His name was McCarthy. Stephen, I think. Or was it Patrick? No matter. It was definitely McCarthy. And he was definitely Irish. Considering I was in Dublin, this in itself isn’t perhaps so remarkable. But when I think that the last eight taxis I’ve taken in Dublin had been driven by men with names like Abioye, Kwanza, Mohammed, Nuru, and such, getting an Irish Irish taxi driver is becoming something to remark upon. It’s a reflection of the changing face of Irish society – no more, no less.
Irish taxi drivers are famed for their verbosity. A read of Donal Ruane’s Tales in a rearview mirror – his account of driving a taxi in Dublin for a year – will tell you as much. But Mr McCarthy was different. He didn’t say a thing except to ask me whether I wanted to go to the front or the back of the station. That, and thank me for the tip he so well deserved.
He had picked me up on the North Strand. I was heading to Heuston Station. I could have taken a bus and then the Luas but for just a few bob more, a taxi was perfectly justifiable. Although I had plenty of time (no surprise there) I was a little antsy. I was in pain, tired, and somewhat cranky and had I been driving myself, my clutching would have reflected the same.
I’m used to stop-start driving in the city, to zipping in and out through gaps in the parallel lanes, to racing the amber lights. That sense of making haste at all costs is all too familiar. The urgency created by an open space ahead of me that screams to be occupied is hard to resist. The very thought of sitting in one lane while the other flows freely borders on sacrilege.
But Mr McCarthy was in no rush. He literally floated along, judging each light to perfection, completely ignoring his clutch. As we coasted through the city to the station, I started to think about my reaction in the third person.
By the time we’d reached Connolly Station, I was ready to jump out and get the Luas. He was going way too slowly for my liking. I was chomping at the bit. But a look at the meter told me that it would be a silly thing to do. So I stuck it out. As we crossed Talbot Bridge and turned on to the Quays I was beside myself with nerves. I wanted to remind him of the speed limit but as he’d not spoken, I didn’t feel that I had permission to break what was fast-becoming an almost reverent silence.
When we hit O’Connell Bridge, I decided, somewhat belatedly, that I had a choice. I could continue to fret or calm down and enjoy the ride. I clocked a red VW Golf accelerating beside us, the driver on edge and frantic. For a minute, I wanted to be in that car – doing something, making a visible effort. But back I sat as we literally glided up the Quays, passing the Ha’penny Bridge, the Millennium Bridge, the Grattan Bridge, O’Donovan Rossa Bridge, what used to be Guinness, and Collins Barracks. I felt like I was in a time bubble, completely separated from the rest of the world, cocooned in a calmness that I’ve never before associated with city driving.
This week’s been busy with plenty going on. I’ve been chasing my tail for most of it, trying to fit way too much in to way too short a time, snatching computer minutes between planes, trains, and automobiles, bank appointments and hospital visits. I’ve had a couple of self-indulgent wallows and made a few resolutions not to let life get out of hand. I need to better manage both my time and my expectations. Thanks to Mr McCarthy and the inner peace he radiated, I’ve had yet another reminder that slowing down doesn’t necessarily mean getting less done. I got to where I was going in plenty of time and it was much more relaxed journey. In fact, that same red VW Golf drove by us as we pulled in across from the station, its driver still looking a little keyed up.
So I’m grateful for this life lesson and if the moment stays with me long enough, I might even try working it into my routine.