Michael Harding: geolocating the ditch Auntie Mary peed in

We’re using Google maps to find Auntie Mary’s lost phone in a ditch in Westmeath

An image came to my mind of the phone lying in a ditch where it would never be found again until the damp had eaten into the screen and destroyed it forever.

An image came to my mind of the phone lying in a ditch where it would never be found again until the damp had eaten into the screen and destroyed it forever.

 

I phoned the Skoda garage in Drogheda one day during the summer and asked: “Do you have a second-hand Yeti, by any chance?”

The salesman replied: “I do, but it’s white.”

I said: “That would be grand.”

And then I asked him how much.

He mentioned a price and I said I wouldn’t give him that. So he came down a bit and I went up a bit and then he came down another bit and we met at a round figure in the middle and I said I’d be over the following day to pick it up.

I’ve been driving around all summer, happy as Larry with the new machine because it’s like a little Jeep.

“But my dear boy,” the General said, “it’s not a Jeep. It’s a van.”

“I know that,” I said, “but it feels like a Jeep.”

“Why do you want to pretend it’s something it’s not?” he wondered.

“I’m not pretending it’s a Jeep,” I protested. “I’m not an idiot.”

“Do you have an issue with size?” he asked. “Do you want to imagine things are bigger than they are?”

And he was eyeballing me with his nose in my face.

The fact is I’m delighted with the Yeti, and I was out and about all summer, meeting people and sitting at the beaches in Bundoran and Enniscrone with ice-cream cones and talking in strange places to women with funny hats and visiting distant relations.

Auntie Mary

I was even able to give Auntie Mary a lift to a wedding in Galway, although on the way back, in the middle of the night, she needed to use the bathroom and we were on the N4 between Mullingar and Carrick-on-Shannon. She was so desperate that I pulled over and let her out near the gate of a field.

Auntie Mary is a big woman. She was wearing a floral-patterned dress for the wedding and her hat was like a separate event on the top of her head. The hat stuck out over her forehead like a gawking bird, and there were feathers to the rear.

As she squatted in the dark it was still perched on her head, like a bird about to fly, and I suppose we were lucky there was no moon, because the floral dress blended with the hedgerow and her little hat sat up just above the bush and if a passing gunman was dreaming of pheasants he might have shot her head off.

But it’s amazing how far we have evolved as a species over the past 30 years. The interaction with technology has transformed human consciousness so much that even elderly aunts have a different cosmic view. For a start her brash determination to find a ditch to pee in surprised me. I suppose that’s because she’s addicted to Big Brother. And the following morning, to my amazement, I found her working on an iPad at the breakfast table. I didn’t even know she had an iPad.

“My son gave it to me,” she said. “He always gets the latest model, so I get the old ones. I have a laptop, a desktop and this thing,” she said smiling into the glow of the iPad.

“Wonderful,” I said, pouring myself some warm watery tea.

‘I lost my phone’

“But I have a problem,” she declared. “I lost my phone.”

“Oh, it will turn up,” I said. “Probably still in the car, or the bedroom, or maybe behind the sofa where you sat last night, watching Trump and drinking those tiny baby vodkas that rattle in your handbag when you walk.” But she dismissed all those possibilities.

“I dropped it when we stopped for the toilet,” she declared.

An image came to my mind of the phone lying in a ditch where it would never be found again until the damp had eaten into the screen and destroyed it forever.

“That’s a disaster,” I whispered.

“Not quite,” she replied, her eyes on a Google map of Westmeath. “Here it is,” she announced. And she showed me the little blue blink on the screen in a field near the N4.

And I was very proud of my Yeti as we drove back towards Mullingar with the co-ordinates for the phone blinking on the car’s computer screen.

“Where did you get this car?” she asked.

“Drogheda,” I said. There was a pause.

“Do all cars have stuff like this nowadays?” she asked pointing at the screen.

And I felt like an anthropologist watching a species make that leap into the future that saves them from extinction.

“I think it’s time I learned to drive,” she muttered.

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