Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Shakira in Ireland

Sorry about the title. During the World Cup, I noticed that merely mentioning Shakira got me 50 more readers a day. It's a cheap shot, but, well, that's me. I love Shakira. If you're a Shakira fan, well, welcome! And Waka Waka! If you love Shakira, you'll love me too. I promise. I'm also quite flexible.

I wonder how many non-Irish tourists die on the road in Ireland each year. Someone Google that please. We happened upon a few signs-you know, those signs that tell you how many people have died in the last month/last year on a particular road in the hope that you have an aversion to becoming a statistic?—but I was driving too fast to read them.

The problem is, you're an American tourist (and a devoted Shakira fan) who's used to driving on the right side of the road in a driver's seat that's on the left side of the car. You're also conditioned to shift gears with your right hand because the gears are on the right.

And you bought your driver's license at Wal-Mart. Or at least that's what Egbert the Otter hide tanner tells me all the time. He's so funny. When I got my license at the tender age of 15-my God was I adorable at 15-I had to drive around the block once and park the car. The practical part of the test took about 10 seconds. The theoretical part included questions like "Which color means STOP? Red. White. Blue." I missed three questions.

So you'll love this. In Dublin, before they would hand me the keys to our rental car, I had to pass a test, which I'm going to try to reproduce here from memory. I haven't had alcohol in two days, so our chances are good.

1. Which side of the road do we drive on in Ireland?
2. Where do most accidents happen?
a. on motorways b. on dual carriage roads c. on narrow country roads
3. If I have an accident in the car, I automatically get a replacement car. True or False?
4. Which part of the car is damaged most frequently during an accident in Ireland?
a. front left corner b. driver's side c. back bumper
5. Put the following in order of importance, one being the most important
a. always concentrate b. stay on your side of the road c. slow down
6. Are all people in the car required to wear a seatbelt in Ireland? Duh. This is the only one (besides number 1 up there) that I knew for sure.
7. If Shakira comes on the radio, you
a. pull over and dance b. dance in your seat c. trick question because there is absolutely no radio reception in Ireland

I was sweating through this test. I don't like to perform badly on tests. I like to get an A; in fact, I'm a bit obsessed with getting an A. So I cheated. I asked the woman at the counter (we’ll call her bitch for so many reasons) for help, which she was glad to give. It turns out that the rental car company was just trying to get me to sign the agreement after having checked FALSE for number three up there. So it was all good.

“Would you like the windscreen insurance?” bitch asked. “We do get quite a few broken windscreens . . . from flying rocks and such.”

“How much is it?”

“Only five euros a day.”

“Oh, all right.”

I wonder what the employee training is like at Europcar. They must devote at least a week to “How to increase the customer’s bill to four times what he originally wanted to pay.” Extra driver, GPS, blow-up Shakira doll and the Upgrade . . .

“You have such a small car. We can upgrade you to the next . . . class,” bitch said and you know bitch knew the buttons the word “class” pushes in Ireland. I’m sure some people can’t resist the temptation of class mobility.

“Nah. I like small cars.”

“It’s only 15 euros more a day. Do you have luggage?”

“Yeah, but my father can hold it all on his lap. We’re fine.”

“Well. So when you return the car, please return it empty.”

I laughed. “I’m no rocket scientist, bitch, but that seems to be quite impossible.”

“It is our policy.”

Hmmmm. Let’s take a moment to dissect the architectonics of this policy. Europcar in Ireland charged me 72 euros for “Fuel and Service.” The teensie-weensie tank in the itty-bitty car only held 50 euros’ worth of petrol, which means Europcar charged me 22 euros for “Service.” What does this mean? And why should I be paying for it? I'd already paid 170 euros. What was that for? When we got the car, although it had been sprayed off, there were a thousand bug fossils stuck to the front of the car. In case you haven’t guessed, this is my “Rag on Europcar Ireland” paragraph. You see, there was no “Fuel and Service” charge in Scotland. In my next post, I’ll tell the story of how I tried to return the car empty. Have you ever TRIED to run out of gas? It’s hard.

Finally, a few words about the absence of pictures in this post. It looks so somber without pictures, doesn’t it? I’m camping out at my parents’ house right now (I surprised my father by getting on the plane to Nashville with him), so I can’t upload the pictures from the trip. I thought about uploading pictures of Shakira.

For the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing bits of blarney about my trip to Ireland and Scotland. It was a blast, and apparently I survived it.

I must be off,
Christopher