Tric Kearney: 'I had no idea that at any time a Garda checkpoint could spring up and surprise you...'

Tric Kearney shares the things she learned when she began driving...

My eldest daughter recently bought my mother’s car and I was dispatched to Dublin to collect it. Driving home, my thoughts wandered back 30 years to the first car I owned, the only one I ever truly loved.

I was 20 and a student nurse. It was a red Fiat Panda. Love at first sight.

Nothing or no-one could convince me we were not made for each other and, over the years, it taught me many lessons.

Lesson number one was learned almost immediately: Running a car costs a fortune. I couldn’t believe it kept asking for more petrol and was furious that insurance companies were ignorant and deaf to the fact I was a wonderful driver.

Which brings me to lesson two: Wonderful drivers can crash. Just weeks after buying my lovely car, I smashed it to bits. Of course, it wasn’t my fault, the other driver broke the lights and made an illegal right turn. The resulting crash was spectacular, the damage to my car equally impressive. I was unhurt. OK, I’m just being brave, my little finger hurt like hell.

That day, I learned lesson number three: Know who you are insured with, so you don’t say “I’ve no idea, am I even insured?” to a garda.

Lesson number four quickly followed: No matter how slow you are travelling, your parents will insist it was too fast.

The assessors believed my beauty was a right off, but I wasn’t ready to give up so easily. After much begging, they agreed to fix it and a few weeks later we were up and running once more.

Yer man, my other love, was in Tralee at the time and I’d a path worn up and down to see him. He was a freak when it came to looking after cars, obsessed with whether I’d checked the oil and water.

I remember picking him up from the train one night. We shared our usual, young love’s reunion kiss, which was quickly followed by: “Did you check the oil and water?”

As I had done so just before leaving home, I smugly answered: “Of course.”

Not too many minutes later, plumes of smoke filled the car and there was a dreadful smell. Opening the bonnet, we saw oil had splattered all over the engine. Two more lessons learned: Replace dipstick after checking oil and in future lie about checking oil and water.

Before I became a driver, I had no idea that at any time a Garda checkpoint could spring up and surprise you. One unfortunate sunny day, I was driving, windows down, when the tax disc I’d left lying casually on the dashboard blew out the window. Immediately around the next bend, the gardaí were waiting.

Let me advise you now, the gardaí do not believe such a thing can happen. I was threatened with all manner of fines. The injustice of it all reminded me of the time I explained to my teacher the dog ate my homework. Teachers and gardaí are non-believers.

Over time, I got to know my beautiful car intimately, becoming an expert in judging how long the petrol light could stay on before a visit to the garage was needed. Unfortunately, even experts miscalculate and so another lesson was learned: Always remain on good terms with family members, who might have to come and rescue you.

The years passed and Australia called. As I waved the new owners of my beauty off, I hoped they’d love her as much as I had.

Arriving home the other day, I smiled as I handed my daughter the keys to her ‘new’ car, imagining the many adventures and lessons which lay ahead.

I admit, though, there was a little envy behind my smile.


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