Tuesday, 2 January 2007

When hitcher becomes driver, there are new rules for the road!

What goes around comes around, but the way this idea is manifested in reality is often complex.
Most of the time the karmic cycle works not in any straightforward, but rather a most mysterious way.
If Johnny steals your cake, it's very unlikely that somebody out there will steal Johnny's cake. More likely, that particularly fateful roundabout will spin for thirty three years after you lost your cake to Johnny, until just when he needs it most, he will lose his mobile phone down a toilet.
Karma is not a linear phenomenon. As water passing through concrete, fate balances through ├Žons of random and apparently inconsequential event.
But sometimes, just sometimes, it all comes together in a simple and poetic way.
A few weeks ago, I was driving from Galway City to visit a friend in Clifden.
The strains of the pre-Christmas rush had already created golf balls of lumpy tension in my back muscles.
My own needs and those of others were whirling around my tiny brain like a load in a tumble dryer, rising and falling, swirling incessantly.
All I needed was time to sort out my head, and no finer opportunity to do that than whilst driving through Connemara .
That's what I love about my hills. As soon as I am among the Pins and the Maamturks, everything somehow makes more sense.
The wind was blowing hard, driving the cold winter rain sideways. Flashes of blue sky disappeared and revealed themselves, as black white and grey clouds shot past each other on three separate levels of sky.
Just past Ballynahinch Lake I passed two farmers hitching at the roadside.
'Twas a dirty old day to be outside, and clearly the lads wanted a ride to Clifden for a bit of shopping, and a nip of festive cheer.
As I waited for them to walk up to the car, my mind imploded on itself.
Oh no, what have I done?
Why did I stop, when I needed this time and space to myself?
Why did I stop? Perchance because between the ages of 15 and 35, I hitched no fewer than a quarter of a million miles. I hitched to school and back; to countless pubs, clubs and many many jobs. I hitched all over the motorways of England, until there was barely a mile I had not covered. I hitched half of each year as a teenager, all over western Europe, and then in my 20's I hitched the east and west coasts of America; the Hulme and Princes Highways of Australia.
Over two visits and nine months, I lost myself and my inhibitions in New Zealand, for weeks on end achieving a rare and blissful 'On The Road' state of hitching nirvana: just 'going with the lifts'; that is to say, when they ask you where you are going, you just say:
'Wherever you are going, if you don't mind'.
Once they understood that I was merely suffering from an overdose of freedom, and neither a psychotic killer nor an obsessive weirdo stalker in search of rare satanic walnuts from the bad witch's mud bath, many people took me along with them.
During those weeks, I developed a trust in humanity alongside a faith in the process of 'journey' that has influenced me more than any other single phenomenon, person or place in my life.
So that's why I stopped for these two lads, and as they clambered into my car I sensed their massive physical presence.
Inside their sodden Day-Glo oilskins, I saw flashes of human hewn from granite; burly creased yet comfortable bodies packed with years of bacon and pints of da Harpic; faces mottled with clumps of white hair sprouting from inside ears, outside noses, even some on top of their heads.
Himself in the back tried to climb on top of a box filled with cassettes, and while I was waving my arms around trying to explain that he might want to slide across and sit on the other side, I saw out of the corner of my eye himself in the front about to settle his massive bulk onto the full plastic bottle of water that was just waiting to be squashed on the passenger seat.
Having sorted out safe landings for them both, and made sure they were safely belted in, I was showered with friendly and effusive greetings:
"Sh-cholar and Gentleman so ye are!" "Fair play to ye sir, Gentleman and a Sh-cholar!" "Not from around here then? Where are ye from?"
After 14 years in Ireland, I have been asked that question 83,459,869,803,929 times, and wanted to answer and engage in another such conversation as much as I wanted to choke to death on my own ligaments and entrails.
At that moment, all I wanted was to give these lads a ride, help them out, but also I desperately needed another 20 minutes of space, time and awareness of the beauty of the countryside.
Maybe it's because I am all grown up, or maybe it was goes-around comes-around karmic payback for all those decades of being a lift, but I decided that I could be successful if strong, tactful and assertive.
Surely there was a way to achieve all I needed, give them what they wanted, and still remain polite?
Speaking slowly, calmly and pleasantly, I felt a strong deep voice rise within me:
"Gentlemen, you are very welcome in my car. I am delighted to drive us into Clifden, but I'm not really up to chatting. No offence at all, but I have a lot of things on my mind, and I need a few minutes to sort myself out before I arrive in Clifden!"
"Sure! Not a bother! Fine, fine, go ahead, so!"
And so we drove on in silence. It was a good silence. A respectful silence.
I had managed to be fairly rude without causing offence.
Once again, the spirit of the road was working for me. For once, the karmic comes-around goes-around was working in a straight line of exchange through hitching.
As I dropped off the gentlemen - for that is what they were - I wished them a happy Christmas.
Himself in the front seat turned to me, and offered as enigmatic a chunk of Connemara wisdom as I could ever hope for:
"Ah well now, ye said ye have a lot on your mind. Sure, and isn't there a lot of that about!"

1 comment:

Charlie Adley said...

I was sent this by email, but Angela wanted it posted to the blog, so here it is, all the way from the Bahamas!

Dear Charlie

Being a techno neophyte not to mention at that age where technology has already rapidly passed my ineptitude in the area of computers etc... I'm not sure if or how I'm supposed to reply to the blog on that site whatsit, so I'll just make a couple of comments here!

First of all, I wish we had a writer of your abilities on one of our 2 papers. I'm going to show your column to my freind John Marquis who is editor of The Nasau Guardian and has also written a book on the murder of Harry Oakes. And briefly on murders, I wonder if the death of Anna Nicole Smith's son here will become a similar unsolved crime as that of Sir harry with lots of juicy scandals and agendas.Unfortunately a 23 yr old boy I used to teach was found murdered on Paradise Island 3 weeks ago- lots of stories of rich kids, Columbian hookers, cocaine deals etc. I wonder if the truth will come out there, or if his wealthy father will pay off the appropriate officials if the truth proves to be unpalatable.

I understand completely how you felt driving along to Clifden through Connemara. In fact, I actually like Alf being away as it gives me a chance to enjoy more silence and reflection. As for the repugnant Xmas build up- enough said there.When Alf and I were driving in Cat Island, there were a couple of times that locals needed lifts and as there's no buses etc it wasnt a problem. One old chap, like many Cat Islanders with only few teeth in his head which were of yellow hue, had had quite a bit of rum in him and didnt much feel like chatting but smiled beatifically and announced that he was going to Thurston where he had a cow, one sweet-sweet cow!Another old lady called Emerald sent us "down the swamp road" to meet Diter and Sitella who made bush medicine. In fact they lived in the opposite direction, but we did buy the murky looking brew which is supposed to be a marvellous tonic and to which Sitella attributed her 23 pregnancies.

After about a week of ingesting the brew, bad tempered Alf declared that he was constipated and listless so it was dumped. However, we have also bought some bush medicine from Joyann, a taxi driver, who waited until the moon was right before sending it to me on Cat Island Air a couple of days ago. The box was addressed to Angelic Darville which I love and its contents are in the fridge till Alf comes back from the States on Friday.

I really enjoyed your story of the Guru which I read just before going to yoga. I have become good friends with the yoga teacher, Elaine, who is English via Boston and I am trying to get her a work permit so she can teach her legally as she is doing so at the moment illegally and if she's caught I doubt she'll be deported but it would scupper her plans for Permanent Residency.After yoga I went to my car mechanic who serviced my car, adjusted the brakes and fixed the lights for $60! When I thanked him for being helpful to Elaine [he rescued her after her wheel dropped off on the other side of town], he replied that being in his business gave him the opportunity to help people.Not too many people feel like that about their jobs or lives.

By the way, I have been here 27 years and as I still sound as if I just got off the plane I go through the same rigmarole as you do. Do I really sound like a tourist from London?

So if this ought to be on the blog put it there, if not I'll email you soon anyway

lots of love