The adventure of the last day

There is a journal entry that never got made. I had sent off the journal (in one chunk, as I recall) the night before I left Dublin. The next day’s activity would simply be driving from Dublin to Shannon Airport, and then flying home.

I was a bit anxious about the drive, or at least getting out of Dublin, as my guidebooks suggested that traffic is a bit of a problem there on weekdays. Yes, it is. I had arisen extra early to get out of Dublin before normal commuter traffic began, and I even exceeded my plan. But what I discovered upon getting onto the road was that most of Dublin’s commercial traffic had the same idea. I was in a tiny car in a stream of lorries that appeared to stretch on infinitely, both behind and ahead of me. And I had no more idea of how to get on the road to Shannon than to follow the highway number that my map reported. All went well enough at first, but then I was investigating a road sign that appeared to contradict my understanding of where I was, and I heard and felt a distinct “Crunch.” Looking forward, I saw that I had driven underneath the lorry in front of me. My tiny car had gone in as far as it could, the line in front of me being stopped and, now, so was I.

I really didn’t know what to do. I could see enough in the dark to know that the front of the car was pretty smashed up, but the engine was running fine. I decided to continue on until either it became light enough to better assess the situation or the road widened and I could pull off safely.

In fact, I continued on until dawn made itself known, and the engine began to show the effects of what I later learned had happened—the radiator had been crushed. Near a highway exit, I pulled over out of traffic, and got out. The line of traffic extended forever in all directions, as the commute traffic had now joined the exiting commercial traffic. I walked off the exit ramp, having seen some large restaurant at the highway junction, and managed to attract the attention of some folks cleaning up and thereby gain access to a phone.

Now, when I rented the car, I read the agreement very carefully, and I chose to take the Absolute Full No Questions Asked option for the insurance. My thinking at the time was that driving on the wrong side of the road was just too risky to chance some kind of normal insurance. Because I knew that, my only concerns from this accident were such issues of dealing with the accident paperwork and catching my flight from Shannon.

After speaking with the police, I walked back to the car to await official representation. It wasn’t long, in fact, before a motorcycle policeman stopped by. But it turned out to be sheer coincidence, as he was on his way to work (or from it), and stopped to investigate an obvious problem. He was an amazing young man. He took complete charge of the situation, used his personal cell phone to re-call all the interested parties, determined (I believe) that not much had been set into motion, and proceeded to rectify that situation. At one point—speaking with the insurance company—he asked me what I’d like to do. The company had checked my insurance, was sending out a tow truck, but would also provide another car to complete my journey. “You know,” he said, “you look pretty calm (I was), but you’ve just been in a pretty serious accident, although you seem to be physically all right. You might be in shock, and if you take the offered car, you’ll have to get right back into this mess (he pointed to the traffic, which was without interruption in all directions), and you just never know what will happen. My suggestion is that you get on the train to Limerick, and then take a taxi to Shannon from there.” But how will I get to the train station? I asked. “I’ll ask some friends to take you,” he said, and then got back on his phone. We had a good hour together, and he did nothing more than cement all the great feelings I’d developed for the Irish people.

At one point, I felt we knew each other well enough to ask a question that I hadn’t resolved during my week on the island. “So, how do you folks feel about the IRA?” In the United States, there is and has always been much sympathy for the IRA. I didn’t particularly share this feeling, but then most things Irish are completely foreign to my interests. We had begun bombing Afghanistan by that time, and the primary interest to the Irish in this fact was the cost of each of our bombs—each one more or less the annual budget of the State of Ireland. “Well, I’ll tell you,” he said. “I wish you’d take one of those bombs and send it right into the middle of the IRA.” And he went on to detail the reasons for his feeling. He told me how he had come to join the police (needed a job, and that one came up), and how it was working out well for him and his family.

Eventually, an SUV-like vehicle showed up, lights flashing (not that it had gotten them there very quickly—there just wasn’t any room to navigate), and he went over out of my hearing and had a long talk with The Boys. Eventually, he told me to gather my things and jump into the car, which I did. I met The Boys, and they had clearly been convinced against their wills to do this rather unusual favor, but then as grateful as I was and am to them, they weren’t quite of the caliber of that remarkable young man who helped me. Still, I got a guided tour of parts of Dublin as we made our way to whatever train station applied, and I heard all sorts of stories about criminal activities in the parts of Dublin we traveled through.

I was in plenty of time for the next train, and bought a seat for what was probably a two-hour ride to Limerick. Upon arrival, finding a taxi was easy enough, and driving to Shannon was certainly unusual but not at all unwelcome. When he learned that although an American I am one of the very few without Irish blood, he felt free to tell me stories all the way about Irish-Americans who go to Ireland to discover their roots. The one I remember best was how when people get into his cab, they’ll often ask, “So, do you know where Paddy O’Brien lives? He’s some kind of cousin on my mother’s side.” This brought all the best Irish storyteller out of my driver, and he launched into it. “First,” he said, “who the hell is O’Brien? They can’t even say the name right. It’s pronounced O’Breen, for one thing. Then, do you know how many O’Breen’s there are on any block in Ireland? How am I supposed to know only one Paddy O’Brien?” And on and on and on. He enjoyed himself so much I almost thought he was going to pay me when we arrived at Shannon. Instead, I tipped generously for this end to an adventure that wasn’t supposed to be.

I remember walking into the airport and telling the poor car rental person, “Hey, I wrecked your car. But it’s all right. I had insurance.” Evidently, nothing like this had ever happened to the poor lass, but she checked and, sure enough, I was covered.

The flight was uneventful, but getting through Logan in Boston was sheer hell. I’d have gotten on a plane and flown back to Ireland but I would have had to come back some day, anyway. Irish for a week. I enjoyed nearly every moment, although it did help to have the perspective of a visitor. I don’t know that there is any reason to go back, but if I ever find myself there again, I’ll know I’m going to have a good time among some wonderful people.