Thierry Henry, GPS and breakdowns: An Irish road trip from hell


The side of a country road in Limerick, Thursday, November 18, 3:30 a.m. -- As I sit here in the pitch dark with only the inside car light illuminating my notebook, I begin to laugh and cry and laugh again. Today has been a day from hell; a day that I hope will soon be consigned to history forever.

The day began beautifully. My good friend, James White, asked me to accompany him on the four-hour journey from Tralee to Dublin this morning.

James, 33, is practically bald. He has been since his early 20s and he was downright sick of it.

After watching an episode of the “Late Late Show,” Ireland’s longest running talk show, he discovered there was a solution to his problems. It’s called a hair system. It’s not a wig or a hair piece, but rather actual hair attached to a head. Like normal hair it needs to be cut and washed.

Anyway, Wednesday’s trip to Dublin was to purchase more hair systems and check in with the company that supplies them.

The day started off wonderfully. The rain had subsided for a few hours, the roads were clear of traffic and we had a lot of time to catch up on four and a half years of gossip.

We arrived in Dublin, following directions by Map Quest, in no time at all. In fact we were so early we took advantage of a €5.50 lunch special in a local bar in Swords.

As we walked through the doors of the hair structure company a sign advertising teeth whitening for €99 jumped out at me.

This was exceptional value I thought. In Tralee, my hometown, this would cost approximately €300.

I wondered if I could avail of such a great offer. I was in luck. They could slot me in while James was getting his new hair. Perfect timing.

After an hour of laser treatment, I came out teeth shining and James had a whole new head of hair. We were a right pair.

Delighted with our success, we grabbed some snacks for what should have been a four-hour journey home. And this is where the nightmare begins.

Because James didn’t print return directions back to Kerry we were resigned to use the satellite navigation system (sat nav) or GPS system as we call them in the U. S. As I drove my way out of Dublin in my old sports car -- James purchased my Opel Tigra six years ago when I left for New York -- I was in my element. It was lovely to be reunited with my fabulous car again.

We made a good team. The Tigra never had the same affection for James; he had experienced a lot of trouble with her in the six years they have been together.

Anyway, as I’m trying to navigate my way out of Swords and onto the M50 motorway James is toying with the sat nav.

“It’s telling me we won’t get to Tralee until 1:44 p.m. tomorrow,” said James.

Well how could that be I thought. Tralee was only four hours away and we needed to get back by then to see the Ireland vs. France soccer game.

I pulled in off the motorway to figure out what James was doing wrong. No luck. Every which way I went about it sat nav was telling us we would not reach Tralee until lunchtime Thursday.

“It must be broken,” I said getting agitated, as I knew I didn’t know my way home.

We then tried to read the Map Quest directions backwards, but one wrong turn landed us in the middle of Dublin city center. I knew if I got to Heuston Station I would be able to get us out of the city and on the right road.

After an hour stuck in city traffic we finally happened upon the train station. Now we were home free, I thought.

No such luck.

I, yet again, took the wrong exit, and before I knew it we were on the road to Galway. After several calls to friends we ended up in Celbridge in Kildare.

As I continued to drive at the advice of those who knew better James decided to have one more look at the sat nav. After a few minutes of fiddling with buttons, he turned to me as I’m driving and said, “It says it’s on BICYCLE mode.”

It took a few seconds for the penny to drop before we realized that the reason it was taking us nearly 20 hours to get to Tralee was because sat nav thought we were cycling a bike!

At this stage we couldn’t help but laugh; in fact we laughed so much I nearly rear-ended a truck in front of me. Finally, three hours after leaving Swords, we were on the right road.

Unfortunately we weren’t even close to making it back to Kerry for the big game so we pulled in at a town called Mountrath, about an hour outside Dublin.

By now all of you reading this know how gut wrenching the Irish game was. We couldn’t get our head around the result and the cheater Thierry Henry.

A quick trip to the bathroom before departure frightened the life out of me. I glanced in the mirror while washing my hands to discover, to my horror, that my lips had swollen up like balloons.

I looked like I had just undergone an aggressive session of Botox. My lips were bigger than Angelina Jolie’s at this stage.

Confused and embarrassed by the sight in the mirror, I laughed. What else was there to do at this stage? It was too late to call the place I had the teeth whitening done so I had to grin (literally as my mouth was so swollen) and bear it until tomorrow.