The Oracle of Artane

I’m in a taxi heading to Dublin airport. We’re barely crawling along through Monday morning rush hour traffic: The problem exacerbated by the built-in-the-1700s-for-carriages-not-cars streets of Dublin’s Georgian quarter.  

The taxi driver, thickset, balding, tight-white-recent haircut, an Artane BeaumontFCpennant swing-dangling from the rearview mirror, raises his hand up to his mouth in a fake smoking gesture, and shifts forward to stretch his back. 

Our eyes meet in the rear mirror, as we’re both caught sizing each other up. 

“Mayo?  So, youse are from Mayo!” he arches his back further, baggy eyes tightening in a faux grimace.  “Jaysus, what’s a Mayo-man duin’ above in Dublin gowin’ to Boston?  Sure, you shud be balow in Shannon.”

He slaps his palm off the steering wheel; eyes finally back on the road.

“Dey need you down dere.  Let me tell you dat.  Dey need you mores den we do.”

He purses his lips, sighs audibly, and gives his head a why-can’t-mere-mortals-know-as-much-as-I-do, slow shake to the right, … and then to the left.

 “Dey haven’t a clue, God-forgave-me, not a clue.  But do ya see dem now,” he grabs his Costa coffee cup from the holder, and waves it at the beige-bricked, four storey, Georgian townhouses lining the street. 

“Dem Georg-ee-anne houses.  Sure dey’re all jealous of dem ohver in Londin.  Yeah, jealous as hell dey are. ‘Cause see, our Georg-ee-an houses do have all deir i-ronwork, but ohver beyond.” 

He nods his head expansively to the right, encompassing the entire island of Great Britain. 

“Dey don’t have nunna dat no more.  See, dey boiled dowen deirs for bullets to go fighting Hitlar.”

He nods slow-long for emphasis.

“Oh yeah, dey’re dead jealous awright of us here in Dublin.”

“It’s very nice,” I agree, gazing out at the gingerbread metalwork on the windows, and then without prior thought, I ask: “I wonder now if that would have been made here in Ireland, or did they bring in from England.”

“Oh, Jaaaysuusss no-no-no,” he reflexes, back arching, broad shoulders tightening up to his ears.  “Coarse it’d be made in Dublin.  Shure we had de finest of i-ronworks balow, … balow … in … .”

He falls silent, but disguises the lack of memorable Dublin “i-ronworks” by busying himself with light-finger-tip touches on the smartphone mounted on his dash. 

We nudge along, with air travel anxiety inducing lack of urgency, through the section of Dublin built during the era of the first three kings George. In the mid-1700s Dublin had its short-lived heyday as a colonial center of power and economic might, during which wealthy colonialists built cut-stone and brick, row-house-mansions, with large windows wrapped in distinctive wrought “i-ron.” A lot of history, economic and otherwise, got jammed in since George III pulled the economic plug on Dublin in 1801, but now, in the twenty-teens, Dublin is back as a fully paid-up member of the global economy. 

 “Well do you see dat now?” the taxi driver barks with startling energy.

“See dat van,” his finger stabs at the windscreen.  “Now he’s messin’ dis whole ting up.  See if he wasn’t so wide, we’d be able ta get aroun’ him.  But no, mister wide-van, probly a cultie – no offence loike, Mr. Mayo, but dey haven’t a clue how ta drive in Dublin, not a clue – has to take up two lanes.  And so here we is stuck behind ‘im, looking up his arse, an’ God-forgave-me, it’s not as if it ‘twas the Spice Girls bendin’ oveh in front of us, now is it?”

He falls silent, his head shaking barely perceptibly.

“Well I suppose it’d be hard to limit the width of a van, just for Dublin streets,” the gods of travel anxiety force the words out of my mouth, “I mean, the manufacturers wouldn’t mak …,” but I stymie them before a debate breaks out on the likelihood of taxi driver impatience forcing international van specification changes.

“Oh yeah, and sure what wud dey say if I was to go inta de Corpo, and tell dem to cut dowen dem trees dere,” he gestures with the Costa cup at three beautiful sycamore trees, wedged into the concrete footpath.  “Take away a bunch of dat footpath, sure no one walks anymore. An’ den let me drive in dere.  No bicycles allowed neither.”

He circles his head slowly a few times.  

“Ah, sure dey’d go crazy,” he sighs.  “Dey’d say twas jus’ de ramblins’ of a mad taxi-man.  But I’m telling ya, dat’s what ‘tis coming to, if an’ we don’t want no more traffic jams.  Because de truth dey don’t wanta hear is dat de traffic is all from dem guverment workers driving in to deir free parking spaces.  Yeah, up from the country, living out beyond,” he tosses his head wide to the far left, covering the entire western suburbs of Dublin, “and drivin’ in here to deir free parking.  With de lunch in de bag,” he sneers, “wouldn’t even buy a sangwich, miserable fu… .”

He shakes his head rapidly.

“Ah, it all starts at de top!” he almost yells.

I tighten at the gusto of his new onslaught.

“Sure look at Leinster House, where dat clueless guverment sits on deir big arses doin’ nuthin’.  Look at any time dey’re over dere with de telly-vision cameras, and de yard in front of it fulled up with cars.  Jammed-packed in dey is – like Jaffa cakes!  And dat’s de Tee-shuck’s job, to get dat cleared.  Sure even Trump wouldn’t let dem be parkin’ on de White House lawn.” 

“If he could figure out how to make money on it he would,” I reflexively throw out.

“I sup-pose.  But so long as he lets us keep our Gooo-gles an’ our Facebooks we won’t be saying nuthin’ abou’ him now.  Sure dey’re de lifeblood of de Irish economy.  Ya see, back in de day, in de 1970s loike, de government den was smart enough to see dat de manufactorying wasn’t on anymore.  I mean de pint was gone out of it.  Manufactor … making stuff was going to be only for d’Indians goin’ forwards.  So, smart enough, Charlie an’ de boys says, we need-a be gettin’ de young wans ready for de Facebooks of de future.  Loike, Irish Steel, dere you go, feck off, we can’t do dat no more.  No pint.  De Indians do sorta work now.”

He stops his onslaught to take a deep breath.  I consider, then decline, offering corrective input.

“But do ya see up de Nort den.  Well, first of all dey were all too busy killin’ wanother, but meanwhile dey stuck with de manufacturing: Harlan’ n Wolff, an’ tires, an’ all dat kinda stuff, ya know.  Sure, where are dey now?”

“Well,” unable to help myself, I counter with some facts.  “Didn’t Dublin get a bridge over the Liffey that was made by Harland and Wolff – a footbridge.”

“Don’t mind that load-a-bollix.  Sure, a lad could lay a bit a scaffoldin’ flat, an’ a few planks, an’ ya’d have a better bridge den wat dem Corpo dopes paid a few million for.  Dey haven’t got a clue.  Dat’s what a mate of mine said.  And he done buildings in London, down de docklands loike – reeaall big ones. Dat’s what he said: ‘An overly,’ or was it, ‘overtly, simplistic structure,’ he calls it.  But after a few jars, he’ll tell you how it’s really just a bit of scaffolding.  But the pint is that de manufactorying is all goin’ beyond to China an’ India an’ Viet-naaam. Sure dey’re trilled to have it, an’ we’re trilled to have all dem Gooo-gliebook jobs here.”

“And they pay well I’m sure,” I lay up a clear shot on goal for him.

 “Ohhh yeah. Dem ‘millennyuppies do get a nice brown envelop of a Friday, let me tell you dat.  And it’s not down de boozer dey go for a few jars.  Oh no.  It’s into a wh-ine bar, tippling dem shar-doh-nays or the cabra … cabra-yoursel-on, at a tenner a glass.  I don’t like giving Tommy down in Waxy’s €4.50 for a jar, but let me tell ya, de sister’s eldest wan, Aoife.  Now, she’s working within in Facebook, or for a company dat does all de actual work for Facebook – ya know loike dat sorta way, couldn’t survive without ‘em.”

He takes a sip of coffee.

“Anyways, of a Friday night, Aoife’d tink nothin’ of slapping down a tenner for a smallish pool of wh-ine in de bottom of a big glass dat …, dat, … God-forgave-me, looks like somethin’ Brown’s cows watered off.  Do you know what I mean loike.  It’s madness, madness, ever-tings different now.  I mean back in de day, de lads’d be comin’ into Waxy’s from Tayto, an’ dey’d be looing for pints, not shaggin’ wh-ine.  But ‘tis all changed times now.  All dem days is long gone.  Dey haven’t got a clue now.”

“Indeed it is,” I consider the truth of what he said, and the difficulty for us all to deal with the rapidity of change. 

We inch our way across a bridge.  

On the other, newer-wider streeted, side of the river, we break free for a moment until we’re halted again by a traffic light.

A silver street car trundles across the huge intersection in front of us.

“Does the train there, the Luas, does that help with traffic,” the gods of travel anxiety get the better of me.

“Oh yeah, dats a great job, but don’t ya see, ya need around a hund-erd thousan’ people getting’ on dem trams every day to make it pay for itself.  An’ de guverment now, anudder ting dat’s changed: Right, dey’re not smart ‘nough now ta be able ta rob de Euro-pee-ons de way Charlie an’ de boys used-ta. Ya, not a clue do dey have.  And sure anyways, ‘twas de farmers tore de arse outta dat stealin’.  So now dere’s no more robbin’, roight, an’ we have pay for stuff.”

He throws up both hands off the steering wheel in exasperation at this opportunity lost.  

“An’ to pay for a tram you need a solid hund-erd thousan’ steppin’ on and steppin’ off every day.”

“Makes sense,” I encourage.

“An’ do ya see now Cork and Limerick and Galway, dey’re all market towens, … well cities sort off.”

He purses his lips and shakes his head.  

“But dey don’t have no hund-erd thousan’ a day to keep de tram busy enough to pay for itself.  And sure in dem market towen… cities ya need yer car anyway.  I mean if some farmer comes in from Cahir-sigh-veen, or wan on dem weird name places, in to Cork to go to de … bank, let’s say, or de …”

He waves the coffee cup lightly to unlock inspiration.

“The doctor,” I offer.

“Exactly! De don’t have no ‘ospital on de farm, now do dey?” he raises the wax cup in triumph.  “So he’s headin’ into de ‘ospital ta get his spa-leen checked out.  De farmin’s very hard on de body, ya know: De have dis country broke with dem getting’ sick and dyin’, but dats for another day.  So de farmer’s coming in from Ballygobackwards, but he’s got to take de car.  I mean, dere’s no tray-ens to get ‘im in to Cork from Ballygo…,” he shakes his head in disgust, “an’ den no trams to get ‘im around inside-a Cork.”

He holds up both hands to make his point. 

“And what’s more without de hund-erd thousan’, dis lot of a guverment won’t be buildin’ none for ‘im neither.  Sure dey haven’t got a clue.”

He takes a long, triumphant drink of coffee.

The light changes. 

Reflexively, he accelerates, cup still at his lips.

He coughs violently as the coffee goes down the wrong pipe.

We travel in omniscient, traffic-lurching silence for a few minutes, broken only by his occasional splutter-coughs.

“But de big ting now is dem,” he storms back from the Costa-attempted-censorship, pointing his right elbow at a low slung factory building.  

“Da ya see dat buildin’ dere.” 

We’re further out of the city now, in an industrial area; silver metallic, windowless, one storey buildings abound.  

“Dats Gooo-gle for you now.  That’s where dey do all de cloud transactions.”

He nods a few times.

“See if some lad oveh America way commits a crime, on de computer loike.  Den de judge in Texas sends over an affy-david saying, you know, we need dis-and-dis-and-dis.  An’ de boys inside dere get it for ‘im.  An’ den off de online crook goes to de Riker’s Islan’.  ‘Tis dat simple, ‘cause dem lads do have a clue.”

“Oh, I hadn’t thought of that complication,” I say, raising my eyebrows in genuine admiration at his knowledge.  “So, where the transaction is actually executed is where the crime is committed.  That would get tricky legally, wouldn’t it?  I suppose that’s why they like Ireland, we’re probably in all the treaties through the EU.”

“Kinda, dey might like dat part, but let me tell you wat dey luv. Wat dey totally luv is, our ten percent corporate taxes.  Oh yeah, it’s all about de money, oh ya,” he nods sagaciously.

We both stare at the metal building; travel anxiety making me will him to look forwards.  

“But wat dey do loike too, is dat we’re all a small bit sane here.  Loike in Ireland dere won’t be no one coming up wid a bazooka, to blow up de processing centers.  Ya know wat I mean loike, what dey’d be doing in Waco, or dem places. In America too dere could be an irt-quake, or wildfires, or mudslides.  Sure dere’s none of that carry on here.  De only mudslides we have would be at a wedding, when you can’t stomach no more Guinness, but de young wans wants ya to keep drinkin’.”

I lean forward, and search-stare around the taxi to determine if this whole journey is a candid camera episode.

“Yeah, and de do luv de weather here.  Not de rain, no on luvs rain.  But it’s not goin’ to be no forty degrees here, and you trying to keep dem com-pewters cue-ell.  No, we’re good at de old fourteen to sixteen degree weather, an so you see,” he goes with the elbow again at the factory buildings, “do you see dat?”

I look again, but see nothing more than the boxy industrial building, with shiny helical exhaust vent stacks running up the side.

“Dem tings is for taking de air in, nice cue-ell Irish air to keep the com-pewters happy, buyin’ and sellin’; sellin’ and buyin’.  And no sign of yer man wid de bazooka, or a machine gun.  Sure, as crazy as de Irish are, we won’t be selling guns at boot sales now will we, like dey do over yonder.”

He nods quickly, but deeply, left, rising out of his seat, in what I can only suppose is to encompass the lower forty-eight, or at least Texas.

We turn into the airport, and immediately traffic gets busier, crowding in around us.  A bulk cement tanker, starts to take a turn, changes its mind, and swerves back in front of us.

“Oho, watch out, we have a live one ‘ere.  Hasn’t got a clue, not a clue.  See he’s probly trying to get to where dey’re rebuilding de runway, way de other side of de hair-port.”

We drive slowly, a solid thirty yards behind the cement tanker.

“He’s roight banjaxed now, sure he’ll be lucky if he doesn’t hit de bridge.”

We stay back, but the tanker passes comfortably under the parking garage footbridge.

We make it to the Departures drop off.

“Dere you go now, let me get yer bags for youse,” he says, with newfound, lighthearted mirth, yanking the hand break.  

I get out on his side.  Just-unloaded-taxis whip past us racing to their next fare at Arrivals.

“Watch yourself dere now,” he guides me along his taxi to the rear. “A lot dem east Euro-pee-ons is drivin’ taxis dese days.  Dey’d drive roight true ya, haven’t got a clue, not a clue.”

We make it safely to the back of the taxi; I start to unload the bags.

“Do ya see dat now,” he points his index finger at a sky-blue Dublin-Belfast express bus.  “Do ya see dat; twenty … two-times-a-day. See it?”

Above the DUBLIN-BELFAST –italicized for speed – the writing on the side of the bus says “22 TIMES PER DAY.”

I nod.

 “See, dat’ll all be gone whit Brexit.”

 I nod again.

“Sure, I never even get to tell ya all about Brexit!”

“Next time,” I say, passing him the fare, which interests him not at all.

 I start to cross through the crazy traffic.

“Sure dat May wan,” I hear him yell above the traffic-buzz, “she couldn’t neg-osh-eeate her way outta de women’s jax in Waxy’s.  Hasn’t got a clue!”