Monday, August 22, 2005

Rain, Whiskey, Cars, Condoms

August 17 - Portrush, Northern Ireland
First let me take my drenched shoes off. Its still raining here in Portrush, Northern Ireland on the Emerald Isle’s north coast. I’m settled into a pleasant malaise and the weather suits my mood. If last week was marked by gaining no joy from things that should be pleasurable, then this week is about enjoying things that should cause bother.

The rain oscillated between mist and shower this afternoon. I was in Bushmills, where they give you a glass of whiskey after you’ve toured their distillery. It was something to take a look at after walking around the Giant’s Causeway just down the road. The whiskey glass emptied at 1:30pm and the next bus back down the road to Portrush would come by at 5:20pm. I decided I’d take a look at the rest of Bushmills, maybe stop into a café, send some e-mails from an internet shop, and look around the town. After 20 minutes it became clear there wasn’t much of a town, nevermind an internet shop. The bus was still more than three hours away.

It seemed like a good idea to hitchhike back to Portrush so I fired up my Ipod to the Whitechoclatespaceegg album and stood outside the Bushmills elementary school where A2 heads off to Portrush. The funny thing about hitchhiking in the rain is watching the cars go by. Most people look the other way, as if they don’t notice you’re there. This is probably what we all do when we see homeless people on the street. When someone acknowledges you, it is always from a full car. The father of the group gestures through the windshield that all the seats are taken, shrugging his shoulders guiltlessly. The poor souls with empty cars just have to look away. After a while this provides a perverse amusement because the folks behind the windshield wipers are clearly more uncomfortable about the whole thing then me under my trusty Patagonia rain jacket.

It’s always hard to know when to give up when you’re hitchhiking in the rain. I got some indication it might be a doomed effort by a trio of drivers who made a pointing gesture as they passed, seemingly indicating I should wait somewhere else but maybe using some Irish hitchhiking sign-language for “Sorry, you poor chump.”

After a half hour I decided I’d head into town as soon a certain song came on. I had already noticed how many compact cars here are red, I’d already smiled at the thought that the passing Porsche might stop for me, and decided that some of the girls who work in town must be driving home soon. I had decided the passing black Audi would be a nice choice for a chariot home.

Then the black Audi stopped and the steel fitter who drove it brought me five miles down the road to Portrush and wished me well.

In the evening I was hungry so I went to Marino’s which passes as a supermarket. Cooking for one mouth is a challenge, but Marino’s has a solution. In the sparse cooler are a few stacks of Microwave dinners. Chicken Madras for 2.89 pounds seemed like a fair choice. I paced around the store feeling somehow uncomfortable. Finally I grabbed the plastic tray of fake Indian food and headed for the check-out register. I felt like I should buy something else just cause. It was like buying condoms, you want to pad your basket with gum or contact solution or dental floss just so they know there’s more to you than that one thing. Because you know they can picture you using that one item in your basket. You know they can see you alone at the table, jabbing at your steaming soggy rice. You want to tell them you don’t do this often, just tonight and last night. Tomorrow you’ll be back in Belfast with people you know and it won’t be raining and you won’t be on the side of the road looking for someone to pick you up. But then you realize it’s okay, she’s probably more uncomfortable about the whole thing than you.


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