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Getting the thumb out

A Breaffy Man in Castlebar

edwin mcgreal
Getting the thumb out


A stranger approached me and asked for a lift during the week.
I complied straight away. Maybe it was something to do with the fact that she was tall, blonde and good looking.
But I’d like to think I’m above such prejudice.
No, it was more that I was caught off guard. And, being the shy, retiring Breaffy man that I am, when I’m caught unawares, compliance is my default mechanism.
So I agreed and helped out the damsel in distress. The reason for my surprise? Well it’s not an unusual situation for women to approach me, if you want to believe that.
Just that it tends not to happen when I’m behind the wheel of my 1998 Ford Mondeo. But to be fair to my antiquated yet reliable motor, the make and model of the car has little to do with it.
Strangers looking for lifts are a relic from the past. Like the days of Casey Jones and Stalkys in town.
But getting the thumb out and hitchhiking on the side of the road was de rigueur back in the day.
When I was a younger fella it was the only way to get into town. You’d be told to ‘get up off yer arse and thumb a lift’.
Cries for a lift from either of my parents would usually fall on deaf ears. And my cries were long and constant. Bless their stubbornness.
See, even though it was only a few miles in the road my father reckoned a trip to town should only be made when necessary. Dropping a young lad into the bowling alley to play pool would not be considered a necessary journey.
So I’d amble off to the side of the road and thumb. And you were throwing yourself at the mercy of the Gods, unsure who or what could come around the corner next.
It could be a neighbour who would enquire after your family or it could be a stranger. But in that time not so many years ago most strangers would fancy they could know you. And so the questions would start.
‘And who are you when you’re at home?’ Plenty of room for a smart answer but I’d been waiting twenty minutes in the rain, I didn’t want to be thrown out before I got to Kilkenny Cross.
So I’d tell them my name. ‘And which of the McGreals are you?’ would be the next question. ‘Ned’s son’ and as sure as night would follow day the next question - ‘is Eamonn your grandfather?’
See I could hardly go anywhere without someone knowing my grandfather. Apparently he bought a cow off every man, woman and child in Connacht during his life.
And by the time we got to Castlebar, the curious driver had an update on what every one of Eamonn’s eleven children were at.
And I was in at the bowling alley playing pool. Everyone was a winner.