Five Star Fomo. Black Mirror job.

Your wan had a French name and a place up fairly cheap. Nice pictures, spacious, safe, all that. The site had a big red warning that said: LAST PLACE LEFT for your dates. Nothing like Fomo to get the booking going. Tore open the wallet, fired in the card number, nearly broke the screen trying to get digits in fast, fast, fast, it’ll be gone! Then, sound, said the lively robot, you’re booking is confirmed. Good man yourself, got a good deal, sure thinking like that is how you save big money and no need for them demented hotels at all. Sleep good, pack your suitcase, get ready for the road. But. Somewhere in the ether, a devil began to laugh. At first it was stifled in a vague icy doubt and eventually descended into the falling fog of concern and buyer’s remorse. Had I checked the reviews? Was it refundable? Reliable? Too good to be true? The phone felt heavy and uncertain when I picked it up, like it was biting its lip, saying maybe you don’t want to know? I found the place again, scrolled down, and drank in the truth of the dark premonition.

First lad was straight in with SCAM!

And it got worse from there.  A broken shower, pictures of dirty rotten beds and bare live wires that could jump start an airplane. The nice pictures were of somewhere else, someone else’s house apparently, or maybe this one a long time ago, before it fell into the hole of dire disrepair and was listed for booking on the wild reliable site that caught me with the LAST ONE LEFT trick. I scanned more. No stars, lots of warnings, complaints, warning of danger inside the house due to everything being fucked and outside due to it being a dodgy area. Sure ya wouldn’t know, might be refundable? I checked the site and it was written in big bold thick ignorant letters: Non-Refundable.

But I still had a plan. Time to ring the bank. Lately I told them to stop ringing me every time I buy something, I know what I’m doing, don’t need ye checking my transactions every two minutes. Now here I am, big shtuff himself booking gammy accommodation. Got through after a while, a lovely girl with a soft Munster accent, said: ‘We can’t help you there, it’s gone through.’ She said something about making cases, filling forms, complicated madness. I hung up. Contacted the site, more demonic laughs from the shadows on the wall. It was night, see, and the phone’s screen illuminated the anonymous dark. It was a bit like being on The Matrix, or getting sucked into some virtual video game like something out of Black Mirror. The FAQ put me on to the chat. The chat put me on to the FAQ. It went on like that for a while, the bank card still thrown on the couch, out of breath after such an unprovoked assault, and the money long gone, probably spent on that bitch’s 20 fags in her dodgy bungalow with dirty light bulbs, and her hair frazzled from the last time she got a belt of high voltage trying to turn on the WiFi and see who’s after booking now, who fell for it tonight?

Vandalism

She was taking the company van. I was going working somewhere else. Ireland’s best sales team was getting disbanded after a record breaking spell of hitting no targets whatsoever.

She hadn’t much experience driving. As far as I could tell she didn’t even have a right license. There was some version of a government issued Romanian document from back long ago but it was hard to know if it was something to do with being on the road or a gammy dole card from Eastern Europe. Didn’t matter a fuck to the crowd in Dublin. They were too tight to pay for the petrol to have it drove back and they wanted her out selling so it made perfect sense that way. The other minor stuff like insurance, experience, ability or general safety never came into the equation. I gave her the keys and she said: ‘Where is spare tyre?’ 

‘Wha…’ 

‘Tyre. For Spare. Where does this be?’ 

‘I dunno. Why?’ 

‘In case. Flat. Whoosh. Puncture. It’s ok for boy. What about me? Woman. Alone. Dark and no tyre…’ 

‘I had a transit one time and the spare was under the floor at the back. Probably the same with that…’ 

‘Under the floor? Oh my God. How will I take out?’ 

‘You can ring the breakdown….’ 

She laughed, said: ‘These fuckers don’t pay for breakdown. They don’t even pay wages….’ 

She had a point, but I was already gone and finding it hard to get excited. Then she said: ‘I can’t drive manual. I need automatic.’ 

‘You’ll figure it out.’ 

‘And I never drive left side of road. Right only. Romania is right.’ 

‘Oh right.’ 

‘Yes. I will call Tom.’ 

‘Who’s Tom?’ 

‘He is my friend. He will help me with everything.’ 

‘Sound, I’ll go.’ 

I called back a week later. Tom was there. A saintly type with a van full of tools and a desire to help at all costs. They’d had a few driving lessons during the week that didn’t go well. There was talk of a gate getting a smack in Ballymahon and a pillar getting knocked in Moate. There’d been plenty of road range and a few parking confrontations around estates in Tullamore. And still no sign of the spare tyre. But Tom had a plan. The back doors of the van were open like a horrified mouth and Tom was climbing inside with a black and decker drill and tufts of grey hair under his cap and over his ears. ‘Tis down under here, I’d say….’ 

And he started on the screws around the base. Pulling up the timber, tearing it where necessary, announcing progress as he went along. ‘No sign of it yet, anyway…we’ll try another one…’ 

Soon there was hammers, drills, screws and broken bits of timber and stuff like sawdust strewn around everywhere inside and outside. Meanwhile she was up in the cab, tearing up the front seat in case it was under there and she might save Tom the trouble of destroying the van entirely. The screws had an angry growl as the drill caught grip, bit like a big dog when you try to pull a bone from its clenched teeth.  

‘You find?!’ She shouted from the front. 

No… said Tom, but sounding determined. ‘Not yet….’ 

I had a feeling this wouldn’t go down well in Dublin. Maintenance, repairs, destruction, generally having to pay for anything always caused a wide eyed look of wonder and mystery at the audacity of being required to spend money. They might even blame me if they heard I was there looking at them. Shtop.

I’ll keep going, I said. I’ll leave ye at it.  

 

 

 

 

M50 – Last Exit to Tallaght

Things used to be quiet for a while on the M50. There was a time you could make Dublin from Athlone in an hour and you didn’t feel electrocuted. But these days that’s all gone. The change was gradual at first. Busier at Enfield, slower at Lucan, and now it’s all wonderful chaos. That lad with his car on fire last week, and the two women arguing about the Fiesta stuck in the back of the BMW. And then there was your man that overturned the truck full of round bales. It was on the other side, outbound as they say, but it still somehow held up the traffic on the way in for two hours. Think it was from everyone slowing down to look at it and the long line of lads in trapped cars, like monkeys in road zoo cages. Some drivers get creative. Up the Hard Shoulder, skipping in and out of the traffic. I got a bad look and a BEEP! from a woman last week because I pretended I was going to Tallaght and skipped a ball of cars and then pulled back in over the white Zebra bit before you take the exit. Pure thick head on her, she’s probably still up there somewhere, BEEPING! at someone else. Other headers chance the bus lane but I’m still waiting on the NCT, and the new windscreen, and I don’t want to be drawing the guards on me in case. So now it’s WFH in Mayo. Fully remote. Computer, WiFi, kettle going full blast, how’re ya fixed for a bit of peace and quiet compared to the M50?  

But sure it was all go here too. Your man came last week and put down the seeds in the lawn Now there’s crows all over the garden trying to eat them. They’re like a crowd of out of work extras from a Hitchcock film. The oul fella is flat out trying to scare them away. He shouts out the window in a sort of garbled bird dialect, like an angry German dictator trying to order steak in a Shanghai restaurant. The birds don’t give a fuck. They were a bit afraid of the dog at the start but now they just wander around, casually eating what they see, like it’s an all you can eat buffet for birds. Eventually we located a clapper that does what it says on the tin and goes clappety clap clap, like a game of table tennis between two lads on some kinda super cocaine. It had the feeling of a light bell, reminded me of that time John Barnes rang the school bell too early for the craic and we all went back inside and missed half our small break. 33 years later and most of the class are still thick about it.

All up, it might be time to locate that windscreen. The insurance weren’t amenable to a mid policy change, and someone else said to “…try upgrading to Comprehensive…” whatever that is, but no other options besides, except the hard shoulder and a good story if the blue lights come on and they take a good look at the growing concern, like the first signs of ice breaking on a shallow lake, only a matter of time if ya don’t sort it out. Clappety clap clap. BEEEEP!