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Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Driving in Ireland - barrel of laughs I tells ya!

Some people say that you can't teach old dogs new tricks. I disagree although I do think it becomes harder the older you get. Something like driving for example. A lot of people get that urge to learn to drive as soon as they are of legal age. I had no such urge. I was born and lived in the suburbs of Dublin, always had decent access to public transport, particularly once the LUAS opened. I never needed to drive. It was actually a completely unnecessary expense to my life. However, at the ripe old age of 24 and 10 months, I decided that it was time and that even if I wasn't going to own my own car, it would do me no harm to at least get my licence. I also had vague notions about going away to work for a year somewhere and knew that a driving licence would be a handy asset while travelling. I could go into my experience of learning to drive but we'll save that for another time me thinks. Suffice to say I passed my test first time......boom.

So, as a newly qualified driver (as in, had literally only been granted my licence 3 weeks) I decided to get on my high horse and declare that 'Yes, of course I am ready to take the company car on the road around the country for 4 days. Just under 700km all over the country, roads I've never driven before, not a problem.' The company (more fool them) said that so long as I was comfortable with it, then it shouldn't be a problem. And it wasn't. To start off with anyway.

So, loaded up the car from my office with all the marketing materials I needed for the events, checked that I had my memory stick with my all important presentation on it, etc, etc. I was ready. Started the engine, checked my mirrors, signalled to move out and away I went. No problems. Got on the motorway, through the tolls, made it into Cork City - even with the one way streets and mad traffic, I was still doing quite well. Drove into the car park behind our Cork Office to pick some materials from them. First time in a windy car park, still doing well. See a spot, pull in. Realise I've misjudged the angle to go to reverse the car to straighten up. Reach my hand out for the gear stick, shift into what I think is reverse.....nothing happens. I try again, and again, and again. Now, in my mother's car that I had done most of my practice in, you just move the damn thing. In my instructors car, there was a button you pushed and then moved it. I could not make head nor tail of how to work this one. Started to panic a little bit. I was in a massive estate style car and half of it was sticking out of the parking space. The one saving grace was that there was enough space for other cars to get around me!

I stuck the hazard lights on, got out of the car and lit up a cigarette to calm my nerves (ignoring the multitude of 'No Smoking' signs all around me). Then, being the sexist I am, I watched the cars go around me.....woman driver.....woman driver.....woman driver.....two young-ish lads 'Oh, excuse me? Do you know anything about cars? I can't seem to put mine in reverse?' Cue guffaws of laughter from both males in the car. I laughed along and explained how it was my first time in the company car and I hadn't thought to check if there were any little differences that might affect my ability to drive like a normal person. One of them very kindly sat into my car (and it did take him a couple of seconds to figure it out) pulled up this random ring around the base of the gear stick, put it in reverse and then parked my car for me. I stumbled into the office to tell the girls and we had a good laugh about it.

Managed to reverse out of the spot OK when I was done, minor victory for me. The next 5 hours passed without incident. Gave a presentation to around 280 people, answered questions for about an hour. Very pleased and tired but ready to wind down with a few pints. Was driving back to my hotel to drop the car and get changed. Of course, I was staying in the most awkward part of the city with a super steep hill, Managed to parallel park on the hill with little difficulty but decided that I could be closer to the curb. As I was manouvering, the handbrake jammed. By this time, I was thinking 'Screw it, it will still be stuck int he morning, I'll deal with it then'. Stomped into the hotel, spruced myself up and headed back out to meet my friend for a few well deserved pints. In the lift on the way out, a random guy started talking to me. Before I knew it, I was blurting out a question that I had already had to utter that day.....'Actually, do you know anything about cars?' 'I suppose so, yeah. Why?' 'Well, my handbrake is after jamming and I'm not sure if there's something wrong or if I've done something wrong..... I'm supposed to drive to Limerick tomorrow.' 'Are you parked near the hotel?' (Frantic nod from me) 'Sure, come on, I'll take a look at it for you'. Knight in Shining armour or what! All it needed was brute strength. He released the handbrake on his first go, and then waited with me while I tried it a few times myself to make sure that I could do it before heading off, chuckling to himself.

I'm a woman who believes that one good turn deserves another. After my couple of pints (where my dear friend Tommy nearly wet himself when I filled him in on the various incidents of the day), I headed back to my hotel where I spotted my Knight in the bar with some of his mates. I saw he was drinking Heineken so I bought a pint at the bar and dropped it over to him to say thanks which he was delighted with. I would like to think that it was because of that good deed that I had no problems for the rest of the week on the road.

Moral of the story - if someone does you a favour, show your appreciation. Karma will revisit you, honestly.

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