Thursday, August 11, 2005

When the Bus Stops in Dublin

August 6 - Dublin, Ireland
You don’t get to say ‘I told you so.’ You have to decide now if I was dumb and doomed from the beginning or just taking a risk that could turn out either way.

Here’s the evidence you have to go on: I was in London and looking for the cheapest way to get somewhere else. The best I found was a $35US bus ticket to Dublin leaving three days later. The bus would take 11 hours and get in at 9pm so I figured it might be wise to book a bed before arrival. Yesterday, when I tried to do that on-line, I found every hostel in Dublin either full or unavailable for on-line booking. Still, I had a non-refundable bus ticket taking me out of town so I got on the bus and hoped for the best.

This is when you have to decide if that was dumb or not.

On a break from the full-day bus trip I managed a pay-phone call to a hotel clearinghouse in Ireland. Do you have any hostel beds available? I asked. “We don’t handle hostels and our cheapest room for tonight is $370.”

So I’m cruising along on the bus watching the day get darker and wondering if there are some good parks in Dublin to sleep in. It’s a Friday night and Dublin is a drinking city so my best (or at least boldest) plan is to lock up my bags at the bus station, head to a pub, and try to find someone willing to share their bed. Do you have any better ideas?

Perhaps the growing apprehension was visible on my face because when our bus pulled off the ferry and into Ireland, the immigration guy called me into his office. The Turkish guy with the Australian passport had been cleared, as had the Croatians who Mr. Immigration suspected were really Russian. He took me into his office and asked how much money I had on me.

“I don’t know, a couple hundred pounds.”

“A couple hundred pounds, how long are you staying here?”

“About ten days.”

“Let me see it, how much money do you have in your wallet.”

I don’t even have a wallet but I pulled cash out of my pocket and counted 160 pounds.

“I have a banking card with all my money on it. There’s over 10,000US on it.”

“10,000US? Do you have a statement saying that? How much could you get out right now?”

“I don’t know, 1000US. I have more money in my bag on the bus.”

“How much do you have in the bus?

“About 200US and 70 euros.”

“And where are you staying?”

“I don’t know, that’s what I have to go figure out.”

“You don’t have a place? You’re going to go find one now?”

That was the plan. As another immigration guy walked me back down to the bus I asked him why there was all the fuss over the money.

“We get a lot of people who show up with rucksacks, no place to stay and no money and then they end up back here.”

Hmm, why would anyone do that?

The bus pulled into the Dublin bus station and I found a pay phone. It took euros and I had pounds and everything was closed. I dug around my bag and amid the kroner coins, Stonehenge ticket stubs, and Belgian coasters I found some euro coins. I called Dublin’s biggest hostel.

“Hi, do you have any beds for tonight?”

“No, we’re fully booked tonight.”

“I’m having a lot of trouble finding a place to stay, do you know anywhere in town that has any beds?”

“No. All the places we talk to and send people to are full too.”

“Is there a tourist office or some clearinghouse that would have a list?”

“I think they’re closed now.”

“Okay. Do you have any ideas?”

“Well, you could try Kinlay House, they might have some beds available that they don’t book on-line.”

As I hung up the phone I started looking around the station for a locker to store my bag in. It was too cold to sleep outside without a sleeping bag so the kamikaze pub plan was sounding better. I dropped my last 50-cent coin into the phone.

“Kinlay House, hello.”

“Hi, do you have any beds open for tonight?”

“We have one bed in a four-bed room. It’s 21 euros. Do you want it?”


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