My Favorite Traffic Jam

Shot from the top of Main Street, Dingle, County Kerry, Ireland.

Main Street on a quietish day. Centra is the big, stone-faced building on the right.

Mornings are delivery time on Main Street, Dingle. Trucks turn up from The Mall and trundle uphill with their supplies of giftware, produce and booze to stock shops, restaurants and pubs. The biggest trucks head for the biggest shops–  Fitzgeralds’ Home and Hardware and the Centra grocery store directly in front of it.

Both the hardware store and Centra are accessed by the same very small driveway, overhung with an archway apartment, and leading to a tiny parking area between the two shops.

Young woman with head slightly down and arms outstretched in front ofher, hands touching and cupped, expression serene.

Make the turn. Make…the…turn. Oops.

There’s barely enough room for two cars to enter the neck of the lot.  Most days someone has parked in the neck, so if a car is coming out, you can’t go in.  It’s only when you’re  in the neck that you can you spot available parking spaces, so you have to feel the zen before you make that fatal turn.

Often the zen fails and all you see is a queue of cars ahead of you trying to turn around and get out.

For awhile I rented office space directly across from the Centra parking lot.  One sunny summer morning — Main Street buzzing with deliveries, locals running errands and tourists dawdling in front of the shops — my friend Tor stopped in for a chat.  After awhile, our attention was drawn to the large front window, outside of which a situation was developing.

Close-up of front grill of red lorry.

I can fit. Really, I can.

A huge red lorry had made its slow way up the street, air brakes wheezing, and tried the left turn into the Centra parking lot. Cars were parked right up to both edges of the driveway, giving him an extremely small opening to negotiate. There were cars trying to exit, and, yes, there was a car parked in the neck of the entranceway.

Emerging from his cab, the driver considered the physical possibilities.  The Fitzgerald sons appeared from somewhere.  A consultation ensued.  A small crowd began to form and some none-too-sober locals drifted out of Foxy John’s and Curran’s to assist in the effort.

Meanwhile, traffic on Main Street stopped dead, and anyone already in the Centra car park was trapped there.  Tor and I watched as the consultation became more animated.  Going by the hand gestures, numerous alternatives were under consideration.

“I wonder,” said Tor, as some type of strategic decision was made and the truck driver got back into the cab, “if I should go over and move my car.”

“Your car?!” I responded, “that’s you?”  Yes, it was Tor’s car in the neck of the driveway, making the truck driver’s life hell.

“It’s too late now, I think,” she replied thoughtfully, “No, I definitely can’t go over there now.”

Decision made, we continued to watch, and so were prime witnesses to the next development. As the traffic on lower Main Street backed up,  a tourist driver, perhaps lulled by the utter lack of traffic on Upper Main, chose this moment to make his cautious wrong way down the one-way street.

Group of people inside a pub.

I wonder if anyone outside needs our help…

The pub punters were delighted.  The hapless tourist — expression morphing from confusion to alarm to fear as he encountered an angled lorry and a line of stalled, exasperated drivers — froze.

The pub crowd took over, merrily barking instructions in Irish (or perhaps it was incomprehensible English), waving their arms purposefully, and grinning elasticky drunk grins into the driver’s side window.  Eventually they persuaded the wrong-way tourist to start backing slowly up the street, if only to get away from them.

That situation apparently sorted, Tor and I turned back to the lorry, which was making an inch-by-inch kind of progress.

Then, “I don’t believe it,” said Tor, “this tops all.”

Black-faced sheep, close-up; others behind him.  Or her.

Get outta my way.

Coming up the street from the left, expression craggily serene, was a farmer in cap and wellies, driving a herd of sheep with his staff.  Past the backed up cars, past the inching lorry, past the struggling tourist and delighted pub patrons, past McCarthy’s pub and up Goat Street, the herd bustled on until out of sight.

A few moments after the sheep parade, the lorry triumphantly negotiated the parking entrance.  The punters cheered and returned to the pubs.  Traffic flow resumed.

About 1/2 hour later, Tor got into her car and drove discreetly away.


Bonus Kerry traffic jam. 

Something strange is happening in the road near Paude O’Se’s.  So, you wait.  And film.  And comment on the action.