The Wild Atlantic Way of buying a BMW.

The cat was a black and white mix of a stray, drenched in North Mayo rain. It hissed in a way that could have been anger or hunger, it was hard to know. We asked Jimmy, the fella selling the car, who’s cat it was and he said he didn’t really know but we were welcome to take it home if we liked. We said no thanks and stood there in the grey cold and the cat ran away and Sean and James brought the BMW for a test drive. By all accounts they knew all there was to know about diesel engines so Tom had asked them to look over this one in case he bought it. I was there in case he needed someone to drive back his other car – The Starlet. Sean and James were a good while gone and we were hoping Jimmy might open up a bit.  We talked about the weather, and England, and how imported cars can have more rust cos of the salt on the roads, but mostly we were just doing the human thing of making noise with our vocal chords instead of standing there in silence. Jimmy said there was good tires on the BMW but the wife caught the door one day when she was: “Backin back, she was backin back out of somewhere, and she was….backin back and…now you know yourself now.”
The cat ran to the other side of the road and the rain came and Jimmy suggested we stand under the canopy of his house. We huddled there. Cold and unsure. Listening to the roads for the hopeful return of the lads. They arrived a few minutes later. They weren’t happy with the exhaust or a few drops of rain they found in the back seat. After, they pulled apart the boot, tested the shocks, checked the suspensions, looked at the spare wheel. They said things to each other in a secret mechanical language that included phrases like: “They’ll be drivin the Starlet back again I’d say.’ The Starlet was a supreme source of red engineering genius from 1995. An extraordinary sensory experience. It was possible to hear every small clatter in it’s engine, feel every bump on the road, experience all the cold you like from outside due to the bad heating. It was like going to see one of those films where you can feel the seats shake and where they spray water on your face if you’re watching something like the Titanic. The best thing about the Starlet was it’s fancy lack of Power Steering. Perfect for arm wrestlers and Olympic disc throwing Gold medalists. It was mighty too for creating mathematical conundrums during risky road manoeuvres. In a striking blast of genius,  someone had decided to invert the wiper and the indicator switches to opposite sides. This meant you could be over taking a car on the road and the wipers might come on, or a shower of rain could come and you’d find yourself indicating left and right like a mad man with a rain soaked windscreen and no wipers. It also had the pleasure of taking luxuriously expensive petrol as opposed to the cheaper proletariat Diesel. It was a wonder Tom wanted to upgrade to the BMW but here we were, contemplating the Atlantic clouds and watching Jimmy’s cat climb a tree. “It’s not, well, it’s good, drives, diesel, I mean it’s….you know yourself.”
Sean and James were doing a forensic examination on the seals around the windows. Sean told me he bought a car not so long ago. Looked at 26 other cars first before he was happy. One time, in Ballina, he went to see a car and decided not to buy it from ten feet away. “One look at her and we knew she was bad, she was just dirty. We didn’t even open the doors, just turned around and went home. You see some awful shite yokes on Donedeal.’
After the inspection, it was necessary to go Sean and James house for the final analysis. This was performed over cups of strong tea and addictive ham sandwiches supplied by their wonderful mother. They lived beside the ocean you could see it stretch for all eternity from their front door. There was stories of ships from Norway and high tides and the “Wild Atlantic Way” – a scenic route mapped out for tourists, stretching from Donegal to Cork, described locally as the “Brown signs with the sorta blue squiggly yokes on them.”  Later, their father arrived, a wise man full of local tales, anecdotes and prophetic advice about Polish mechanics. He asked all about the BMW and soon it was time for the verdict. Their ultimate advice was that it needed some work and it might cost more that it was worth to get it up to the required standard. On the other hand, the only other option for Tom was to keep driving the Starlet which was proving too ostentatious, intimidating other drivers on the road and causing sleeping nights due to the worry of it being stolen.
Tom said he’d ring Jimmy and see. Jimmy wanted €2700 and the negotiations began. Tom gave him a counter offer of €500 and Jimmy laughed, but not too hard. The haggle continued and they settled on €1100 so we went back to pick it up and then it was time to leave North Mayo. My job was to ensure the safe passage of the invaluable Starlet, an honour and a privilege. I hit the wipers going out the gate and narrowly missed the pillar as a result. Jimmy watched the two cars curiously leave and neither of us ever saw him or the cat again.

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