Posted by: Peadar Ban | October 21, 2013

Don’t Forget the Wash Cloth or You’ll Have to Go to Confession When You Get Home (Part Four)

What More Could A Person Ask For? The Thing Begins In Earnest.

I do not want to sound throughout like an ingrate, nor like a sarcastic New Yorker, an irascible Old Man.  I am very capable of being all three of those things, sometimes all three of them at once; God help me.  The man in the middle is most natural to me.  It is part of my DNA.  So is the third.  I am, after all of Irish lineage, undiluted.  I must work at being the first, since I was not to the Manor born, nor raised on silver spoons and soft cushions.  As I get closer and closer to my Big Sleep, though, I must confess that I do find more reasons and find it much more easy to look at most of life as though reflected in a richly polished silver plate; and to concentrate on the plate that reflects more than the view it supports : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5anyValstHU#t=34 .

That does provide me with more than enough opportunities for allowing myself the free reign of my home bred instinct for acerbity, and the occasional volcanic outburst.  Please, though, do not conclude from those weaknesses of character that I would always rather be somewhere/someone else; just some of the time.

One of those times happened to be the occasion of boarding our flight…at long last…to Dublin.  The aged Crew Captain, a doyenne whose memory of her 50th birthday must have been dim, greeted us at the door with less than enthusiasm.  In fairness she had waited hours, too, for this ride across the night.  Then she directed us across the plane to the far aisle with a glance and a magisterial wave of her hand, behind two folks at least my age who had, it seemed, lost the ability to count or read, or both.  Standing behind them I wondered whether or not they had lost their handlers, too.  They wandered past the rows of seats, looking first at their boarding passes then above, searching for the little signs with row and seat numbers.  I heard them discussing the matter as they paused at each row, reading aloud from both sources, wondering aloud how far they had come, how much longer they might have to go.  Had the woman worn a hat it would have had a price tag on it.  And, as I stood there trying to decide if I should pray for calmness or move up and seat them both myself, I pictured them shuffling up and down airplane aisles for eternity.

The trickle of passengers was thickening to a flow, as happens to mountain streams and rivers in the spring.  Soon it would be a flood, and my stratagem to get aboard early would soon mean not a thing.  So, I cut across an empty (so far) row, found our own row (the confused couple were just on the other side of the center row), and moved in.  They shuffled on as I put away our carry-on bags and positioned Mariellen and Carolyn on either side of me, the thorn between two roses, and squeezed into the seat.  In another six hours I would be in Ireland.  I remember thinking more than once during the following twenty minutes what terrors that might bring if the day(s) thus far were preface to the story unfolding.  What would my reaction to them be, if two old folks stumbling along in a narrow aisle, tired, a bit confused and no doubt worried, could decompose me so much.  I imagined myself under arrest for some horrible assault along the road and my children and grandchildren back here reading of the mad Yank murdering a farmer who was just moving his sheep between pastures when the berserker happened along on his way nowhere in particular.

The Catholics who may read this will understand my Act of Contrition.  I said one or two more on the flight, especially at the time our “meal” was served.  Flying at night is sort of like being hospitalized and awakened for your meds, or simply because.

No One Goes To Ireland for A Tan

Once we were airborne, Carolyn, on my right and wrapped in her blanket, folded herself in three and disappeared into the seat.  She turned once or twice and unfolded a bit to move her supper around in its mousetrap sized container.  But, for the most part she did her best to resemble a hermit crab; a cute hermit crab of course.   Mariellen, on my left was much more animated.  She, lost in her Kindle, did at least move her thumb and forefinger as she scrolled through her latest free novel from cyberspace.  But, we all might as well have been frozen in our little cubicles on some centuries long journey to Alpha Centauri for as much as interaction with what world we had around us was worth, and that very little.  At least I kept up with the plane’s progress across the Atlantic on the tiny screen on the back of the seat in front of me; when the person whose seat it was did not set it in my lap.  And, so it went for a bit under six hours; they curled and covered, deep in slumber or what passes for it on a plane, or reading something plucked from the ether.  I sent my mind on a trip to God knows where and did my best to become a turtle in its shell on a beach somewhere 40,000 feet in the air.

I thanked God for Mariellen who had given me a little mp-3 device which I had loaded with a half zillion hours of good music.  It and the plane’s progress across the stormy sea at several miles’ height paced my journey.

We landed in Dublin a little after 10:30am if my memory serves, only about 2 plus hours late.

I had tried but failed at not thinking how much fuel had been burned on the way over, or at not thinking of the speeding tickets that could have been issued.  Noticing at one point that we were at 39,000 feet and moving at 630mph it occurred to me to wonder if there was enough fuel at all to make it to Dublin!  Nah!  Everything was fine I assured myself.  The bell on the dashboard would ring.  The idiot light would come on.  Firmly on the ground now as we left the plane I put those thoughts behind me.  We were in Dublin.  Nothing else mattered, even if the last 300 miles were a powerless glide.  “Ehh, Declan, would you put on the recording?”  “We’re empty is it, Seamus?”  “We are.  The last drop is about to be used up.”  “Right, so!  Four jet engines coming up.  They’ll never know the difference back there.  Shall I let them know on the ground?”  “Not at all.  Didn’t we do the same thing on the way over to Boston, and back again yesterday?  They’ll be expecting it.”

It was a cool morning and a light rain fell; here a drop, there a drop, everywhere a drop, drop. It was what some Irish call in all seriousness a dry rain.  We had nosed up to a gate in Terminal 2 at Dublin Airport.  Aer Lingus uses the new Terminal 2 for all of its flights, a kind of huge habi-trail of a place, all glass and tubular steel.  Walking through it one’s hard put to figure out if they are on the first floor or the third, going in or out, or up or down.  Like most airports I’ve been in, without signs and arrows I believe a person could lose themselves worse than Charlie on the MTA in Terminal 2.  Terminal 1, our destination, is a different story.  It resembles nothing so much as a Middle Eastern Souk, a claustrophobic’s nightmare.  The only things missing are sand and sweat.  We made for it after undergoing the excruciating ordeal of passing through Irish Immigrations and Customs: “Enjoy your stay!”  The only place with less rigamarole was the airport in Auckland, NZ.  There we had to look around for someone to come help us enter the country; after we got a complimentary cup of coffee.

I’ll call Terminal 1 our first stop on our tour of Ireland with Carolyn, a short walk through the cool wet air from the steel tubes and glass of Terminal 2; Carolyn’s first sight of the Old Country.  We were there to pick up our rental car, a sub-compact which Mariellen had booked weeks ago before we left on this adventure.  We found the rental “kiosk” in a semi-darker corner of the semi-dark first floor of Terminal 1 and were greeted by two smiling young Irishmen sitting behind the chest high counter in animated conversation with each other about some game or other which had the whole country’s attention.  They looked up at us, a little surprised at our presence there, I thought.

Immediately after being told who were were and what we wanted your man directly in front of us said that he could up-grade to a larger much more comfortable Mercedes, and only for something like 40 more Euros as day.  I wanted to ask him to take a good look at us, Mariellen in a nice green ankle-length dress, Carolyn in her pajamas, fuzzy pink slippers and carrying her stuffed elephant and me in a wrinkled t-shirt and jeans and then think if we still either needed or would pay for a Mercedes at an extra 40E fer day!  But, I didn’t.  You see, I was just a little tired.  The other fellow busied himself in the sports page.

We finished the paperwork in under ten minutes, lightning speed for those things.  Then the young fellow told us that Natalia would show us where the car was parked.  Natalia, it turned out, was the young woman who’d been standing behind them all the time they were doing the “intake”; motionless, leaning against the wall.  I noticed her because she was a pretty, no, she was a very pretty young lady; dark haired, olive skinned, dark eyed, pretty who simply stood motionless but at her ease while the other two did all the work “upgrading” and keeping up with the scores.  Now she moved out from the counter and spoke softly, fluidly, “Follow me.”  I did, and Carolyn and Mariellen kept up; but, they were really on their own.  Had Natalia decided to walk to Belfast I think I would have “followed her”.

Mariellen Takes the Wheel

Well, our journey together was only about 100 feet.  At the door to the dry rain we stopped.  Natalia pointed to an island in the middle of the road and said that soon a shuttle to the rental cars would come by, and left us.  I’d learned she was from Bulgaria and had been here for two years; another evidence if any more were needed (and we saw quite a bit in the days ahead) that Ireland had joined Europe.

Picking up this rental car was something Carolyn could have done.  I mean “picking up the car” literally.  Small was too big a word for it, but it would do.  The young Algerian or something who gave us the car smiled and waved goodbye as, Mariellen at the wheel and Carolyn covered in her blankie, hugging her stuffed elephant, a tiny pillow from the plane underneath her prepared to sleep.  We learned from her that she could not stay awake on long trips unless driving, and so…  I became a passenger for the first time in Ireland, something that would require adjustment, and not a little humility as we joined the river of autos and trucks speeding along on the M-50 in the not-anymore-dry rain on Ireland’s busiest road.  We were headed for Abbeyleix, smack dab in the middle of the country in a real wet rain, now, and we couldn’t get the cursed wipers to work!  And, no one else in all of Ireland seemed either to notice or to care.

So much for a Hundred Thousand Welcomes!

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