EXPLORING IRELAND FROM THE WRONG SIDE OF THE ROAD
SOMEWHERE ON A WINDING NARROW ROAD IN COUNTY CORK – If Ireland were an amusement park, I am now on its most terrifying ride. I am driving on the wrong side of the road in the Irish countryside seated on the wrong side of the car.
My girlfriend Claudia (who is also my wife) and I arrived in Dublin this past Saturday for our Irish vacation, or as the Irish call it, holiday.
We spent two wonderful days in Dublin. We attended church at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, saw a rousing production of “Riverdance” at the Gaiety Theatre, jogged in Stephen’s Green, visited Trinity College, enjoyed a pint of Guiness in a quaint pub, and immediately fell in love with this beautiful country and its people. I am considering changing my name to Bill O’Haltom.
And then on Monday afternoon we decided to set out for the Irish countryside. We rented a car, and that’s when our Irish holiday became a sometimes harrowing journey.
When I climbed in our Irish rental car for our journey to counties west, I could not find a steering wheel. At first I thought perhaps the Irish were ahead of us in the development of driverless cars. But then I discovered the steering wheel all the way over on the right side of the dashboard … on the passenger side. Convinced that we had been given a defective car, I brought it to the attention of the Irish car rental agent, who told me the steering wheel was exactly where it was supposed to be in an Irish car. He then added, “And make sure you drive on the left side of the road!”
He then explained that motorists in Ireland drive on the left side of the road unless they are in something called a “roundabout.”
“Let me get this straight,” I said. “If I want to drive in Ireland, I must stay on the wrong side of the road on the wrong side of the car.”
The Celtic car agent just shook his head and mumbled something about “crazy Americans.”
For the past couple of days, Claudia has enjoyed the scenery of this beautiful green nation as I have chauffeured her in my defective Irish motorcar from Dublin to Limerick to Shannon to the cliffs of Moher, in an Irish production of “Driving Miss Claudia.” I, on the other hand, have not enjoyed the view, as I have spent every minute seated on the passenger side clutching my misplaced steering wheel and constantly reminding myself to stay on the wrong side of the road. (“Left! Left! Left!) Meanwhile, literally thousands of crazy Irish drivers have headed toward me immediately to my right, all speeding down the opposite wrong side, coming within inches of me as they sit on the wrong side of their cars.
What makes it even more scary is that “motorways” in the Irish countryside are about the same size as an American city sidewalk, with stone walls rather than shoulders on either side of the road.
But here is the good news. Tomorrow Claudia and I are returning to Dublin where I will drive my o’rental car into the wrong side of the terminal and turn it in. For the remainder of my Irish holiday I will leave the driving to Irish cabbies or bus drivers, all of whom seem very comfortable driving on the wrong side of the road behind a misplaced steering wheel.