#3 – Close encounters of the dashboard kind.

This fella had an occupy Galway look and a navy car for sale. We were outside Supermacs when he pulled up in the newly washed wagon. He had wiry hair and a red face with busted blood vessels, a shabby beard, and the confidence of a bad Russian gambler. Rasputin job, selling cars on Donedeal. He didn’t even say hello, just went: ‘I think I’m selling too cheap.’

         We let that settle, cars went by in irritated combustion. I looked down, noticed a broken light, asked: ‘What’s that?’

         ‘It’s nothing. Something simple. No problem to fix.’

         ‘Can we take it for a drive?’


         On the road, there was a myriad of symbols on the dash. Airbag, warning lights, something else. There was a noise in the engine too, bit like it was grumpy or ready to explode. And the tracking was off. There was a kind of a lazy sense of swaying back and over on the road, like you’re on a boat in choppy water. The gears were stiff and it was a hard work trying to accelerate, like the car didn’t want to, like it was saying: Stop! Leave me alone.

         The oul fella was with me, full of sage advice and comments, like: ‘This could be another ball of shite.’

         ‘Do you rekcon?’

         ‘Well the dashboard is like a Christmas tree with all the lights so that’s a bad start….’

         ‘Needs an airbag too.’

         ‘And a few other things by the sound of it….’

         ‘Great to have a dashboard at least, not like the other yoke.’

         ‘Yeah, I suppose they should be in every car really when you think about it….’

         We thought about that, took in more noise and mechanical anxiety, then decided to turn around. Pulled in at a layby. Checked the glovebox and found the car manual. Looked up some of the faults. There was talk of stop engine immediately. Bring vehicle to your nearest dealer. Red lights are critical issues. I looked up.

         They were all red.

         Time to head back.

         Himself was waiting, against the wall, vagrant hitchhiker look now, or like a man waiting for a bus to go working on a fruit farm full of convicts. He walked over. Saw the manual on the dash. Didn’t like that, asked: ‘What is story?’

         ‘Tryin to figure out those lights.’

         ‘Simple fix, simple. Some cleaners triggered the sensors under the seat and caused the airbag fault. Fix no problem.’

         ‘We’ll pull up over there.’

         And we did. He said: ‘I have this car a long time. No issues. Drives like a dream.’

         ‘Can you open the boot?’

         His face went vague, unsure and he said: ‘Ok, I think I know how.’

         Took him some effort, but he found the lever, popped the boot. We all looked at it like we knew something about engines, then I went for proactive and pulled the dipstick for oil. Wiped it with a tissue and then dipped. Pulled it back up and there was barely a drop on it. Maybe a slight sliver at the bottom of the tiny ball but far from enough. Your man was in right away with: ‘Easy fix, some oil, no problem. This is not an issue. Drives like a dream. Yours for fifteen hundred….’

         ‘Fifteen hundred what? Half price Roubles?’

         ‘Euros. Yes or no? You want? I have big demand…’




The Pole.

There was big talk about this pole. Everyone kept on about the pole. The pole. The pole. I was driving down the road and the phone rang and this foreign lad said: ‘We need to talk about the pole?’

‘The pole?’

‘The pole.’

‘What pole?’

‘You hit the pole.’

‘What pole are you talking about?’

‘Today, when you were leaving in your car, you reversed back and into the pole.’


‘In the estate. I was talking to you – and I said there was a man in a white van trying to leave and you were in his way and I asked you to reverse and then you reversed over the pole and the pole is in very bad shape now.’

‘How bad?’

‘We think this pole is destroyed. It will not work as a pole anymore.’

‘Still, I don’t know what you’re on about.’

‘It’s ok.’

‘It’s ok?’

‘Yes it’s ok. We have you on CCTV.’


‘CCTV. It’s a recording device. And we have you. And your car. And your registration and we can see you reversing and then driving over the pole. You did it twice.’

‘Did what twice?’

‘Drove over the pole. First time your car had some resistance so you went forward, then went back into reverse with more power, and made a mess of concrete and debris and the pole now won’t work.’

‘So what’s the plan, like, I don’t know how to fix poles.’

‘You must come down here.’

‘And what?’

‘Pay me €100.’

I got a flashback then. Dodgy types smoking rollies and cossacks with no teeth and kind Romanians. It was in beside a laundry with the smell of cheap detergent and broken washing machines strewn around the courtyard. I remembered the pole too. It was like backing over a big cardboard box – gave no resistance. Figured it was already broke and just needed a tip from me. But now here’s Paddy cement bags looking for €100.

I said: ‘I’ll be back again one of the days and give you a shout.’

‘Ok, he said. I’ll be waiting.’

So I hung up and blocked his number and forgot about it. Everything was going well. Then I got a voicemail: ‘Hello, Mick, this is the guards here, could you give us a shout when you get a chance?’

What’s this now, hardly the pole? I rang it back and they said: ‘Mick, there was a fella in here talking about a pole….can you explain what happened?’

It went on like that. There was talk of damages. Insurances. Statements. Court. They weren’t letting it go. They took their poles very seriously and they wanted compensation.

I went back down. Met some of the locals and asked them about the pole. They said it was a regular thing. The pole was hardly standing at all. Fellas do it the whole time and the same lad rings them up and asks for money. No badness in him, he’s just weird like that. They brought me over and showed it to me. How it does be left standing up and fellas do come and knock it over.  Like this:


But sure now the guards were involved and what can you do?

So I rang him back asked how much.

‘€100.’ He said.

‘I’ll be there again Friday.’

Rang the guards back. Told them it was sorted. They said thanks. And they never heard so much about a pole.


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El Niño by Mick Donnellan 

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