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Road rage and tourism terrorism

On the Edge

 Áine Ryan

Season of road rage and tourism terrorism


Áine Ryan

It’s that time of the year again here in the wild west. Tourism terrorism time! An affliction that affects natives – even those of the mildest dispositions – with bouts of road rage that can lead to emergency therapy sessions or sudden rises in blood-pressure challenging even the most aerobically fit.   
Despite the fact that our plant life is utterly confused by Arctic conditions (almost) which followed that Caribbean-like week of weather back in April, the seasonal species known as Very Slow Visitors Drivers (VSVD) who seem to assume that the native population is never in a hurry, has returned.
It isn’t as if I’m a boy-racer needing to screech around corners doing wheelies and doughnuts. I’m a Miss Daisy and like to tip along at a most civilised 80 kilometres an hour with my foot always hovering over the brake in my commitment to expecting the unexpected (Ask the kids!). And this time of the year that can be anything from an overly maternal sheep whose offspring has not yet learned the rules of the road to the seasonal influx of VSVDs (see above) who erroneously assume they are driving through a national park developed solely for their aesthetic delectation.   
And that is exactly what I was doing (driving safely) on my recent jaunt to Galway. Might I explain: I always travel through the scenic route – Leenane and Maam, Oughterard and sometimes even right out to the coast at Casla and Spiddal, rather than along the flat, inland, mind-numbing route through Ballinrobe and The Neale, Cross and Headford.   

Poetic vista
FRANKLY, for me, the expansive vista from Carrowkennedy before the rollercoaster bog roads descend into the wall of hills and mountains that stand precipitously over the Killary, provides poetry for the soul. Whether covered in walls of mist, blowing a gale that howls in over the ocean or all shimmering and flighty with the sky an azure blue, it is the perfect antidote to the humdrum stresses of daily life.
Clearly this is not a private route that I was bequeathed through some medieval inheritance and, unsurprisingly, it is used by other vehicularly propelled people and not just the natives of Counties Mayo and Galway. Unsurprisingly, because of its natural and unspoiled assets, it is most popular with VSVDs.
And it was one such driver that caused my poetic odyssey to go off the rails on my most recent journey. I was still on the Westport side of Leenane when I came upon my nemesis – he was driving a very shiny red car with a 151 D registration – a clear giveaway. Fortunately, I wasn’t in a hurry. I was meeting friends for a pre-theatre drink and dinner at 6pm. It was now just before 3pm, which meant that even if the VSVD was before me all the way to Galway, I’d probably make it.

Rollercoaster

THE problem was though that the erratic nature of his driving had unnerved me within five minutes of being stuck behind him. He was revving up as if he was taking off from a runway and then suddenly slowing down as he ambled and careered from right to left along the narrow winding road; both himself and his female companion clearly distracted, bowled over, OMG, by the gallery of spectacular scenery surrounding them.
Invoking my positive side, I decided he had to be turning right in Leenane for Kylemore Abbey or Clifden. But, that rising road rage reprieve was not to be. He navigated to the left in Leenane as if he was the Bull McCabe following a stampede of escaped cattle.
I sighed first.
It took another five minutes of  his lurching and swaying before I gave into a series of expletives that could have actually fuelled my car, and, probably, the tailback of five vehicles now behind me.
My worry, always, in these situations, is that the drivers of the caravan of vehicles building up to my rear will think that I am the culprit – the driver to blame for them missing a ferry, a doctor’s appointment, a Feng-Shui class, their wedding day.
So I am now sitting on the edge of my seat attempting to determine at what future straight stretch (there are very few on the N59) is the road wide enough to pass the Swaying Dutchman out without being hurtled into a field, upside down.
Clearly oblivious to the road enraged driver to his rear, he suddenly swerves across the road to avoid a puddle. Yes, a puddle. If it was a pothole I could have empathised. I never knew my car horn could have such an impact. He looked positively pale as I passed him out. Idiot!