Continued from yesterday’s post.
I look at the passing delapidated buildings, murals, flags and gangsters with mounting concern. How has this happened? I was so close to Belfast Central Station that I was practically on the railway track, and now here I am, apparently in the ganglands of the Bronx. A text arrives from Dirk as I’m sitting at a set of smashed traffic lights outside a shop with a smashed window, studiously ignoring a smashed man who is staggering around my car. We here says the text. Well, that’s great. They’re there. Where is there, and how did I get here, when I was so nearly there?
I dither nervously at the crossroads as the lights turn from red to green yellow to yellow. It would seem that I have 4 options. Go left: all streetlights broken. Would be venturing into unknown. Go right: crowd of hooded men walking down middle of road. Possible car-jacking scenario. Go straight ahead: road bends sharply after a few metres. Who knows what could be around the corner? Give up and go home: tempting. But selfish.
I opt for straight ahead, going on the theory that things can’t really get any worse. Obviously, I am completely wrong about this, and I find myself driving into a rather terrifying housing estate. It’s a labyrinth of roads, sub-roads, and mini-roads. I am more lost than the 100th sheep, and I don’t think anyone is looking for me.
I pull over to reply to Dirk’s text. Got stuck at roadworks. Be there ASAP. This is true, in a really vague, clever kind of way.
10 minutes later I am in full-on panic mode, as there is No Way Out of this housing estate. Scary men are everywhere, watching me as I drive up and down and round and round and in and out, with an overwhelming feeling of hopelessness, my nose pressed against the windscreen (my instinctive reaction when I don’t know where I’m going). Tears well up in my eyes as my driving becomes so erratic that Rio the Clio begins to leave the ground when we hit the odd speed bump here and there. Oh my Goddddd! I wail pathetically, Listen, God, I’m scared, and I’m late, and I don’t think there’s any way to escape this place, but please, please, get me the hell out of here, please, please, please… there is no amen, as I begin to mindlessly chant these last words, sounding quite hysterical and maybe a little bit mad.
I swerve to avoid a snarling dog in the road, panic as I almost smash into an oncoming car as a result, and make a rapid left turn in an effort to escape the situation. I emerge on to a main road in a vaguely familiar looking part of Belfast. There is a sign with an arrow on it, which reads Central Station. I consider weeping for joy, just so that I can write it in my blog. (e.g. Weeping for joy, I follow the signposts to Belfast’s Central Station, where my friends are delighted to see me, and we all live happily ever after.) Instead, I pull myself together and focus furiously on not misunderstanding the sign.
Five minutes later, I pull into Central Station and try to enter the carpark through the Exit Only gate. I am severely reprimanded by a stout and disinterested security man who blows smoke in my face and calls me ‘Lav’. He suggests I use the Entry Only gate instead. This sounds fair; however, I am forced to admit to myself after a few rather embarrassing minutes of driving past the same security guard at regular 20-second intervals, that I cannot in fact locate the Entry Only gate. Fortunately, no one seems to mind when I park at the taxi rank, where I phone my travelling friends and demand that they find me. (Which they do with no difficulty whatsoever, because they are Not Like Me.)
I feel it was one of my more successful journeys. Bloggably speaking, of course.