There was a phrase I heard often growing up: “Irish luck.” Different from “The luck of the Irish” and any association with leprechauns, “Irish luck” is when you step in dog shit and then say, “Oh well, at least these aren’t my Sunday shoes.” This alludes to the Irish penchant for always looking on the bright side, brushing off less than pleasant situations with a wave of a hand and a merry “It’ll be grand.”
It’s seems to me that rules in Ireland are regarded with the same sort of cheerful but dismissive hand wave. I’m new to Ireland, so I may be proven wrong in the future, but what I’ve noticed so far is that rules here are more like suggestions, to be taken with a grain of salt.
I’ll give you three examples:
In a small post office on the Liffey, I noticed a little sign right next to the counter that said, “Absolutely no service to people on mobile phones.”
About four inches to the right of that sign hung another one, a little bit larger.
This one said, in bolt print, “The third offence of talking on a mobile phone while at the counter will result in no longer be permitted to use this post office.”
Smirking at the contradiction, I then witnessed a man purchase stamps - you guessed it - while talking on his cell phone. The desk clerk was courteous and, instead of a reprimand, offered a cheerful, “Have a lovely day!”
The other day I joined a gym (putting down roots!). A woman made small talk with me as she prepared the papers for me to fill out and asked what brought me to Dublin. I told her that I was a student. Then she explained all of the membership options to me: just weekends, just day time, the full package, etc. There were different levels of pricing for each.
But then she said, “Because you’re a student, you’ll only pay this price and you'll get the full package.”
“Wonderful,” I thought, “but then why did she need to explain all the other packages?”
Then she told about three other options to lower the cost: if I made one upfront payment instead of monthly installments, for three, six or twelve months, I’d get an even steeper discount. I told her that the six month option looked good to me, but that I wasn’t sure if I could get that much out of this month’s food budget.
She said, “Oh, well, we could put it on an installment plan."
I could swear there was a twinkle in her eye.
I tried to maintain a serious face as I delighted in yet another instance of cheerfully ignoring “rules.”
One day my son and I were on a tour bus headed up to Newgrange, where there is a passage tomb that predates the Egyptian pyramids. It was a bit early for us, and we hadn’t had enough coffee.
The bus made a stop to pick up more passengers, and the driver said, “Hang tight, people. We’ll be here for about ten minutes.”
I spied a coffee shop across the street and thought, “Score! I have a chance to get coffee for us!”
I told my plan to my son, and he was nervous that I wouldn’t make it back to the bus in time. I’d seen Irish bus drivers wait for late passengers before and assured him we’d be okay.
“I’ll have my cell phone on me,” I told him, and headed up to the front of the bus.
I told the bus driver that I was just dipping into the coffee shop across the street and I’d be right back.
He said, “Well, there’s no coffee allowed on the bus.”
Just then a woman squeezed passed me as she was boarding. She held a takeout coffee cup in front of my face as she juggled her bags.
I tapped the coffee cup and eyed the driver.
The woman said, “Yeah, but it’s empty.”
The driver looked at the cup then back at me, waved his hand and said, “Oh, you’re grand, you’re grand,” which meant I could zip out to get the coffee.
Tomorrow is my first day of Post Graduate Orientation at Trinity College, where I’ll be starting a PhD in Music Composition.
I am nervous.
Not only do I have “first day of school jitters” (it’s been so long since I was a student!), but I haven’t paid my tuition. In the information on the Trinity website, it clearly states that no one will be given a student ID card unless the tuition is paid in full.
Gulp. I have not paid one cent yet.
I am waiting to see if a loan comes through.
I am afraid that I’ll get there and have no access to buildings or the events in them without a student ID card.
I’ll get it sorted; I just need to figure out exactly which Peter I’m going to take from to pay Paul.
In the meantime, I am hoping that this “rule” about not getting an ID card without a zero balance on the tuition bill is one that can be broken just like all the others: with a smile and an “Oh, you’re grand, you’re grand.”