2012 IXDA, after giving a 40 min talk. An adventure
Ireland, some of the nicest people I have met anywhere.
When we arrived it was so great to have every 4th or so taxi be accessible. Thing is every taxi has this sketchy telescopic ramp that try’s to fold in on it's self when I'm going up, and try's to fall off the car when i'm getting out. Every entry or exit taking 20-30 min of ramp dropping chair teetering, death defying, adrenalin filled exacerbation.
Now that you are fully informed of these crazy taxi's that seemed like a Japanese gauntlet style game show than a mode of transportation you will understand why, on the last day I decided to just roll a couple of miles to the ferry. Flying being worse than Irish taxi's I scheduled a ferry and a train to London, my next stop. I'm in the heart of Dublin about 2 miles from port. In my mind the port is somewhere along the water front, with a park near by, people calmly reading papers and playing with leprechauns as they wait to board. The ferry leaves at 8:05, 2 hours should be fine to roll there, maybe I'll even find a star bucks. I leave the hotel and head toward the dock, I cross a bridge shaped like a harp and into the morning mist. Ireland has an annoying habit of not labeling streets, I find myself at the end of dead end streets twice within the first few blocks. I come over another bridge and a a man stands there frozen, a cigarette nearly to his face. I must be a strange sight, a floating head moving along the ramparts at 10 mph popping in and out of the street light.
I still have 1.5 hours to get to my ferry but only made about .5 miles. I tell myself, "this is the hard part, it has to get easier ahead". I reach the end of a block after passing the cigarette man and find there is no curb cut for my chair, I turn and head back and find I nearly have to go a quarter mile. The harp shape bridge is back in view. I think I still have time to get a taxi and deal with all it's problems or I can skip starbucks and dash to the boat. I am beginning to worry a bit, if I miss the boat, the next one leaves a 9pm and I can't get a connecting train tell 11 the next day. I push on into the mist which is becoming rain, (no problem, I'm from oregon). I check my progress on my phone. I'm about a third there. I turn onto a main street and it's more of a freeway than street. It seems to be being feed an endless line of big-rigs chattering around a corner that my phone-gps is telling me I need to enter. No crossing lights and 4 lanes of trucks. I find a point I can get off the curb but this puts me a good distance from the place I have identified as "the safe place" to cross. I make a break for the middle of traffic and just make it. It seems either I'm not seen by the trucks or they have confidence in my timing. I sit there a few moments letting my heart slow and notice if I continue across here, there is no way to get on the shoulder. An 8inch curb blocks me. My only option is 500 feet to my left. God only knows how I got over there but I make it. Now I think I've got it solved. But I rolling down the shoulder where I'm positive no pedestrian has walked in years, there is a layer of grime, broken glass and fast food wrappers layering into a strata some future geologist will delight in brushing away to make conclusions about the urbanized mess.
The meat grinder. This is the name I give to this four lane round-about which is now presenting it self as my next challenge. Collecting trucks from 5 entrances and spinning them through a high speed centrifuge, the men behind the wheel, white knuckled holding hold on against inertia all have the same look of intensity leaning into the turn. On the bright side there is a curb cut. About 160 degrees around the meat grinder is a truck stop. It seems like a salvation, a place of sanctuary, but I have to go over 2 of the 5 entrances of the meat grinder. On my first attempt I nearly get killed by a Guinness truck coming from the wrong direction (I'm still not use to traffic in this place). As the adrenaline passes I reflect on what the obituary might read in Oregon, "man killed by Guinness Truck while in Ireland". This is one of those things I'd clip out and put on the fridge at home. But then again, death by Guinness truck is probably a leading cause of death here.
An almost impossibly huge man, but not fat, (It's as if he was photoshoped up 50% from a normal size) greats me. As if he sees wheelchars gassing up on their way to the ferry every morning about this time, he tells me "just over there" (were I was just at) "take a left" (while he is pointing right) "and follow it to the end".
Bla bla bla meat grinder, bla bla bla not curb cut… dead end. 20 min later I'm back at the truck stop. I know at this very moment the boat is shutting down admittance and sails in 25 min, I find the gaint and ask. Is there any hope of a cab. I tell him my story, "the short version, leaving out the cigarette guy". He springs into action. Meanwhile at the boat. My travel companions are calling me every 5 min for updates and madly working deals with the ferry operators. In the middle of this mad confusion, with a giant waving at taxi's in the meat grinder, my friends calling me for updates, a pair of cops waddle over to me and explain "you need to be inside, it's dangerous in the parking lot". If I hadn't had so much on my mind I might have been able to process the statement faster and probably would have said something that would have gotten me a ride to a different Irish location. I make my way into the truck stop and find it looks, smells and sounds the same as every truck stop I've ever encountered in the USA, the wir of the slushy machine and smell of fuel and overcooked hot dogs punctuating the experience. For some reason the only difference “i notice” is that their KittKatt bars are in different packaging and there are what seem to be thousands of Cadberry eggs, those strange candies that only appear in USA around Easter in the checkout isle between the batteries and “Opra” magazine.
As i try to make sense the “multi-gross” of chocolate eggs next to me, I stare through the steam coated window and in the distance see the giant. He now has 2 cabs stopped (neither handi accessible) and the drivers of these cabs are now helping to wave down a third cab. This one is accessible. Suddenly everyone turns toward where I was in the parking lot and I realize the giant doesn't know I've been remanded to connivance store. I make break for the parking lot and as soon as I am free the giant, the 2 cabbies and the handi van are racing my direction. It is now 7:58 and the boat leaves in 7 min. As the cab rolls to a stop someone is grabbing the ramps out of the "boot" the door is sliding open. Suddenly I'm being forced up the ramp and as expected the whole thing turns into collapsing ramps and ripping noises. With the combined strength of 3 cabbies, two cops and a giant I am shoe horned into the cab. Already racing out of the parking lot, the cab driver asks, what ferry are you going to. THERE ARE TWO FERRIES! I blurt out. I look for my phone to call my friends. I see it under my front right tire, having been thrown to the floor during the cab stuffing. The driver, in an almost continuous motion like a ballet dancer, reduces his speed from mock 2 to full stop, jumps out of the car, slides open the door, yanks my phone free, hops back into the seat and engages the afterburners. As if scripted my phone rings, he answers it, gets the name of the boat, and spins the wheel. 8:03 and the ferry terminal comes into view as we bounce into a massive parking lot
The front of the terminal is a glass wall, an odd day glow green stripe takes up the bottom third of the window. As we get closer I realize it isn't a stripe. It is the day-glow vests common among workers labors, cyclists, and ravors. No less then 50 dock/ferry workers are pressed against the glass looking for my cab. In the background a huge ship dwarfs the terminal. The door to the terminal being held open by Cara my friend. We pull to a stop, a few failed attempts to get out of the cab and suddenly I'm on the ground after the dock workers yank me out. I look down and my hand-control has been crushed, pushed down and bent out of my reach in the confusion. Cara sees the issue and grabs the control and begins to drive. We are in the terminal, green vest workers, standing a line windmilling their arms pointing us in the right direction through a system of back corridors one elevator and a bridge. I’m being wipped back and forth as Cara’s driving skills of my chair lack refinement especially as she runs beside me trying to squeeze through doors with me.
A massive heavy clunk behind me, an official looking man “obviously annoyed” gives us a look of disdain, blinks slowly while bringing a walkie-talkie sideways to his lips, at that very moment the floor stutters and whistle blows. I look around, am I on a boat, I think. Cara collapse next to me. Marie my other friend hugs me. The places looks like a well used Indian casino, or a 1980 winabago, overstuffed chairs, gold plated metal work accenting the lighting and furniture, recessed rope lights. Impossibly long halls ways stretch to my right and left. On every chair, bench and free piece of carpet sits a crowd of people dressed in the same blood red colors. The previous night there was two sporting events in Dublin against Wales, both being champion ship games. Rugby and Soccer. Both won by Wales. As it turns out I'm now on the boat with 1000 welshmen in various stages of inebriation. Most of them sleeping with small pods singing and spouting obscenities. One gentleman stumbles past me wearing a 2 foot plush hat shaped like a pint of Guinness, looking over his shoulder at his mates he proclaims "f**k it!". Well put, I think