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.

    

Social warming in Smithfield

 

Another evening, another booked out night in Dublin except for the hostels. Parked the car somewhere close to Smithfield, 6pm, ticket required til seven.Minimum purchase 20 cents.

Still had two 20’s left under the handbrake, orphans abandoned at the Enfield toll. Time to give them a home. Walked up to the ticket machine, a stubborn, disheveled effort, like a fella still drinking three weeks after a wedding. There was graffiti and a splash of random paint and a vague smell of piss or vinegar. One time there was a place for a card but that was blocked so it was cash only now. I pushed in the first 20 cent. It was tentative, unsure, wouldn’t commit, the tiny round shine still peeking out. That’s when the big Times Square newsflash appeared on the screen. Machine out of Order. Just in time for the 20 cent to fall and be lost forever in the disordered, discounted and unacknowledged abyss. Could be worse, coulda been a euro. Time to find tonight’s abode. It wasn’t far. 70 meters according to the phone. Inside, Pride Flags everywhere, calm loud music, pools balls clattering somewhere. Your man behind the counter was in Mayo lately. And did I ever climb the reek, and could he see my license, and here’s your key, and your room’s over there, just through the rainbow forest, and beyond the blue door. Got there, four bed job, well separated, bit like Spacepods on a film.  Only one fella here so far, trying to sleep, jetlag, age, some ailment, hard to know. The door was designed to fall closed with a loud angry mix of locks arguing with door frames and grumpy bolts and this made him move, grunt, sigh.  Dark interior, thick navy walls, window open, keeping out the microbes. Better go for a walk, no point sitting here in the dark, listening to your man snoring like a dying dog. Then I remembered they said at the counter they do good food, and he recommended the chicken burger at the bar, and all you need is here, and there’s even a pub crawl later if you’re up for it. Went out to the bar, few extras sitting around drinking gammy pints, talking shite about something that happened somewhere and generally making noise with words. The girl at the counter was all smiles and strange hair and piercings and bad news. We’re not doing food today, or tomorrow, but you can buy something outside and bring it in?  

 Outside, more flags. Restaurants advertising burgers and Mexican stuff. The distant sound of people’s minds screeching, like the brakes on a train about to derail. The badly oiled friction of the internet against reality. All the dopamine running dry, like social warming.

 Found a place across the road and took a seat and ordered, this is the life, in the big city, chicken burgers and spacepods and I wonder where would you get a cup of tea. There was a fella with a beard and a huge belly across the way studying the menu like it was a good news article about himself and he wanted to read more and more. The people around him were talking and yapping but he didn’t care, this was it, the big event. Sure it was all happening in Smithfield.  

Rained off site

They rang and said they wanted the company car back but they’d give me a van instead. Wouldn’t you love a van? No, says I, what the fuck am I going to do with a van? 

–  You’ll figure it out.  

            Later, it was time to collect my team. Romania’s finest was waiting, patiently playing Backgammon on her phone and no interest in going working at all. She sat in, asked: ‘What is this?’ 

            ‘It’s a van.’ 

            ‘A van? Where is car?’ 

            ‘They took it back.’ 

            ‘Why? This is no good.’ She pulled down the flap yoke on the passenger side, freaked and said: ‘No mirror to see my lipstick??’ 

            ‘I know it’s a tragedy.’ 

            ‘We don’t need a van for this job…’ 

            ‘We do now.’ 

            ‘Where do we go today?’ 

            ‘We’ll chance Portharlington.’ 

            We got there about an hour later. After Moate, through Tullamore, bypassed Edenderry and straight in, just on time to be two and half hours late. Early sales are key, they say. Crucial to get ahead, can do attitude. We were tired after the drive and figured twas time to get the lunch. Raided the local Centra for chips, rolls and diet coke and found a park somewhere in the middle of the town. There was grass and kids and trees and a bench with a bin beside it. She opened up her roll, said: ‘What is doing Bitcoin?’

            ‘What’s it doin?’ 

            ‘Yes, what is doin it?’

            ‘I don’t know. Goin up, or down….

            ‘It’s goin to crash. The chart says so.’

            ‘The chart?’

            ‘Technical Analysis. It will go to Zero. And then I will be billionaire.’

            ‘I’m not sure that’s how them things works….’

            Wide eyes, with: ‘Of course. You don’t know how to short cryptocurrency…?’

            ‘No. And I’m probably better off too.’

            ‘You buy the bet token to say it will dive and then…whoosh. It goes down, and my token goes up, and we buy Lamborghini. No more bullshit vans with no lipstick mirrors…’

            There was a lad smoking on a bench across the way, a smell like burnt grass or strong green tea. The wind swept light, like angels made of soft moisture, and the sun was sneaking down, a lazy descent into the bruised midlands twilight. And there wasn’t a sale in sight. No lucky phone calls, nobody shouting across the street begging to give us business. Not a hope of a populated text to management later with any other figure than zero and we weren’t in the Bitcoin Business. It wasn’t the get rich going broke sort of scheme we were on. The best thing to do was take another bite of the chicken roll and hope something might happen. A gravitational change in fate, a slip into a parallel reality where everything made perfect sense and we could hit a moment of calm clarity that didn’t involve work. Your man finished the cigarette and got up and walked off. The first hint of rain fell like a phantom arrow, bounced off my wrist, and waited for the army of drops to follow. Sure this was no good, poor working conditions, unsafe, rained off site.

            ‘I don’t want to get drowned wet like a dog like last time.’ She said. ‘I got flu. For this bullshit? No thank you, sir. Puh. I’m not silly slave for big money companies.’

            ‘Sure we’ll sit in the van for a while and if it gets too bad we’ll tip back to Athlone again and see is the weather any better there.’

            ‘Sounding good. I’ll show you rich methods while we wait. Big money, oh my god, the future is so exciting….whoosh….’