Ireland on a Working Visa #10

Don’t Believe the Hype

May 7th
Dear God – I’m in Dublin again.

I can see the Liffey and the buildings lining its sides; the sun is out, and the day is so warm and lovely – but to me that only means that being in Dublin again won’t be as miserable as it would be if it were raining.

At least I’m only here for the day, and also for good reasons. If you have to be in a place you dislike, then it should at least be for a good reason, and I’m here for not one, but for two good reasons: my friend Jacinta is moving here. Crazy girl – but I can’t blame her: through a friend Jacinta has both a sweet job (at a health food place) and a flat – all to herself – lined up.

She’ll be here at least a month and, I must admit, if I had something like this arranged, I think that even I could be persuaded to live in Dublin. For a little while, anyway. So we ride up together, chatting and helping each other get through a hot bus ride, and then she goes for her hostel, and I go for the second and main reason I’ve come back to Dublin.

My friend Wendi, from Melbourne, Australia, arrived last night on a three-week holiday around Ireland. Dublin is her starting point, as it was mine – but, like me, she probably won’t stay here long. By the end of the day, actually, ‘probably’ becomes ‘definitely’; for that matter, ‘end of the day’ becomes ‘end of lunch.’ Dublin, apparently, was only warming up for tourist season while I was here in April; it took nearly a week before my wee head-butting episode. Now in full form, however, the city doesn’t even give Wendi 24 hours to settle in.

But I digress.

After meeting Wendi at the Litton Lane, we go for lunch. It’s 1:30, and we’re both famished, so we blitz around the corner to the Burger King on O’Connell Street. (I know, I know, this isn’t exactly getting into the culture, but then again, we’re hungry).

Sitting down with our food, Wendi puts her daypack under the table, by her leg, and says, ‘I went for a walk this morning, Ant, and I couldn’t believe it: this is O’Connell Street? The O’Connell Street?”

I look out the upstairs window, which faces O’Connell, and I nod. “Yep. Disappointing, isn’t it?”

Dublin, I believe, isn’t built on ground. It’s built on hype. Pure exaggeration and hyperbole, a built-up place, yes – but only in imaginations fed by travel writing and tourist propaganda.

If you’ve only ever heard about O’Connell Street, it probably seems pretty awe-inspiring, the very aorta of Dublin’s heart. If it is, then a priest and a doctor should follow the city around at all times. For starters, this aorta is only three blocks long. How impressed would you be if New York City’s Park Avenue was only three blocks long?

As for the buildings, the GPO (General Post Office) isn’t any more exciting than the post office in your own town; otherwise, there’s nothing but a few pubs, a lot of banks, a McDonalds as well as the Burger King, a Supermac’s (Irish fast food joint), and the requisite souvenir shops. The sculptures are there, but the landmark “Floozi in the Jacuzzi,” looks like little more than a never-cleaned-out rubbish bin.

Welcome to O’Connell Street. It took a paragraph. What the hell was all the hype about? I’m not sure, either.

But again, I digress. Back in Burger King, Wendi and I are catching up. We haven’t seen each other in a year and a half, and with so much to talk about, digression leads to digression, and Wendi and I become so engrossed that we don’t really notice the woman who sits down behind Wendi, and when another woman suddenly runs over to our table, claps her hands and points at the woman sitting behind Wendi, we both jump.

Then Wendi notices that her daypack, which had been next to her leg, on the floor under the table, was being held by the woman sitting behind her. “I just saw this sitting here, on the table,” says the woman. “I was going to take it downstairs, to the manager.”

“Well, that’s my bag,” replies Wendi, her voice flat as she grabs her pack. Opening it, she adds, “I’ll just make sure that everything is here.”

“Well!” huffs the woman, offended. “It was sitting on this table.” Then she walks off.

Wendi looks at me. “It’s been by my leg the whole time. That’s what I always do with my pack.”

After making sure that everything that was supposed to be in her pack is still there, Wendi doublechecks. We leave, but first we thank the woman who had run over to us (she, by the way, was a tourist, not a local).

Not even 24 hours, and Wendi is already pretty sick of Dublin. I know how she feels. But at least we’ll both be out of the city soon.