I’ve been told that you can’t see the “real” Ireland without leaving the comfort of public transportation and the big cities and really get out and drive in the countryside. Fortunately, I had the opportunity to do just that as I needed to rent a car to go pick up Brian, Emily and Diana in Dublin on the 16th anyway. I had tried with no success to ask around friends to “borrow” a car for the week, but most people in Galway, come to find, don’t have cars – or at least the ones I was asking didn’t.
So I dragged Mr. G up to Budget with me to pick up my new little friend and start the journey cross country. Now, those of you who follow me regularly have already heard my horror stories of driving a car with a manual transmission. Last time I drove a stick, it was Dan’s lovely Wanda and it was on the open roads of the northern Midwest of America on some LOVELY wide interstates with relatively no traffic. When I picked up the car with Mr. G, I knew it wasn’t going to be a pretty event, but I was confident that I could figure it out and that at this point, the only thing that will improve my driving is practice. We made it back to the house with relatively no incident (only a couple of stalls, but nothing major and not in any major area, considering it was 6 o’clock rush hour traffic when I picked the thing up, I was pretty impressed).
I was accompanied on my drive by the lovely Marde, a couchsurfer from Melbourne I picked up who was looking for a ride out of Galway and a much welcomed companion. Marde met me at the house before noon on Saturday and we casually packed the car up with all of our gear and got ready to get out of town. Marde didn’t know how to drive a stick, so it looked like I really was going to have to make this work, but at this point I was pretty confident everything would be ok. So we pull down the hill in Salthill down towards the main ocean road and I start some idle chatter about how great the trip is going to be. We arrive at the bottom of the hill to take a right turn (our left turn, since I’m driving on the left side of the road… so I have to cross traffic).
Ok. Calm down, Hesser. You can do it.
Stall. Stall. Stall. Stall. Stall.
Uhh…. Wtf do I do now? I’m blocking both lanes of traffic. People are honking. Pedestrians on the strand are staring and laughing. I am stuck. I keep starting the car up, shoving it in first gear, moving about 4 feet and stalling again. Again. And Again. At this point I am having a full on panic attack. I have no effing idea how I’m going to keep going.
A knock on the window and I jump 100 feet. A man opens the door, asks Marde to step out and he gets in the passenger seat. Blah blah blah… I don’t know what he’s saying, I can’t even see straight.
“I’m a driving instructor.” Wait what? My ears perk up. “Do you know how to do this?” he asks me calmly. Yes, yes, I do. I realize I haven’t said anything, I’m just thinking to myself. “Yes, I can. I’m just panicking,” I sputter out, “I can’t concentrate.”
For the next 5 minutes, the man sits there and talks to me. Not about what I’m doing wrong. Not about how terrible I’m driving. He talks to me about America and his first time to visit. He turns on the AC full blast . He tells me about his son who is doing a year study abroad in Boston. He chats me up about the upcoming journey and takes my map to show me some castles I must see along the way. All the while, we’re sitting blocking half of the left lane of traffic, but not so much that people can’t pass me. Suddenly, I’m not shaking as much. My face gets some color back and my arms feel a little less like Jell-O.
“Well, best of luck to you, Abbey. This is sure to be an epic journey for you! Are you alright now?” Strangely enough, I was. He got out of the car and let Marde back in. He walked to the back of my car and stopped traffic behind me. I let out the parking break. Foot on the clutch and the break. Slowly release and give it some gas and… well looky there. I got the damn thing to go all by myself after all.
See you later Mr. Good Samaritan Driving Instructor Man. You saved many lives today.