Monday, June 16, 2008

Planes And Automobiles

I have to say that flying long distances does not count among my favorite activities. I check us in on-line the day before we leave and discover that the few remaining seats on the first leg of the flight (Seattle to Atlanta) are in the middle of center row of three seats.  I'm a bit mystified because Orbitz claimed that seats would be assigned only at check-in, but clearly that wasn't the case. Well, maybe we can get better seats at the airport. Anyway, we leave the house a little after 9:00 a.m.  the next morning to get to the airport the recommended two hours before takeoff. The flight is sold out, so we're stuck with our seats. 

The flight is late of course, but we eventually board. While waiting in line, I catch a glimpse of a guy who weighs in at about 6'4, 280, and pray that he doesn't sit next to me. My prayers, naturally, go unanswered. I suppose that this is a given. He plops down and immediately raises the armrest so we "have more room." This means that I have to hold my arm up for the next four hours of misery, which in turn means that I have a kink in a my shoulder by the time we arrive in Atlanta. Mercifully, Premium T. -- seated directly behind me -- does not experience an onset of restless leg syndrome

At first, it appears that the airport -- in Georgia, fer Gawd's sake -- was designed without taking into account the importance of air conditioning in a hot, humid climate. As it turns out, this applies only to the tunnels connecting the terminals, but that's bad enough: The air is as hot and stale as that of a middle school boys' PE locker room. Just when it seems that we're both about to faint, we catch a breeze of cool air and stagger into the blessedly cool terminal like the Biblical Hebrews reaching Canaan.

Thanks to wonders of Xanax, the flight from Atlanta to Shannon is uneventful. We rent a red Nissan, an easy-find-color when we forget what kind of car we are driving (which will inevitably happen). Nice drive, although once again the Galway roundabouts -- seven in all -- throw me off. Every time I circumnavigate Galway, I take at least one wrong exit, and it seems like a different roundabout every time. Once, I was halfway across Connemara before the suspicion took hold that I had missed something somewhere. 

Well, if you plan your drives in Ireland on the assumption that you won't get lost, you're in for a frustrating drive. I did get more than I bargained for a couple of years ago, though: I got caught out in a area of north Mayo. Gaeltacht  signifies that the locals speak Irish, and the government does its part by posting road signs that are only in Irish, the most impenetrable of any language utilizing the Phoenician alphabet. (Capital letters in the middle of words?!?!). Even though I knew better, I had left for the day without a map giving place names in Irish and English. I'm still not sure how I blundered out of that one. Trust me: I would have had better odds in China.

Many people want to know what happens if you're driving one direction up a one-car wide country lane and someone approaches from the opposite direction. All I can say is that there's more room on those roads than you might think. It helps if you've had a few pints to steady your nerves.


Kathy said...

You had me in stitches reading about your experience flying! It's nice to know you survived with your humor intact.

BTW, I envy you. I love Ireland and wish I were there. Enjoy!

Scrumpy's Baker said...

Ah... the joys of driving in other countries. I once got my American Express card stuck in an automated toll booth in Spain. My girlfriend (who speaks fluent Spanish on a normal day) totally freaked out and did the typical American "talk louder in English and they'll surely understand you" deal when I asked her to explain what happened to the voice in the machine. Luckily, my laughing at the situation and "I'm so sorry" looks made the guys who came to rescue us laugh too.

Have a fab trip, I can't wait to hear more stories!