I did the stupidest thing last week. I was really annoyed at myself for doing something I’ve always thought only really silly people did.
It was made worse by the number of people who told me it was caused by my constant rushing about. Slow down I was told, including in a Facebook message from a friend who used capital letters and half a dozen exclamation marks to drive home her point!
I was looking for sympathy. I got lectures. It didn’t do anything to improve my mood.
I feel even more aggrieved because I got into the almighty mess I found myself in by trying to be helpful.
My tale of woe began at the crack of dawn on Wednesday last. I was on the road early, trying to make it to a funeral in Co Kerry. I should have filled my car with fuel the night before but was too lazy to. I knew a particular petrol station would be open so figured I’d fill up and be on my way.
When I got there my brain registered ‘diesel’ as I pulled alongside the right pump. There was just the one. A van pulled in directly behind me. Rather than make them wait until I’d filled up, I moved across to the next pump on the same side. I filled the tank and, not wanting to delay, rushed in the shop, paid and high-tailed it back to the car.
I was on the main road, in the outer lane, passing out a line of trucks and vans when the car began to chug. I looked at the dashboard in alarm. Lights were coming on. Loads of different lights. But it was the sensation of the car losing power that told me I was in serious trouble.
I had to manoeuvre my way back across the inside lane of traffic as my speed diminished, to try to get it off the road before it stopped altogether. I managed it, but just barely.
I realised what I’d done. After wondering for years how someone could be so stupid as to put diesel in a car instead of petrol and vice versa, I’d done just that.
And not only that but I’d driven for some considerable distance. Boy did I feel like an idiot. Upset too. How was I going to make it to the funeral? Had I completely wrecked my car?
I sat for a minute fighting the urge to cry. With traffic whizzing by me at high speed wailing in self-pity wasn’t going to be much use. I reached for my phone. Part of me didn’t even want to ring anyone to help, so great was my shame and my need to keep secret my foolishness. Still, there was nothing else for it. I needed rescuing.
I rang my other half, waking him. How quick his tone changed, after deciphering my self-pitying preamble, from concern that I might have been in an accident, to incredulity at my stupidity. He was the first to level the “too much rushing” accusation. Still he agreed to come get me.
My default crisis assistant is my sister but it was no use calling on her, she was already in Kerry. One relative though had planned, like me, to travel that morning. I managed to make contact and he agreed to pick me up en route. We were to drive towards him.
On the way I had to listen to a litany of reproachful remarks from himself. I’m someone that can usually argue their way out of anything but what to say when confronted with evidence of such staggering ineptitude?
I said nary a word in the 60 plus kilometres we travelled. He told me he’d arrange to have the car towed but that I was almost certainly looking at a new engine. What sort of fool drives on when they’ve put in the wrong fuel? The kind that is such an imbecile as to be completely unaware she’s done it.
After playing a game of ‘which exit?’ with my relative we finally found each other. My nerves were in tatters. Now I just had to transport my overnight bag and a hangar with my good clothes on it across to the other side of the road to his car.
I dropped my bag as I tried to cross the road during a break in traffic. The zip is broken and some of the contents spilled out onto the roadway. I was tempted to leave them there, so great was my urge to flee but I scooped them up and continued my dash to the far side.
“Too much rushing! Slow down!” was the first thing my cousin said when I sat into his car. Aaargh! He could have taken his own advice as we careered cross country, trying to make up the time we’d lost.
The next two hours was like something out of a madcap video game as he struggled to get past endless slow moving tractors and slurry spreaders, dozens of fast-moving, large rumbling trucks, dozens more slow-moving pedestrians and drivers traversing the country at a leisurely pace.
A succession of obstacles in the form of double-parkers, delivery lorries, dog walkers and buggy-wielding parents awaited us every time we had to come off the motorway to negotiate our way through a small town or village.
As if the situation couldn’t get any more farcical, I had decided, in my wisdom, that I’d make my early morning journey clad in a track-pants, sweat shirt and bright blue runners and change into my good black trouser suit for the funeral when I got (in plenty of time was the plan) to a relatives house.
With that plan scuppered I attempted to change as my cousin drove. I just couldn’t manage it in his small car so, in the last town we went through before getting to the village where the funeral was, I had him pull over at what looked like a brand new hotel.
I dashed into the foyer only to be greeted effusively by the manager, welcoming me to his hotel and expressing the hope that I’d enjoy my stay. I flew past him, uttering my thanks, making a beeline for the loo where I completed my clothes change and put on a bit of make up.
In my haste I’d left my good dress shoes in the car. I dashed back across the foyer hoping against hope that Ireland’s most attentive hotel manager wouldn’t be there. He was. He decided against saying anything as he watched me sprint across the marble expanse to the door, now clad in my sober black suit and neon-bright footwear.
We arrived just as Requiem Mass was starting and even managed to get a seat. The elderly woman I sat beside looked at me in some concern. My breath was coming in jagged gasps. I sounded disconcertingly like Darth Vadar.
All went smoothly after that and I was able to pay the respects I’d come so far to do. The next day I phoned home to gauge the mood. It was much more conciliatory. There was even good news. My workhorse of a car had survived being poisoned with the wrong fuel. Despite his dire predictions, the engine wasn’t fecked. One less worry.
I broached the subject of how many people he’d informed of my gross stupidity. A few, he told me. Well a good few. Loads in fact.