It started innocently enough. A general enquiry left on a mobile phone - 'I'm vaguely interested in hiring a children's entertainer for my son's party' - that sort of thing. Little did I know what dark and strange things I was meddling with.
The 'children's entertainer' in question - who shall remain nameless (in a Voldemort kind of way) returned my call. I should have suspected trouble the moment I answered the phone.
"Hiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii," she trilled into my ear. "It's blah blah, from blah blah blah. You left a message about our party planning service." Did I? "I'm just leaving an event - can you hear me on the speakerphone?" Unfortunately, yes. "So, how are you today?"
My hackles are already rising - she is WAY to happy to tolerate for more than five seconds. "Well, erm, I was just making a general enquiry about the costs really."
"Oh, well that's grrreeeeat. Fantastic. Isn't it a beautiful day?"
I now notice the time and realise I need to leave the house to collect my son. "I was really just wondering that the costs are," I say, as I start walking to pre-school.
"Well, we have several packages with several different pricing options, depending on the day, time, location, the specific entertainer, the age of your child, whether it is for a boy or a girl and whether you would like the full entertainment package or not. For boys our most popular packages are the Magician and Pirate."
"Well, we kind of wanted a Harry Potter theme and I really just wanted to....."
"Our full package is absolutely fantastic. The children absolutely love it. We can offer a full hour and a half of face painting, parachute games, disco dancing, balloon animals - in absolutely any shape, size or colour the children would like - what colour would your child prefer? And the best part of all - a MAGIC SHOW - because we truly believe that all children have extra special magic in their hands on their birthday." Her voice is now so enthusiastically high, I am surrounded by bats and dogs. "Isn't that wonderful!"
Just tell me the f***ing price lady.
"So, because you're outside Dublin it will be ten euros more than if you were in Dublin. If you choose the Friday it will be ten euros less than the Saturday and if you choose a time slot of 10am-12pm that will be ten euros less than at other times, which will be ten euros more if you;re in Dublin, but it will still be ten euros less if you choose the Friday rather than the Saturday and it will also be ten euros less on either day if you choose our newest entertainer, unless you live in Dublin in which case it will be ten euros more than you would be paying for an entertainer outside Dublin."
I failed my O'Level maths. All I am hearing is white noise. I turn my phone off.
All, ALL I wanted to know was how much it would cost for some fella to come to my house dressed up like Dumbledore, do a few magic tricks and disappear - as if by magic. Instead, I just spent possibly the most annoying, unnecessary, unhelpful fifteen minutes of my life.
Suffice to say, the hired entertainer idea has been ditched. It's far too complicated. Instead, I think Daddy will have to put on a wig, hide a few coins behind his ear and burst some balloon snakes. What more could a six year old possibly want anyway?
I think there is a moral in this tale - but the screeching lady has me so bloody confused, I'm not quite sure what it is.