Lessons From an Irish Beer Man

Ennis Ireland

The crowded streets of Ennis
The crowded streets of Ennis

Driving in Ireland

I went to Ireland in the spring of 2003. It was the first time I had ever traveled over-seas and I found the concept more than a little bit intimidating. I am a person who is naturally resistant to change and who rarely likes to get outside my comfort zone. In this case my comfort zone was the good old U.S. of A.

To make matters worse I had to fly to get there. I hate flying with a very passionate zeal. I did want to see Ireland however and still considered it the opportunity of a lifetime. The trip over was rough. The plane left late in the afternoon and we traveled all night. I had an aisle seat, and would try to sleep, but every thirty seconds someone walked by on their way to the restroom and every single time they would slam into my shoulder with the force of a midnight freight train. By the time the plane landed I was extremely tired and starting to wonder why I had thought this trip was a good idea.

To add to my frustration I had to immediately adjust to driving on the left side of the road. I was terrified at first but I was surprised at how quickly I adjusted to it and soon I was on my way to see the famous Cliffs of Moher.

It didn’t take very long to realize that driving on the left side of the road is the easy part of driving in Ireland. The term highway system over there is an oxymoron. It took me about sixteen seconds to get completely lost even when I was checking the map constantly. I was at the peak of my frustration when I came to a fork in the road that was marked with a faded wooden road sign that indicated if I went to the left I would end up in Ennis and if I went to the right I would end up in Ennis. I was dumbfounded. I blinked and rubbed my eyes just to ensure I wasn’t stuck in some nightmarish dreamland where all roads lead to Ennis.

I made a tough decision right then, and there. I decided it was best to go to Ennis and seek out help with Irish map reading. In just a few moments I was pulling into the small Irish village of Ennis. The streets were narrow, and the drivers were slow. Didn’t the people have anything better to do than to chug down the winding cobble stoned streets of Ennis at practically ten miles per hour? I was in a hurry to go see the spectacular Cliffs of Moher and these back country Irish drivers were starting to wear my patience thin and then something very insignificant yet monumental happened.

The large box truck that was in front of me stopped right there in the middle of the road. At first I assumed that this would only take a second, but then the door opened and the driver hopped out. “What on earth can this guy be doing?”, I queried to myself. He walked to the back and lowered a pallet wagon from under the truck, and then started unloading several kegs of beer from his truck.

I was nearly livid by this time. Why couldn’t this guy have at least pulled over and left space for traffic to go around him? As it was, there was no room for traffic to pass in either direction. I sat there, jaw clenched, watching this middle aged Irish beer man as he started to lug his cargo across the street to the pub. As he pulled the wagon to the middle of the street he looked up and caught my eyes. He smiled a huge, friendly, Irish smile and then began to do a very subdued dance and flapped his arms like a bird as he struggled the rest of the way across the street.

I broke into almost uncontrollable laughter, half of it at the dancing beer man and half at my own stupidity. Suddenly I got it. I needed an attitude adjustment. This little town of Ennis, and the rest of Ireland for that matter, had seen centuries upon centuries of people, and my fifteen minutes did not matter in the least in the grand scheme of things. Who was I to demand that other people need to step aside in order that I keep my completely insignificant schedule? I learned a valuable lesson at that very instant that has continued to stay with me to this day. I had been in such a hurry to get to my destination that I had forgot to enjoy the journey. It took a goofy Irish beer man to shake me back to reality and make me understand that my plans are, by far, not the most important things in this world. The world keeps turning no matter how late you are.

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