I arrived at Galway’s Shannon Airport before sunrise. It was a frosty April morning, around 40 degrees Fahrenheit. The car rental office would not open until 8:00am. I bought some bland, tepid coffee from a vending station, laced it with powdered white stuff posing as cream, and plopped down on my luggage, which served as a convenient lounge chair while I waited. Willing my brain to function, no caffeine rush to be had, I lamented the artificial cream’s chemical residue prickling my tastebuds. As I sipped the vile liquid, snippets of my conversation with the Irish chap wafted in and out of consciousness like the globular nodules floating in my cup.
An hour later a restaurant finally opened its doors, and I was able to get a proper pot of Irish tea and a delicious scone. I felt so much better. Now there was no procrastinating the next step. I took a deep breath and told myself, “It’s time to get the car….”
I was hopeful I would be handed some beat-up buggy that could withstand a few additional nicks or bruises, if it came to that, but instead I was presented with a sparkly, fresh-off-the-lot purple Renault Clio. Any new ding I might inflict surely would hide in plain sight with this car! Oh well.
The rental agent gave me his lightning round overview of the dashboard and gear shift (which would be operated by my left hand since the driver seat was the passenger seat). And as soon as he was fading from my rearview another rental car loomed behind me, beaming its penetrating eyes, silently shrieking “get a move on.”
With only moments to grapple with the unfamiliar terrain, I stared wide-eyed at the alien gizmos, took another deep breath, said a little prayer, shifted into first, and drove off in pursuit of my B&B.
The next two days were pleasantly pleasant. I enjoyed exploring Bunratty and Limerick, though I continued to wrangle with ongoing jetlag.
Then I arrived in Adare, the third stop of my itinerary.
Not only was Adare one of the most stressful experiences of my trip it was one of the most upsetting of my life. Within fifteen minutes of entering the quaint little town I managed to sideswipe two cars on two separate streets.
The first brush happened directly in front of four teenage boys hanging out on a ledge hovering over the sidewalk. All eight eyes watched as Clio glanced the parked car below their feet. They immediately jumped from the wall and started hooting and hollering, running toward me as I turned around and stopped. One boy scooped up something from the street. As he approached, I got out of the car and expressed my heartfelt mea culpa.
I thought the boys were angry, but they were amused. The parked vehicle was theirs, and it was intact and unmarred. However, the decorative strip from the side of my car had popped off. It was handed over to me with a ceremonious flourish and a huge grin. Our tacit no-fault agreement established, I tossed the minor casualty into the backseat of Clio and went on my merry way, unsettled and shaken but deeply grateful it was not worse.
Moments later, just as my pulse had slowed to its normal rate, I sideswiped another parked car on a very narrow street in the heart of town. This time an older man started yelling as he approached me, and he WAS angry! But the lovely owner of the car I had struck hurried past the mean man and shooed him away. She was incredibly kind and reassured me her car was old and there was no harm done. She shrugged off her bent mirror as if it were nothing, more concerned that I was all right. What an angel.
In neither instance was there a suggestion to call the police and report the accidents. I was astonished. That would never happen in America! I was so grateful and felt so lucky. But the horror, shame, and fear I felt was overwhelming. I could not get out of that town fast enough. Instead of staying overnight as planned, I decided to move on to Tralee without delay.
Cruising more comfortably down the highway, I pondered my insane decision to plan a driving tour of this country. The Irish druid’s foretelling was starting to haunt me with a vengeance. Only two days into my fourteen-day trip and I was close to giving up and going home.
[NOTE: In a pathetic attempt at self-defense, seriously, navigating Irish roads is VERY tricky! In little towns, cars are parked half on the sidewalk curb, half on the one-lane street. This left no margin for error and exposed without question a depth perception disability I better address FAST.]