I didn’t learn to drive when everyone else I knew did – most of the girls in my year by sixth year had their car/the car they shared with a sister or other family member, some even so skilled they’d gotten rid of their L plates and were happily scooting around at weekends, heading off gallivanting to nowhere in particular. I spent many an evening the summer after my Leaving Cert driving around Waterford and south Kilkenny, for no reason rather than just something to do, somewhere to be, blasting out Rascal Flatts “Life is a Highway”. Soon after, I moved to Cork city, and the need to drive vanished. It became something other friends who didn’t live in the city did, sure it was small enough to walk everywhere and I was now blessed with the presence of regular public transport. It is amazing how grateful for crappy public transport a rural upbringing can make you.
Six years, three house moves, numerous job changes and a toddler later, I am a defeated woman. It is time, nay, TIME for me to get my ass into gear (not literally) and get behind the wheel. I’ve even got the groundwork done, after passing my theory test in September of last year. Since then I’ve done two lessons, and thanks to my wonderful back injury, nothing more. I put it off. I said it was fine, I’d get back to it. Continued relying on friends and family members for help with moving, for longer journeys back for visits home with toddler in tow. My very lovely physio informed me that driving a manual was, for me, not the greatest idea in the world and that I should perhaps think about learning to drive in an automatic. I’d been thinking about it but not wanting to do it, purely because of how restrictive it will make the cars I can get and drive if I do pass my test in an Automatic car. (Let’s ignore the fact that I have to get over my fear of other cars – caused from being hit by one, so somewhat justified – to pass the test. I’m passing the test. Yeah). She used a similar analogy to the Spoon Theory (which if you haven’t read it before, you should here, as it will up your understanding of what it is to live with chronic illness or pain, it was certainly an eye opener for me) where she instead used “tokens” – I can choose to use up my tokens fighting with a clutch and a gearstick and hurt my back, or I can chase after my little boy, go for a walk, do something fun and instead give in and learn in an Automatic. The process of learning to drive in one is a bit more difficult – Steve, the original driving instructor I’d found- who had been calming and patient and made the process easier – didn’t have the use of an automatic to teach in, so it would require buying it before starting lessons – a bit of a non starter for me when I wasn’t sure how well I would take to it. I’ve been looking for instructors who have automatic cars to teach in and have found one or two. However with house moves and stressful other things going on, I’ve been putting it off and putting it off. Until Today.
This weekend, I decided to head back to Waterford/Wexford, to visit family, to celebrate my little brother’s 21st birthday at a family dinner and to relax from the craziness that has been moving house. Normally this has required planning for a journey of two halves, necessitating lifts (and car seats) there and back. This time, I decided that while I was happy to take my mother up on her offer to come collect us, that we’d try make life easier and use the bus to come back. The Number 40 bus, the past bane of my life, my home-college-random trips to Kerry method of transport for years, sure how bad could it be. We’d done it once before and escaped relatively unscathed. However, a few mistakes were had…
Mistake No 1: Packing as if we were going away for a month instead of four days. You’d think I’d learn by now.
Mistake No 2: Using the stroller that yes folds up nice and small WHEN it folds up. Today was not a folding up day. Today was a making me want to cry day.
Mistake No 3: Telling my brother we’d be fine at the bus station and to not come in and help when he offered. I’m actually an idiot. I wound up standing next to the luggage hold, trying to hold onto a toddler with one hand (who thankfully, unlike yesterday, didn’t have a puddle to sit in while he waited), trying to karate chop the buggy into folding in a million different ways, while also trying to manage the many other bags containing our clothes and belongings, making sure the one with the expensive electronics (and the childs toys and snacks) was coming with us on the bus. Much thanks are deserved by the lovely lady who E thankfully let hold his hand while I flung the stroller, unfolded, underneath the bus and gathered up the rest of the troops.
Mistake No 4: Paying the princely sum of 24 euros to get us back to Cork. I have recently gone to visit the lovely Suzy and her gorgeous children and paid less to have a return journey to Dublin from Cork than I did to go one way from Waterford. It wasn’t quite an option, but seriously BE, what are you at with your fares?
Mistake No 5: Not charging my phone fully before we left. In my head Peppa Pig was going to be my saviour when it all fell apart on this bus journey. That’s not exactly possible when you’ve got an iPhone which likes to turn itself off at 25% blinking the “Less than 20% charge left” light at you. That said, better than losing it…
Mistake No 6: Not being able to find said phone. Turns out when child dropped bottle and it rolled the whole way down to the driver, so did my phone. Mortifyingly, this I only found out after turning on Find my iPhone from my Macbook, which then wouldn’t shut up, and as it took a while to get the driver’s attention, I pretty much had a full bus audience. Covered in baby puke. Not my classiest moment.
Mistake No 7: The baby puke. Okay, so it couldn’t have been avoided – one minute all was grand, we were chatting about ducks going quack and singing twinkle twinkle, the next the child was looking at me with a look of “Oh no, please make it stop” and was vomiting cottage cheese all over me. All down my hoodie, all over his jumper, down onto my jeans. The smell. I looked out the window and realised with horror that we were an HOUR away from our destination. There is only so much that baby wipes can do. I stripped off the hoodie, having to leave on the vest top which it had soaked into so remained smelling (Bus Eireann is not ready for my glamour shots just yet), removed the child’s jumper, attacked his jeans with baby wipes and prayed the smell would fuck off. Bundling the offensive clothes into a nappy bag and tying it, praying to any deities out there that it would all fit, and sticking it into another bag didn’t quite work but it was the best I could do.
Mistake No 8: Not checking the bus timetable to see that it wasn’t the “express” option I thought it was. So many back roads. So many tiny villages on the way to Cork. While covered in puke. Did I mention the smell?
Mistake No 9: Handing the child his toy aeroplane too early. It wound up flung on the ground more than once. I’m sure the other passengers were super appreciative of the aeroplane sounds (which are strangled at best) of a plastic British Airways plane, a much cherished toy in these parts lately since Dada has been heading off on planes a lot. (Lucky Dada). Wound up humming the “Bing Bong” song to try distract him while channelling any flexibility I had (I’ve got feck all these days) to try reach for the damn thing on the ground. Damn song now stuck in head.
Mistake No 10: We reach Cork. It’s raining (of course it is. It’s Cork). I decide to feck it and run, child strapped into buggy (not a coat to be seen), everything stuck onto the buggy, making it half way out of the bus station before realising the reason I was cursing the stupid stroller for being so difficult to move weren’t the heavy bags weighing it down (seriously, way too much stuff) but that I hadn’t taken the brakes off (doh!). I go to Supervalu, intending to grab things for dinner and cake which I feel I’ve earned at this point. There is a near meltdown from the child who clearly doesn’t want to be in his puke smelling t-shirt any longer (I don’t blame him, but we do also need dinner). I grab my few items, pay, and then walk off without the bag of shopping. And don’t realise until we’re half way up the road and have to return, tail between legs, hoping the snacks in the bag will bribe the child to please stop whining until we are at least half way home. I’m definitely on lists for Mother of the Year on this one alone. Oops. He’ll deal with it in therapy in years to come and I will guiltily pay for said therapy.
Mistake No 11: Not satisfied with how spectacularly public transport and toddlers had combined earlier in the afternoon, I decided to not grab a cab (mostly based on the fear of not being able to fold the buggy again) and went to wait for the bus. I rediscovered just how flexible (read: completely crap) the BE timetable is for city buses. In the rain. In front of a massive car-splashy puddle.
We eventually got home. We had dinner. We changed into our jammies, threw our manky pukey clothes in the wash, had some cuddles and some running around the apartment (him, not me, I have no such energy). And then he got into the gro-bag, drank his bottle and fell asleep within ten minutes. I think the Universe is giving me something to stop me from having a mental breakdown – today is just day one of single parenting out of the next ten while Dada is off on a work trip. Give me my win.
Now, to look for automatic car driving lessons so that NEVER has to happen again… Any tips?
I have fallen off the internet for the last week thanks to our house move, which you can read all about here. Hopefully this should all be resolved tomorrow, in which case, you can continue to follow the dire attempts at parenting and life in general here, or on my Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.