Picture this, gorgeous Saturday morning in Dublin, the sun is splitting the stones. Everyone on the island is in good form. The boss headed off on holidays yesterday, the brother this morning. Centra are doing a 10 quid deal on the boxes of Coors and pretty much everything is ticketyboo. I’m in the NCT centre getting the boss’s car seen to. I’m a forward planner, so I’ve brought a Colm Tobín with me to get me through the half an hour or so of a wait. So far so good. Not even the scorpiness of clipboard girl at the gate could eat into my zen. She was having a bad morning – one of her seven a week.
Checked in the mo-mo, settled myself in a plastic chair and tucked into some prose. I let the background noise drift by, the callings of names and reg’s, the announcements of each prognosis.
The good – “All sound there mate.”
The bad – “You need a new passenger headlamp and break pads.”
The ugly – “You shouldn’t be driving that, you’ve no brakes, your clutch is about to go and you need new tyres.” (To which the reply was a classic, “Tyres? I couldn’t need tyres, sure I only got them changed two year’ ago bud.”
I read on, strangely hearing Tobín’s accent more and more as I go along. It doesn’t happen with any other writer and I’ll chalk it down to the effects of the Irish heatwave. It has been known to do strange things to a redhead and sure a bit of a posh Anglo-Irish lilt in an NCT centre in Tallaght is trippy any day of the week. I’m engrossed in his depiction of Henry James when my literary reverie is butchered by a loud conversation belonging to two middle-aged ladies who’ve just appeared. It’s as clear as day that one of them is hoping her decibels are going to expedite her car’s destiny.
Oddly, she’s probably as lilted as Tobín and from what she’s waffling about, she’s a teacher. No wedding ring, and that doesn’t surprise me. She has the kind of presence that’d make you want to hide. Though I am anchored in NCT ICU so can’t righty seek refuge from her. I stay and suffer in silence. No, in fact, silence would be utopia. This dear lady is here to be heard.
“I wonder why my car’s not ready yet?” She belts out to no-one in particular.
Her thinner, marginally quieter companion replies, “Is it on the screen there?”
“Oh LET me check.” Lads, she literally roared ‘Let’ before hauling herself in front of the small screen displaying the queue status of vehicles. “It says 15 minutes, that doesn’t make sense. I’m going to ask the guy when I see him.”
She turns her bulk, and her long teachery skirt catches the corner of my book, threatening to take Henry James to the ground.
“Yes, that’s what I’ll do, I’ll ask the GUY.” She reaffirms, as though her pal, sitting less than a metre away hadn’t heard her the first time or perhaps had forgotten having heard it all of five seconds before.
I will admit, at this point I curse under my breath. Just something mild and inoffensive along the lines of “gobshite”. It may have verged on “fucking gobshite”, but I don’t think I’ve escalated to proper curses, yet. I’m well on the way however.
Of course, the skirted one sits down beside me and shows no signs of shutting up. I implore God to speed her car the feck up.
“How long has it been now?” She sings. “Where is the guy?”
Her mate suggests she consult with the screen again, despite the fact that it’s been less than a minute and technology isn’t yet up to the speed of this tulip.
“I can see my car through the window, look!” She points. The entire waiting room looks. The entire waiting room hoping that she was also the far side of the window.
“It must be nearly ready,” the thin friend offers some form of solace.
“Yes. I’ll just ask the guy. There’s the guy.” She lumbers over towards the hatch to a bearded bloke who looks like a fat Conor McGregor and is possibly about to die of heat exhaustion.
“Howaya, Seat Ibiza is it?” he calls out to her. Sweat pouring down his temples.
“No. I’m the Toyota Auris,” she screams.
She’s an Auris alright. And again I’m thinking in Tobín’s voice. ‘Auris, auris, auris.’
“Not ready love.”
“How long more?”
“It’s on the screen. Ten minutes.” He wipes his glowing forehead, then calls out for the owner of a Seat Ibiza.
She stands again in front of the screen, squints, whacks my book with the heavy skirt and sits down to tell her pal that she might go to town to watch the Russian game this evening. She knows a Russian student who’ll be in town, so she might join her for the match. Christ, just leave now, I’m thinking. Just in case traffic is bad. Just in case town closes. In case the game starts early. Go!
And then, as if by magic, a handsome chap appears at the hatch and calls out her reg. It’s sooner than the aforementioned ten minutes which has to be the greatest miracle in the history of Dublin 24. The Auris has passed. The skirt passes me for the final time. I don’t mind that the book does take a tumble this time, I don’t even mind that I’ve lost my page. Two Arab guys in front of me smile at each other. It was one of those smiles, we all know the one. Happy fucking days!