“Excuse me sir! How do you get to the book of Kells?” The long accented drawl, the shadow, the sense of impending doom. It could only be one thing. I look up. Before me was a man-mountain, hanging out of an undersized t-shirt and shorts most definitely not designed for Irish weather. What do I look like, an information kiosk? I look to him blankly and say “wot?”. He seems unfazed, the fat in his head seems to have seeped into his brain, dulling any possibility of comprehension of the annoyance in my voice. He speaks again “The book of Kells Sir. I am trying to find it, they say it is in..” He consults a guidebook, possibly pop-up, I can’t tell from this distance, “Trinity College. Can you tell me how to reach it from here please?”
I have sat here, at my stall, selling fruit and veg for donkeys years. That is what I do, my livelihood. Yet the number of times that I have been waylaid, lost business, by some fat bollix who couldn’t read a map or follow a sign if their life depended on it. I am not saying that they are all American, I’m sure there have been some Germans, maybe the odd English as well. But it is the Americans that grate on my memory. I decide to have some fun with this one.
“Right! You’re on Moore street. Right! To get to Trinity you go down that way. Right! Make a left. Right! Go straight down the street. Right! Then make a right. Right! Go over the bridge. Right! Keep to the right on the road. Right? Then keep on going and Trinity would be on your left. Right? ”
He looks at me as if I had just grown a second head. “Excuse me!” I keep a straight face but inside I am grinning, He is biting. The protocol next is to repeat the directions verbatim, faster and in an annoyed voice. He seems confused by this, as if the directions are simple, needing only one clue for them all to fall into place. He turned and walked slowly away, he seems to have difficulty thinking and walking at the same time. Reaches the end of the street and turns, in the wrong direction. Result!!!
Misdirecting Americans isn’t the only thing I get up to on my long days at the stall. There is always giving a caramello to one of the junkies and watch him devour it. Fierce funny that is. I try to fit the odd durty reference into the speil. “Bananas! Four for a euro! Get your widow’s memories right here!” Always a good laugh. I can have a chat with the lads in the dodgy phone-shops. Listen to the local scum-bags try to sell the phone their “mother’s gave to them to sell” As if!
But I have to say, misdirecting Americans is the most fun. Not to mention misinforming them. Easily in the top ten for gullibility, just below small boys. I have told them that the spire was meant to be a giant Christmas tree, but they never got to finish it because of budget cuts. Or that leprechauns were actually a race of aggressive midgets and Irish dancing was invented to keep them at bay. I am even pretty sure that there is some woman from Texas still convinced that shamrocks glow green when you hold them and you have Irish blood. That one was a keeper.
Sometimes, you do have to feel sorry for them. Coming over here, barely a clue where they are, educated but not knowing anything. They don’t deserve the stick we give them, they only want to have a good time here. Tourism is worth an awful lot to this country, I should get into the act with the bit of Céad Míle Fáilte and be as helpful as I can.
But then, I hear. “Where can I find Templebar? The guidebook says it’s near the river but I can’t find it.” The old mind starts to whirr with possibility, the inner grin beams and I look up and say “Ah you’re real close, just keep going down that street. Now if you reached a man in a funny hat with a sign, you’ve gone too far. Make sure you hang a left before that. You can’t miss it!”
I’ll turn a new leaf next week. I promise!