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.  

 

 

 

 

The NCT

Sometimes you’re driving down the road and big fuckin stone cracks your windscreen. But it’s ok, cos the insurance will cover that. Sure didn’t I do that before? Your man came out especially and changed it in Val’s car park in Athlone on a Tuesday morning. Didn’t cost a cent, free, covered, standard, normal, we love stones in insurance companies, the way they hop off the roads, keeps us all busy, kept going, how’s Val getting on, sure isn’t great?

            And here comes the NCT. People say prayers for you when you’re going for the NCT. Normally I’d need them, and maybe even a mass, or a visit from the pope, but today felt alright in the unbreakable Ford Focus. Brought her to Corrib Oil for a fast wash. Usually there’s a queue of lads in impossibly priced cars reading phones and waiting for the Polish lads to do the fancy waxy waxy and make the money wheels go shiny shiny. But no line today. Cost of living, time of day, something. Parked her up over the big grate for the running water, said give it a blast lads. Went to the shop to get cash, talked to a woman at the door about life, the rain, and The Guggenheim Grotto. Then the car was ready and it was time to go. I hadn’t been to Westport in a while so I asked the oul fella, how long do you think it will take to get there?

            He thought, said: ‘Almost the same as Castlebar and a bit with it….’

            Irish estimations. You have to love them.  We sat in and he asked: ‘What happened the windscreen?’

            ‘Stone.’

            ‘What kinda stone?’

            ‘Dunno, from a truck on the M50.’

            ‘Well fuck.’

            ‘Probably be grand. Sure the insurance’ll cover it….’

            ‘Hmm…’

            We took off, around the town, down High Street, sailing along. The wide Castlebar road. The tight corner at Keel Bridge. Took a left at Partry and followed the winding roads. The crack seemed to grow all the time, like solar powered misfortune. We got there on time to be twenty minutes early. Parked up, waited. A Mondeo in for a retest. A Volkswagen with no tracking, an Insignia for sale outside. They called in the Focus, ran her through, came back and said the car was perfect except for the windscreen.

            Not the end of the world. The insurance will cover it. Everyone knows it’s standard on the insurance. I’ll just ring them up and they’ll come to the house and change it and it’ll be all free, and easy, and simple, and standard. So I rang them, casual, easy going, friendly, assumptive. The girl on the phone was nice, helpful, calm and efficient. I was looking at the wall, thinking about something else, when she said, actually no, that’s not covered. We removed it at renewal. You have to specifically request it anymore. Sorry about that.

            Wonderful.

            I asked around for advice. One fella said I could try and fix it but the crack was bigger than a 2 euro coin so that was out. Another lad suggested I change the number plates with some other car and try swing something like that and most official places wanted somewhere between 200 and 300 euro to replace it. Then the apple windscreen fell on my head and I was inspired by a ground breaking idea.

            I rang the insurance back, innocent, inquisitive, vaguely confused, like an Irishman in New York, pretending he can build skyscrapers. I’d swear twas the same girl that answered when I said: ‘Just wondering, eh… can I add windscreen cover to my policy…?’

            No, Michael, she said. No.

Well fuck.