Sunday, July 19, 2015

confessions of a not completely Irish woman

I do feel that I indentify as Irish, certainly more than anything else. I recognise the Americanness in myself, answer to calls from that country and culture often, with a comfort that belongs to childhood familiarity. But it's not a place I'd belong.

Ireland isn't quite either, maybe. So much here is aggravating, frustrating, counter-intuitive. I can boggle with the best of them at the greasy-fingered till operators we elect to govern us; pencil pushers who disregard the value of culture at best, sneer at it at worst. Local, individual gain is what they see value in.

The people-in-the-comments who sneer at women, at the concept of feminism, while displaying the most ignorant casual sexism and an utter lack of understanding of themselves, their culture, anything. It's hard not to be enraged or disgusted when you know that this mentality makes up an enormous part of society at large, and seeing it stamped with the mores of your own land makes it all the more personal.

If I had the choice of a super-power, it might well be to grab people by the head and make them see, see what they're saying, what they're failing to understand, how they're making others feel. Make them feel it all, the effects of the bigger picture. Empathy. Conceptual thinking. Seeing past your own social upbringing. Perhaps this is what bothers me most.

And yet... Ireland is a country where strangers chat at bus stops. Where they take in waifs and strays more often than not. Where my mother got embraced by the man from the ESB who came to cut off her electricity and told there, there - he came down off the ladder when he heard her story and put his arms around her, and left the power on. That was a long time ago, and wouldn't happen now, but there are still pockets of perfection left in the midst of burgeoning bureaucracy.

Yesterday I went to  visit a friend in her new house, which is in the midst of refurbishment. She was camping there and awaiting a delivery of a fridge and chest freezer. Two guys popped the fridge in and then joined her in working out how to get the chest freezer in the twisting garden gate and through the too small other gate to the back of the house. One young guy (with fabulous beard and hair do) and a slightly greyer older guy, both with classic Dublin working class accents, friendly, helpful - my friend was taking the gate off its hinges, they deliberated about just hefting it over the six foot wall... we removed the gate, they dismantled her rotting pergola for her (delighted to find a use for the saw they had in the truck), and joked and laughed, all good natured. I watched one of them knock the nails down into the planks of wood he'd removed, so no one would hurt themselves on it. In the end, the squeeze was still too tight, so they lifted it in the air and carried it over the gate, past the tree... put it in place, unwrapped it, took away the packaging and were shocked when she gave them a twenty as a tip.

Her mother had warned her to let them do the gate if it was necessary, 'it's their job'. It so isn't! My husband's had delivery men dump a giant, heavy tv at the front door and fuck off in surly fashion. These guys rose to the challenge with delight and humour. They were blessed. My friend and I discussed how much we would have liked to take them for a drink and be friends with them - she lamented that doing things like asking your lovely driving instructor and his wife over for dinner would be inappropriate.

I don't think it is, though - my friend knows my gynaecologist because when  her father in law was a young taxi driver, her picked an American family up from the airport, drove them to Dublin, and then when they asked for advice on where to rent a house, gave them a wee tour of likely areas. My gynae was a child in the back of the car with her brother - and now she and my friend's husband are still friends, as are their own kids. How cool is that? This is how we made friends in the past. Why not now?

Anyway, my hat is off to those guys, who deliver for DHL, btw. They were just excellent human beings. And sort of supermen in their own right, to be honest! I'm going to rob the photo she sneaked, as it's pretty anonymous, in terms of house and delivery men. But it helps if you see the context!

These men made my day, I have to admit. With their maleness, their strength, their generositity. And their Irishness. 


Ms. Moon said...

Sometimes people can just be so fabulous and kind. Even here.
Oh, Jo. Is there a country where we crazy ladies belong?

Jennifer said...

Crazy ladies of the world should unite and purchase a small island somewhere! I'd move there in a minute. Utopia!!

Jo said...

Ha! Would you believe I had great plans for Jotopia in the past, but sadly I no longer meet my stringent standards for citizenship :)

But yes, I would live on crazy lady island in a flash.

Mwa said...

Another crazy lady here.
I still have a soft spot for the neighbour who helped me put in our new lock when we first moved here. He just came over and did it for me when I couldn't. It's the best when people are friendlier than they need to be.