around the bottles of TK lemonade.
“Ki-Lok – thats exactly what I want you to do tomorrow. Take the day and do what I do, It will make you feel a better man and you will come in here the next day back to your best.”
Well Ki-Lok took the day off and Mr. Murphy was right. He came in the day after, beaming. His big white teeth back in front of that round face of his.
“Well Ki-Lok, good to see you smiling.”
He turned to me with that smug contented look and said, “See son, that is how you keep your employees happy.”
Just as Ki-Lok was heading back into the store room he turned to Mr. Murphy and said.
“Hey Boss...you got nice house.”