Walking towards Dame Street I smell urine, and decide to light a cigarette to drive out the stink in my nose.
A sad looking fellow in a faded gray tracksuit comes up next to me; apparently he also likes the smell of cigarettes, because he has the nerve to asks me for one. I stop walking and give it to him, only to be asked if I have some extra change, and to inform me that he doesn’t like menthol cigarettes.
I don’t speak, I don’t give him change, and he doesn’t give me the menthol cigarette back. I’m grateful, as it means that the conversation stops just as it had started. Foggy cafe windows, sidewalks full of toothless grannies with ratty Dunnes bags in the crook of their arms, Pakistani youths singing a song from the motherland while gesturing with their hands to each other, and skinny pale fathers (or very young uncles) speed through with a butt in their mouth, head cocked and yelling into their mobile while they push a pram.
I hit the corner of South George’s Street and Dame, and I want to go across, but I’m stuck behind a family of great (giant would be the best word) Danes that are looking confused at their map of Dublin. The map is upside-down. Their sing-song accent reminds me of a Monty Python sketch, but I forget which one. As I am hobbit sized, I figure I should just wait for them to walk forward as my signal to cross (and hope the walk sign works today), as a balding, beet red faced man sways to my left hand side.
As with smoking, can one get drunk second hand? I start to think so as I involuntarily inhaled the fermented drink he had soaked himself in into the wee hours. The wind, of course, suddenly decides to pick up again, which blows my lioness mane into my drunken neighbor’s face. It must have really tickled because he twitches his nose and in a blitz moment sneezes into it….
Lord, there’s got to be an easier way to get around Dublin.
“Ah, ya just want a napkin?”, asks the perplexed weasel faced boy working at Spar. “So, you’re not going to buy anything?” Doesn’t my look of disgust, as well as me holding a tangled mess dripping hair at 90 degrees say enough?
This particular Wednesday is sadly quite the same as most mornings: downright dreary. Oh yes, I try to do what all the self-help books say: if you can’t change the situation, change your outlook. I might wear gray instead of black socks, depending on my mood.
If I feel totally thrilled with life, I have on occasion, hidden my watch and asked someone for the time just to strike up a conversation. Scoff and say that I’m pathetic, but I must admit, I relish being a social recluse in the morning, and the winter windy weather, combined with small congested streets does not help my condition. A bike? Not blessed with any sense of coordination. Taxi? The taxi driver told me about renting a bike. Bus? Claustrophobic. In short, I think I am most reliable with my own two feet.
At the risk of sounding more dispirited, I doubt that I am alone. When I walk around town I see a sea of different faces ebbing and flowing down the streets, and they seem (for the most part) just as down as I am mornings. Regardless of it being the D4 fashionista that is swearing under her breath that her once coiffed hair is now sopping wet, or the guy in the Big Bird yellow jacket handing out soggy newspapers, they all look miserable.
Don’t get me wrong, I really like Dublin in general, I just loathe its harshness in the morning. Dublin in the evening is much more entertaining. The rain would have stopped to a light drizzle, and my hair (thoroughly washed twice after this morning) would be pinned up. Both the cigarette man and the Pakistanis have been replaced by a group of orange coloured laughing teens, teetering arm in arm on pairs of cheap heels. The young dad has probably dropped the kid back off to his mam’s to babysit while he goes out. The windows around are still foggy but the lighting within provides lovely shadows, and our giant tourists are either packing for the flight back home or taking selfies at The Spire. The lack of daylight makes Dublin seem so much more mysterious.
But mornings I don’t have the physical or emotional energy to be cheerful- I can do that later. I’m nursing a hangover from last night, and I’m too busy trying to avoid all the dog feces camouflaged in random crevices in the sidewalk.