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VARIOUS TEXTS: 'Not Making a Scene'
FROM: ROUND IRELAND WITH A FRIDGE by Tony Hawks

I could fathom* two other things from peering through the smudge* I’d created in the window’s condensation; it was now raining harder than ever, and the town centre of Navan was no place to start hitching because everyone here was either shopping or going to the bank. Thinking there may be a suitable stretch of open road north of the town, I decided to consult the driver.

‘Excuse me, but is there a bus stop north of Navan?’
‘Where are you headed?’
‘Er…Cavan.’
‘Well, this bus goes to Cavan.’
‘Yes…er…yes…but the thing is…I want to get out at a spot which might be suitable —’
‘You’re going to Cavan you say?’
‘Yes, but - Well, this bus is going to Cavan.’
‘I know that, but —’
‘Where are you trying to get to?’
‘Er…Cavan.’
‘Well, this bus is going to Cavan.’
I sat back down again, in absolutely no doubt as to where this bus was going. It was going to Cavan. From my point of view the exchange with the driver had been an abject* failure. All I had succeeded in doing was confirming beyond any doubt whatsoever something that I already knew, and I now had a problem with regard to getting off the bus, the driver seemingly now having taken it upon himself to make sure that he delivered me to Cavan. Any attempt by me to try and get him to stop and let me out on the open road would result in his insistence that it wasn’t Cavan, and that his bus was going to Cavan.

Now I could have insisted he stop and let me off; it was after all my inviolable* right as a passenger, and what was more, I had already travelled further than the validity of my ticket permitted. But I was suffering from the English disease of not wanting to make a scene. Like most English people I fall into the category of those who will suffer a third-rate meal at a restaurant with sloppy service, and then, when faced with the waiter’s question ‘Is everything okay, sir?’ will simply say ‘Yes, fine thanks’. Better that way than making a scene. The last thing you want to do is make a scene.

Somehow I had to find a way of not going to Cavan on this bus. Without making a scene. I decided to try and sneak off at the next stop, hoping that there would be a reasonable amount of cover created by passengers getting on and off. It was a long shot* but it might just work. Fifteen minutes later we stopped on the outskirts of a small town and a few of the people who had joined us in Navan got up and started to make their way off the bus. It was now or never. I quickly jumped to my feet and slipped between an old man, and a woman carrying a baby. It was touch and go* whether the driver would see me out of the corner of his eye but I skilfully used my rucksack to obscure my face. I was good. I was very good, and I found myself descending the steps of the bus with freedom in sight. Such was my feeling of elation* when I hit the ground and started to move off that I was untroubled by the driving rain which greeted me. Suddenly I stopped in my tracks. The fridge!
I’d forgotten the fridge!

I turned round to see the bus doors closing. I scrambled back to the bus and just managed to slam my fist again in the closed door before the bus pulled away. The driver looked down and recognised me. He opened the doors and said, ‘This isn’t Cavan yet.’ We were back to square one*.

‘I know. It’s just that—’
‘Jump back on, this bus is going to —’
‘Cavan, yes I know, it’s just that I thought I might spend some time here first.’
‘In Kells?’
He looked a little surprised, a desire to spend some time in Kells not being a preference often expressed. Looking around me, all I could see was a pub, a shop and the reason for the driver’s surprise. Then I became conscious of the rain. Hard driving rain. I remembered my comfortable lifestyle at home and it occurred to me that I needed to be somewhere where there was a pub, a shop and a head doctor’s.

I responded to the driver’s bewilderment, ‘Yes, I like the look of Kells. Very much.’ I might have been overdoing it. ‘I need you to open up the back for me to get my stuff out.’

The driver obliged, but with a lack of enthusiasm bordering on disapproval. He didn’t buy this whole ‘wanting to spend some time in Kells’ yarn* and as far as he was concerned I’d let him down badly by not staying on his bus as far as Cavan. He helped me out with the fridge, treating it as if it was a perfectly ordinary piece of baggage, and said ‘Goodbye now’ with a hollowness which reflected his deep disappointment in me.

Oh well, sometimes you’ve got to tread on a few toes* in this world.

886 words

From: ROUND IRELAND WITH A FRIDGE by Tony Hawks, ebook
Chap. 3
ISBN: 0312274920


Annotations:
* to fathom - ergründen, begreifen
* smudge - Fleck
* abject - kläglich, jämmerlich
* inviolable - unverletzlich, unantastbar
* long shot - reine Spekulation
* touch and go - sehr riskant
* elation - Hochgefühl, Freude
* to be back to square one - wieder genauso weit sein wie zuvor
* yarn - Seemannsgarn
* to tread on a few toes - jdm. auf die Zehen treten


Assignments:
1. Briefly describe the situation in which the narrator (Tony) is caught and how he manages to free himself from it.
2. The bus driver and the narrator obviously talk at cross purposes. What is the reason for this awkward situation?
3. How does the narrator exacerbate the comical effect of the situation?
4. Hitchhiking with a fridge is based on a bet and not necessarily a normal way of travelling. Would you let in yourself for such a bet?



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