My pace of movement does not jive with the pace at which Irish people move. I constantly feel like I’m in the way. I’ve been pushed and shoved and nearly run over on multiple occasions. I am trying awfully hard not to use the cane, as it takes something away from my speed and my self-esteem. My tendency is to begin to lean on it more and more – and then I can’t seem to not lean on it. Or I use it for a short period of time and then it’s just in the way. Worst of all is taking it with me and not needing to use it at all, at which point it becomes a giant pain in the butt to haul around, and people look at me strangely for having it but not using it. But if I use the cane, people cut me slack and cease trying to cut past me (which throws me off balance and hurts) or whiz by me like I’m going the other direction (same result). I definitely need that ‘slow moving vehicle’ sign on my back.
It’s intriguing watching how traffic moves here. It’s crowded at rush hour but hardly anyone seems to get worked up about it, and everyone is very polite as far as letting other traffic through. Roundabouts regulate the traffic without the need for lights, a traffic calming feature I really think the US could use to adopt on a larger scale. Alas, Americans who live in large cities where roundabouts are most needed have a very hard time with the concept of ‘be polite and let the other guy in’.
Riding the bus has been a learning experience. The city is pretty small but there are about a million little side roads and alleys to figure out. As far as I can tell, no cartographer has accurately and thoroughly mapped out this place – but if they had, the map would probably be the size of a billboard. So I learn my stops by watching for landmarks, although I am far from educated in all of them. I can get from the house to the grocery store, to city center, and to the university. The MS Society is way over on the east side of town so I haven’t yet had the nerve to hop that bus and see if I can find it. It is becoming clear quite rapidly that a monthly pass is definitely in my future.
Another thing about the bus is that you have to be very assertive to find out where you’re going and get there. No waffling with the bus driver or he’ll just blow you off or give vague directions. And when you press the stop button you’d best be prepared to get right off that bus! No lollygagging around or the driver will just pause, then drive right the hell on while you’re still trying to hoist yourself out of your seat! Again, the cane would come in handy for at least alerting the driver that I can’t move all that fast. But it’s such a pain…
Getting across the street is an adventure too. Traffic flows quickly. Drivers rarely stop for anything or anyone, unless you’re halfway out into the street while they’re coming at you. I don’t move fast enough or have the guts to just step off the curb and hope someone sees me. So the crosswalk is my only choice. Only they’re very few and far between, and again the light goes so quickly that I barely have enough time to get all the way across before traffic is flowing again. The lights are weird too; they go from green to yellow to red, then flash yellow and then go back to green. People start driving through on the flashing yellow unless you’re still in the road.
There’s also a certain loss of personal space that happens when out in public in a crowded spot. People practically run over you, all the while mumbling about how sorry they are. I’ve heard more people apologize for their rudeness here than in any place I’ve ever been. (It strikes me that if you make an effort not to run over others, there would be a lot less apologizing happening. But Irish people are apologizing fools, they say “sorry” for everything. I made a concerted effort many years ago to stop apologizing for everything I said and did, so now I have to resist the temptation to shake people and tell them to quit saying sorry!) Restaurants tend to place tables quite close together, for maximum seating numbers and because buildings are so compact, which makes for embarrassing moments when one of my big body parts sweeps something off the table.
You’ve read about Claude’s bike adventures, so you know how challenging it can be to move through space that way. I worry about him riding that thing every single day but he loves riding and it saves us bus and cab fare. I also worry about me being able to ride my bike once it arrives, but I’ll challenge that dragon to battle when the time comes. In the meantime I think I’m going to have to try to adapt Irish space to my needs and hope everyone else can get past me.
Irish people also love to fill their spaces with noise – music, talk radio, television. Holiday tunes at the grocery, Abba at the bank, Paul Simon with lunch, talk radio on the bus going home. Oh, how I do love my peace and quiet at home.
One thing I could do with is the American 24/7 business ethic that allows me to call the cable company at 7 pm Sunday evening and order service. I only say that because Claude forgot to call them last week and our internet suddenly disappeared Sunday afternoon. Had to wait ’til Monday to even order it, have to wait until they get around to calling me to set an appointment to get it hooked back up. Once again, a victim of Irish time and space.