Irish Tales of Woe and Wonder, Part 2

After a seven and a half hour flight, and a six hour time difference, we arrived in Dublin around 10 in the morning. After getting our passports and customs papers all checked in, we headed over to Hertz to pick up our rental car. We got all the paperwork taken care of and paid our $1200 liability deposit and the kid at the desk led us out into the parking lot.

I was horrified to find that I'd be driving the only pink car in all of Ireland... It was a bright pink, four-valve Suzuki Alto. My sister and mother loved it. But, this car would prove itself to be the single greatest source of the strife I encountered during my week overseas.

Surprisingly, it only took me about an hour to adjust to driving on the right side of the car and the left side of the street. I really thought it would be incredibly difficult to figure it out, especially after watching the difficulty Chevy Chase had with it National Lampoon's European Vacation, but it turned out to be pretty easy.

You know—after I hit my first three curbs, lost a hubcap, drove in the wrong lane in downtown Dublin, almost got in a head-on collision with a double-decker bus, and accidentally dinged a parked van's bumper while attempting to parallel park. So, just within the first 45 minutes, I put our €1200 liability deposit in jeopardy. As if the missing hubcap wasn't noticeable enough, hitting the parked van put a long, deep dent in the car, just above the wheel well that housed the tire with the missing hubcap.

So if Hertz managed to somehow overlook the fact that the car only had three hubcaps, the giant dent just above the missing hubcap would certainly attract their attention.

I managed to put this dilemma out of my mind for a while ("outta sight, outta mind") and we hung out in Dublin for the first day. That night, we stayed at a bed and breakfast called Egan's House in Glasnevin—one of Dublin's nicer, upper-middle class neighborhoods. Unfortunately, we had no idea what Dublin was like or how it functions on Day One, so we spent a lot of time wandering around aimlessly, trying to figure out what we were going to do. After our first day of getting adjusted to the city, we discovered that the best way to see all of Dublin in one day is getting an all-day bus pass, then hopping on and off the bus at various attractions. The pass was only €10 and it was good for 24 hours; so you could spend an entire day hopping off at any of its 25 stops and back on the bus when you were done.

Of course, we didn't figure this out until after our first day; but it was good information to have for the last day of the trip, which we also spent in Dublin.

Anyway, my proposal was that our first order of business should be hitting up the Guinness Storehouse at St. James Gate Brewery. Ever since I first fell in love with Guinness, at the tender age of 19, I have always wanted to see the place where it was made.

The seven-story storehouse and museum are absolutely brilliant. Wonderful. It was everything I ever dreamed it would be and then some! In the museum, you learn about the entire history of Guinness and the Guinness family; even more impressively, you learn the entire brewing process. They tell you all of the ingredients, where they acquire the ingredients, how they make the stout, how they store it, how they ship it all over the world, how they advertise, how they've branded themselves for the past 200+ years, how 2 MILLION pints of Guinness are consumed in Ireland alone PER DAY...

Then, after learning about all of that, you make your way to a small bar where they let you sample a half-pint. Since my mother doesn't drink, I got to have her's as well, making one full pint. Then, you make your way all the way up to the seventh floor, to a place called the Gravity Bar—a bar with glass walls that overlooks the entire city of Dublin. And if you kept your ticket stubs, they treated you to a free pint of Guinness! So, I had mine; then I had my mother's; then I had my sister's. That made four free pints of Guinness.

Then we went back to Egan's House a little early, myself a little buzzed and all of us severely jet-lagged, and slept for 14 consecutive hours.

As it turned out, I would end up needing all the rest I could get to prepare for the stress Tuesday and each subsequent day would provide...


Irish Tales of Woe and Wonder, Part 1

Two days ago, I arrived back in Chicago after a week-long holiday to Ireland. As just about everyone who knows me knows, I've been wanting to move to Ireland since I was eight years old—it's been 17 years, and, until last week, I had never even been to the country.

I've finally conquered my 17 year old goal and put to the bed the restless, dreaming eight year old inside of me.
This trip promised to be an experience from its very ominous beginning. I had talked to my mother on Friday and told her that Joshua was available and willing to drive her, my sister, Morgan, and me to O'Hare to catch our flight on Sunday; she told me "great," but that she might ask my other sister, Gail, to drive us instead. I called her the next day and Sunday to confirm one way or the other, and she refused to answer her phone, so when Sunday afternoon came around, and Josh and I were left clueless as to what to do, I made the decision, "Just come with me and if Gail's the one driving, you can drive my car home."

We drove the hour and a half it takes to get from Bradley to Yorkville and I was met by my mother in the driveway; and she said, "What is Josh doing here?" Apparently she decided to have Gail drive us and didn't bother telling me. That's fine though; I just unloaded my bag, brought it inside the house, and waited for Gail to get home from wherever she was. While waiting, I reached into my pocket to give Josh some money for gas when I realized I forgot my passport at home. I ran outside and exclaimed to my mom, "Ma—I forgot my passport." She gave me an exasperated look and sighed, "Well, you gotta go get it, you don't have any other option."

Josh and I scrambled back into my car and set out back to Bradley. Unfortunately, we didn't have enough time to spare to drive all the way back there—it was 4pm and my flight left at 7:30. It would take us until 7pm just getting to Bradley and back since it's an hour and a half drive, so I told Mom that I'd just meet her at the airport. She said, "That's fine—call me with updates on where you are and stuff, so I'll know what to do; I'll have my phone on me." That's about the time Josh and I came up with a brilliant idea: let's get someone from Bradley to grab my passport out of my desk drawer for me and meet us halfway with it! So we called several people before finally getting a hold of his mother, Beth, who agreed to meet up with us (and thank God for that—she enabled us to shave an hour off our trip). So I grabbed the passport, jump back in my car, and we hightailed it up I-57 towards Chicago, driving at breakneck speeds to get there on time (or at least some facsimile of "on time").

After grabbing the passport, I realized that I forgot to grab my bag before we left my mom's house, which leads me to worry "Gee, I hope she realized to grab my bag when she left."

I call her... No answer. I call again... No answer. Again... No answer. I called her at least 15 times... No answer. I start flipping out.

Josh then asked, "Do you know anyone else in Yorkville that could look for you?" So I called an old friend, Jeff, but he was playing disc golf in another town. I called a couple other people that didn't answer. Finally, I got hold of Little Bretty Poo, a friend of mine who lives down the street from my mother's house. He told me that he could do it, but he was just getting home from Wisconsin and was still another 30 minutes away from our neighborhood. No matter what, we weren't going to have enough time to drive back to Yorkville for my bag, but at least if Bretty Poo could get over there, he could tell me whether or not the bag was there and give me peace of mind.

Thirty minutes later, he calls back and tells me that the bag isn't anywhere in the house.

Thank God.

Josh and I arrive at the airport at 6:45—45 minutes to get checked in, go through security, and get on the plane. Unfortunately, Mom didn't inform me where I was supposed to go; I didn't know the terminal number I was supposed to be in, I didn't know what gate we were flying out of, I didn't even know what airline we were going with. So I made my best educated guess and told Josh to go to the International terminal. I run up to the Aer Lingus desk because, as far as I know, they're the only Irish airline that flies out of O'Hare. When I get to the desk, I blurt out, "Checking in for my 7:30 flight to Dublin, the name is Andrew Moody." The guy at the desk gives me a befuddled stare and says slowly, "Well, that's impossible. We're closed for the night—no more flights until tomorrow. There's a flight to Dublin on American Airlines, but that leaves at 7:20—could that be the one?" "Uhhh. I assume so? Maybe?" "Well that's on the other side of the airport, so. You better hurry." At this point, it was 7. I had twenty minutes to get to the other side of the airport.

I sprint down the hallway, down the escalator to catch the tram that goes around the perimeter of the building and would take me to the right terminal. Waiting for the tram to arrives costs me five minutes and the tram ride costs me five minutes. It is now 7:10 and I have ten minutes to catch my flight. When the tram stops, I sprint as fast as I can to the American Airlines desk and check in. The attendant notices I don't have any bags to check in and is suspicious: "No bags...?" she inquires. "No, I don't have any bags. Long story," I reply between deep breaths." This reply, of course, makes her even more suspicious, so she informs that she needs to hear the story before she prints my ticket up for me; I tell her the story and she begrudgingly obliges to print my boarding pass up for me—this interaction costs me another five minutes. It is now 7:15 and I have five minutes to catch my flight. I run through security, where the guard greets me with, "No bags...?" "No bags." So he sends me to the express lane. It was express because it only had less than 30 people in it. Getting through, however, only takes a couple of minutes, quick and painless. It is now 7:18. I run like hell through the building to the appropriate terminal, and I see my mom and sister standing in line, waiting to board the plane and I shout, "Wait!!" hoping that the pilot, sitting in his cockpit out on the tarmac, would somehow hear me.

But I managed to get on the plane with about ten minutes to spare. As it turns out, something went wrong with getting all of the luggage loaded on the plane on time and the flight was delayed another 20 minutes. On the plane, I sat next to an old Irish woman who works with the Irish Catholic church; we talked at length about the spiritual condition of Ireland, and how I've always felt called to be a music missionary in Ireland. When I told her the story and how I managed to make the flight on time, she smiled and told me, "There's no such thing as a coincidence. It's apparent that God wanted you to be in Ireland right now—I can tell that He's going to use you in a mighty way."
This beginning was definitely a sign of things to come during the trip. There were several occasions where I thought I was up the creek in one way or another, but God provided each time. If you're a secularist, you could say that "the luck of the Irish" was on my side. However, much like the old Catholic woman on the plane said, "There's no such thing as a coincidence."