Two BVCers, an unsuspecting companion, and a car.
Day 1: In which we leave the United States, and encounter Ireland. And Ireland…encounters us.
For two years, since Dublin won the Worldcon bid, I have been humming the old Roche sisters song (“we’re going away to Ireland soon”) and planning this trip. In that way that an anticipated treat is always on the horizon until it’s suddenly NOW, on Monday of this week I found myself scurrying to get all the things done at work and at home, in order to get to SFO and get the show on the road. The plan, week one: Laura Anne and I, together with friend Ellen Klages, would meet at Dublin airport, get a car, drive to Cork, get dinner, stay overnight, then head down to Kinsale, our headquarters for the week pre-Worldcon.
Flight over was wonderful. For the first time ever I got to fly Business class, which makes a 10 hour overnight flight an actually pleasurable experience. Good food, decent wine, and something resembling a night’s sleep, and then Ellen and I (the San Francisco contingent) arrived in Dublin late morning, ready to meet up with Laura Anne when her Seattle flight arrived. So we got coffee and arrived and…well, for Laura Anne, at least, things got interesting.
My flight from Seattle left on time, the meal service was surprisingly tasty, and the trip was otherwise delightfully uneventful…until such a time as we landed and, while waiting for our luggage to arrive, I discovered that I had left my ATM card on the table back home. Ooops. Thankfully, I had euros in my wallet already, and travel companions I could borrow cash from, once I met up with them….
Which ended up being an hour later than expected, because it took that long for Aer Lingus to manage to get everyone’s luggage off the plane and onto the carousel. On the plus side, at least they didn’t lose or break anything…. (Aer Lingus has not been covering themselves with glory for the WorldCon-bound crew, having cancelled one flight and broken one wheelchair already, as per Twitter).
But I did eventually meet up with Mad and Ellen, and there was coffee!
And then we set off to collect our rental car from EuropeCar. And therein began the follies.
So, for reasons that seemed entirely reasonable at the time, we decided not to go with our non-binding rental reservation with Thrifty and rent a car from EuropeCar. Spoiler: I will not make that mistake again. Everything seemed fine; we got in a car that smelled vaguely chemical–I assumed it was a local cleaning agent or perhaps the petrol. We got ourselves organized and loaded and started off–me driving standard and on the left side of the road, which was anxiety-producing but not horrible–until we started the air recirc, because it was humid in the car, and very quickly became aware that that awful chemical smell was us, and rather than abating, it was increasing. There was some discussion about whether this was really a problem or only sort of a problem. We decided it was really a problem.
“Pull in here” Laura Anne said, and Mad directed our ailing car in for a landing on a small side street (more of a mews road, really), and we parked and got out.
A woman and a man were gossiping over the fence one house over, and the woman, on seeing us pop the hood, wandered over. “Got a problem, girls?” she asked, in a friendly tone. “I’m a mechanic.”
Of all the roads and all the houses in Ireland, we happened to pull up in front of the home of a friendly mechanic who was taking a smoke-and-gossip break.
She could have just poked around and confirmed that we had a problem. She did not have to run a check on the car to confirm WHAT the problem was. She certainly did not have to stick around while we were on the phone with the rental company. Nobody would have expected her to drive back with us to the rental company at the airport, much less argue with the manager when he tried to tell us it was our fault for breaking their car (after he told us “there’s nothing wrong with the car” after driving it once around the parking lot). And then, once we had cancelled our reservation with that company and picked up a new car (far more expensive but also far more reliable), and returned her to her home, there’s not a soul that would have assumed that she would then get in her car and lead us the “back roads” way to get back on the main road.
But she did all of those things, freely and of her own volunteering. She is the definition of all that is good and fine about the Irish people (and people in general, we suppose).
Samantha, you are a queen and a goddess and our entire vacation we will be raising a toast to your continued good health and fortune.
So Sam-the-Goddess of Good Souls got us back to the airport, where we returned the car to EuropeCar, where the nice, albeit gormless, lad at the desk called for management. Management, in the form of Ray-the-EuropCar manager (large, round, ruddy, and with one of the worst “there, there, little lady, you just listen to the big man” complexes I have come across lately) told us 1) there was nothing wrong with the car and 2) we were liable if there was. At this point my “arguing with strangers” phobia kicked in; it was Laura Anne who went full-New Yorker on him for essentially calling me, her, and Sam (a mechanic, for the sake of all the world) liars. In the end Ray-the-Avuncular-Asshole said I could return the car if I paid for the day’s rental–or else they’d have to charge me 1500?€ for the clutch that there was nothing wrong with…
In the end, I went back to the office with Ray and cashed out of the car for the bargain price of one day’s rental (which turned out to be twice as much as one fifth of a five day rental, because reasons). I consider this to be the cost of a lesson learned. Meanwhile, Laura Anne, on whom be blessings, went to Enterprise and met Victoria (a slightly lesser goddess than Sam, but only slightly) who rented us a beautiful car, and–in the fitful rain–we started south again, bound for Cork.