I’ve been watching the hurling on the telly, and it got me to thinking that, sometimes, I suppose, it can be hard to tell if the one you’re with is the one you want to be with forever. Or, at least until death / alien abduction / mysterious disappearance / he stops bringing chocolate back to the house. When things are going well it’s easy, but we all know that the true test of any relationship is to take a look at how things pan out when everything goes to hell and chocolate seems very, very far away.
So, today I’m going to tell you about the time that I realised that my husband and I are actually compatible enough to do the long term come-what-may official certificate marriage type lifestyle. And, lucky for you lovely reader, this experience is replicable, should you wish to test your own relationship. I mean, you may do this and pass and get married and eat cake and still end up divorced anyway, but if that happens don’t blame me. At least you got cake out of the deal. To start with, we were in Ireland. Well, we lived in New Zealand at the time, but we had travelled to Ireland to see two friends get married. The day after the wedding, which was on the west coast of Ireland, we jumped in our little rental car to return to Dublin (which is on the east coast of Ireland). Ergo, we needed to drive across the country by 1pm, when our rental car was due back at the rental car agency type place.
As Ireland is Ireland and not bloody Australia, we didn’t anticipate this being much of a problem. We also didn’t anticipate the All Ireland Hurling Championship Final. Yup, that day, many years ago, Kilkenny were playing Limerick in the hurling final at Croke Park and thousands of motherfuckers with flags were driving into Dublin from every which angle and not a single care for our plight.
To start with we were amused by all these colourful companions on our road trip adventure. Then we realised that we needed to turn right onto a specific Dublin ring road which would lead us around comfortably and directly to the rental car place. The road up ahead looked pretty familiar and promising, but unfortunately, due to all the traffic, we had to make the decision about whether to turn right and what lane to be in well back down street, way before we could clearly read any road signs. It was around this time that we discovered that we had left our road map of Dublin in the boot. Before you get all high pitched and helpfully shout out “GPS” in our general direction, may I remind you that this was years ago, neither of us had a smart phone (I think the first iPhone may have recently been released) and we weren’t exactly shitting gold for a living. As far as we were concerned, GPS was as integral part of our lives as a tiara is for a kitten. Nice if you can get it, but probably a bit over the top.
We decided to turn right down the road ahead. We thought it looked familiar enough to chance. We were utterly and completely wrong. Surely we would be able to maneuver our way back onto that original road to try the next right turn? Or maybe park the car for a moment just to get that map out? No. Don’t be so bloody ridiculous. Dublin is a Labyrinth and we didn’t even have David Bowie in tight trousers to keep us amused. Instead we headed off in god knows what direction, lost in a sea of hurling heraldry, unable to tell where we were or where we should be.
After ten minutes of this we realised that we were never going to find that road again and we needed that map. We needed to stop. Ever had to find a park in Dublin? On a normal day it can be difficult. On the day of the All Ireland Hurling Final it’s bloody impossible. There was just NO PLACE to stop. Even when we decided to throw caution to the wind and agreed to park illegally in the first available open space, we found that there was NO PLACE to stop. I suppose we could have just stopped point blank in the middle of the road, hopped out and grabbed the map while the maddened masses honked around us, but society hadn’t broken down that far yet. Yet. It was about to.
There were three main factors eroding the sense of civility and good will we had fostered inside the car:
1. It was practically 1 o’clock
2. We were practically out of petrol (and we couldn’t find a petrol station otherwise we would have parked in it, filled up and a retrieved our map)
3. We both desperately needed to pee If you find yourself in a similar situation it may interest you to know that screaming at the top of your lungs will in no way dissipate your desperate desire to urinate. It will instead cause you to partially lose your voice and render you completely useless at thinking up adequate excuses for having sopping wet car seats when you finally get back to the rental facility that you are sure was just around that other corner if that idiot beside you hadn’t taken two right turns when you wanted a left and a right and now you’re stuck in the centre city looking at the Stiletto in the Ghetto with no hope of salvation. Remember that.
Luckily, we didn’t need adequate excuses. A car park building materialised and I can still remember the big concrete slabs glowing with a divine glory and a new found hope breathing life into the dying relationship festering away inside the small rental. We went inside, we ticketed, we parked. We left the car, grabbed the map and fled into the outside world. As we were in Dublin we were sure this next part wouldn’t be difficult. It wasn’t – there was a pub right across the street. I flew inside and straight into the ladies before the bar staff had any chance to accost me for the price of a drink. I have never tinkled so triumphantly or jubilantly. It was radiant.
When I exited the lavatory I found my husband (always an express tinkler, one could say he comes from the Usain Bolt School of Urination) standing at the bar, map in hand, conversing with the bartender. Ah. Our troubles were about to be over. Nope. The bar tender was explaining to my husband that he was new in town, fresh from China. He barely knew where this bar was, let alone the location of any rental car facility, petrol station or ring road. Sigh.
Back in the car we studied the map. We had a basic idea of where to go but we knew the Hurling fans would probably provide much in the way of peril. However, the car was late back now and we had little choice but to get a move on. We went to the ticket guy to pay (there was an actual man there, not a machine) and seeing the scars of mental anguish and embittered tension written across my husband’s face he took pity on him and refused to take payment for the parking. He gave us a quick explanation of where the nearest petrol station was and sent us on our way.
Soon we had petrol, relaxed bladders and a map, so while things should have been back to a top grade level of hunky dory cheer-wise inside the car, the reality seems to be that the sight of a map in the hands of a romantic partner can have the same effect to a person driving a car in a foreign country as a red rag has to a bull. We screamed a little more and pouted and cried and threw things around. When we finally arrived at our rental destination we clearly had our “do not fuck with us” faces on, because I don’t remember any great punishment or fee for the terribly late return of the car. Instead we calmly sorted things out and headed back to our hotel where we watched the hurling final together.
Mark didn’t understand the scoring so I serenely sat on the bed and explained it to him. And that was it. No lingering resentment. No more squabbling. We got through it, we achieved our objectives and we were fine. Now, every year, I watch the hurling final in September. It’s usually Kilkenny vs someone. Those great big bumblebees in hot pants sure know how to hurl.