Don’t Mind me: ‘The fine art of dancing on a tea plate’

Patricia Feehily

Reporter:

Patricia Feehily

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BELIEVE me when I say this, but I don’t have any truck at all with all those people outside Limerick, and indeed inside it too, who were amazed to learn at the weekend that the city, well versed in the arts of war and off-street parking facilities, has two Mayors. The more the merrier, is all I can say.

BELIEVE me when I say this, but I don’t have any truck at all with all those people outside Limerick, and indeed inside it too, who were amazed to learn at the weekend that the city, well versed in the arts of war and off-street parking facilities, has two Mayors. The more the merrier, is all I can say.

The days of austerity are dying. Anyway, Limerick is one of the oldest chartered cities in these islands and if London can have two Mayors, then why not Limerick city and county? And why do Dublin and Cork have ‘Lord Mayors’ while Limerick has to make do with two ordinary Mayors? Sometimes I think we get our post colonialism in a knot.

By the way, I really don’t think that we pay enough homage to our Mayors anyway, especially since they were divested of their ceremonial robes and their ‘Right Honourable’ appendages. Do they even get a free car or even a special parking spot these days?

I do wish, however, that one of them - the Metropolitan Mayor preferably, if he survives his current predicament - would do something about the ridiculous dimensions and lay-out of some of the private off street parking facilities in the Metropolis. Many of those facilities are so constricted that you could choke yourself with your seat belt – or your Mayoral chain, as the case may be - trying to wriggle out of a car space designed specifically for Noddy and his little red car. Maybe I’m wrong, and they were merely designed for nothing more sinister than to make the maximum profit possible out of the unfortunate users by packing them as tightly as the planning regulations would allow. Another example of the squeezed middle, you could say!

Now, while it’s all very well to pack ‘em in tight, we can’t all dance on the back of a tea plate, as my mother used to say. I, myself, am spatially challenged to an inordinate degree, probably because of a happy childhood spent in the great open spaces of Tipperary. I tend to freak out if, like a pilot in a fog, I can’t see the horizon. Basically, I need a bit of elbow room to get out of a parking space, and the people who built those indoor parking facilities in the Mid West Metropolis seem to regard elbow room as a waste of profitable space. If you can get in, you should be able to get out, is the philosophy.

I parked in one of those underground conveniences a couple of weeks back at an exorbitant cost, and found myself - not for the first time, mind you - in a tight spot. Getting in was no problem, but, as in Parkinson’s Law, where work expands to fill the time available to complete it, my car seems to expand to fill whatever space is available. When I went to retrieve it, it was slightly angled just a hairsbreadth from a concrete pillar, chunks of which were missing from previous encounters with motorised metal. The car which had been parked beside mine when I went in, had escaped with just a streak of red paint on the pillar at its side. I suppose I could have side stepped to the right, but as I said, I’m not one of those who can dance on the back of a plate. I could see no horizon – just a large SUV ominously close in a space across the narrow passage behind me and a pillar on my left which, in my frenzied state, looked a lot like Lot’s wife herself. It was every bit as nerve-wracking as being stuck on a trolley in the corridors of University Hospital Limerick, and not being able to go backwards or forwards – if that isn’t too odious a comparison. Naturally I freaked out.

I’m sure there was a monitor on me and that someone must have seen me trying to measure how far I was from the pillar by inserting my exit ticket between the car and the said pillar. It got stuck in the gap, that’s how near it was. I really freaked out then and decided that the car was moving inexorably and unaided towards the pillar under some law of physics that hadn’t yet been discovered. Who designs those places, anyway?

I thought of borrowing a sledge hammer and demolishing the pillar, but that might have brought the whole edifice crashing down on me – and the car. I might be spatially challenged, but I’m not a complete nincompoop. Then I heard a car door slam and saw a fellow, who might or might not be Sir Galahad himself, locking his door. I told him I was in a tight spot and maybe he could get me out of it. He took one look and asked incredulously, how I managed to park it like that in the first place. “It did that itself when I was trying to get out,” I explained. He said I might need a JCB, and then walked away, muttering something under his breath that sounded like “women drivers”. The age of chivalry is gone.

Or maybe not! As luck would have it, an old friend from my Limerick Leader days, Fergal Deegan was in the vicinity and hearing of my predicament, came to rescue. I told him I didn’t mind a few scratches as long as he didn’t lose the passenger door altogether. He switched on the engine, put the car in reverse and sent it hopping niftily to the right. Now Fergal is a talented musician, on top of many other talents, but I didn’t know he could get a car to do a side step, without even humming a reel. It was like dancing on a tea plate. Pure magic!

But really, isn’t it time someone in authority had a good hard look at the facilities provided by the parking entrepreneurs of the city to ensure that no visitor to Limerick is ever intimidated by ridiculously tight spaces designed purely for extra profit.