Icy spell gives AA brain freeze when it comes to describing the roads

IT’S the level of treachery from the AA that’s getting to me, and, if the Met Éireann forecast is accurate, we’re due a lot more of it.

Up to this point, every road in the country has been treacherous, according to the AA.

Everywhere from the Tallaght by-pass to the Roscrea Interchange to every slip road going on to every motorway. All treacherous.

No doubt the fact that AA chief Conor Faughnan had a little crash of his own on a slippery road contributed. Talk about biting the hand that feeds you – here’s a man who loves and protects roads the way mother cats love and protect their kittens and one of them still turned on him.

The single honest exception in the road system was the Sally Gap. The Sally Gap was never described as treacherous. The Sally Gap was so horrific, the AA just told you not to go there at all. But treachery leaked into every other road, the way it leaked into every bright student in Cambridge in the years after the second world war.

You know the way you get hooked on a verbal tic, so that people who don’t like Brian Cowen never hear anything he says because they’re dying for him to emit a “going forward”? It was like that for me with the AA last week. I didn’t hear half their good advice, I was so focused on waiting for them to announce more treachery.

It’s not as if there aren’t synonyms for “treacherous.” The AA folk could have described the roads as dangerous, unsafe, unreliable or skatier than the kitchen floor tiles that time your granny dropped the Christmas turkey and grease went everywhere.

They could have gone for “perfidious” which would have demonstrated an open-mindedness to the idea that more than Albion can be perfidious.

Although the synonym finder also suggested “unfaithful”, I’m not sure we talk of roads being unfaithful, and anyway, do we have the time to look at the infidelity of the roads when other more astonishing examples have emerged from the world of Northern politics?

What surprised me was that when I went looking, electronically, for alternatives to “treacherous” to offer the AA broadcasters, I was amazed to learn that, for everybody OTHER than the AA, treachery is not only omnipresent and unrelated to the weather, but seems to be associated with people, rather than highways.

The minute you input the word “treacherous” into your computer, up come the ads. And they’re not for grit. Or maybe they are. For figurative grit.

IS HE CHEATING ON YOU? Demands one of them. Then, assuming the answer was affirmative, it tells you it could help you catch him out and keep him forever.

The response to this offer, I would have thought, is that if I caught him out, why the hell would I want to keep him to the end of the week, never mind forever?

You have to admit it, this is a tough winter. The icy spell has turned into an epic demanding a Tom Crean humour and resilience which is in short supply, and at the same time, Himself is cheating on you.

One of the alternatives the dictionary offers for “treacherous” is a surprise. It proposes “punic.”

I thought Punic was that bunch of fighters whose mothers used to send them out to battle with the instruction to come home with their shield or on it, a line with some resonance, down the years, for mothers of sons going through that period of hormonally-charged horror called adolescence which ends in perfectly integrated adulthood or in the arms of a fictive or factual Mrs Robinson. But maybe the shield-wielding mothers were Spartans, rather than Punics.

Like the Spartans, the Punics fought a lot, although they did take time off from the hostilities at some point to invent clear colourless glass. You know the stuff you have to scrape each morning in order to see the road you’re going to skid on?

That kind. The Punics didn’t get along with the Romans, and since history is always and ever written by the victor, the Romans, when they eventually ended the Punic wars, decided that “punic” and “treachery” meant the same thing. The AA are far too civilised to pick up on a racist slur like that.

However, they could describe the roads as deceitful, deceptive or duplicitous, rather than repetitively calling them treacherous. You wouldn’t switch off an AA voice that talked about duplicitous roads.

You wouldn’t even turn off their female who – for me – amounts to a motoring hazard because her every sentence begins “To ...” “To Ballymun,” she orders us, before instructing us “To Kinsale” and then heading “To Buttevant”.

“To the Sally Gap,” is about the only instruction I haven’t heard her give, but that’s because the AA has decided the Sally Gap is plague country and even if you live in the middle of it, you’re to go and stay with your aunt in Glasthule instead.

Which brings us to another issue. Ingratitude. The hotel industry has gained from this icy crisis.

One of my colleagues, traumatised by watching people peeing on the road in the middle of the city after three hours dying to go to the loo, pulled into a small hotel and stayed the night there on Thursday. I suspect she was not alone.

Now, let’s be clear. I’m not suggesting for a moment she shared her hotel room with a bunch of strangers. Huddling together for warmth is OK only up to a point.

But no doubt a lot of people abandoned their homeward journeys and booked into hostelries for the night.

And have the hotels come out praising the Government for upping the number of occupied beds?

On the night my colleague spent (on her own) in a hotel, I exited RTÉ at 10.30 in dramatic fashion. Proceeding slowly to the exit of their driveway, I braked gently, as the RSA tell you to do when the roads are undependable, unreliable, untrustworthy and slithery as hell.

The only result was the flashing of a yellow dashboard icon telling me the brakes weren’t working.

I pumped them gently. The yellow icon flashed again as I sailed out onto the main road into the path of an oncoming Micra.

I had a moment of utterly calm resignation.

The Micra wasn’t going fast. Neither was my little car. We would certainly collide but nobody would die.

It was at this point I learned that the kindness of strangers has nothing on the competence of strangers.

The Micra slowly and confidently arced around me until the two of us came to a standstill on the other side of the road, a whisker away from each other, at which point I mimed a round of applause at the driver and the driver bowed elaborately in acknowledgement.

I hope she got home safely. To Kinsale. To Buttevant. To Ballymun. Or to wherever the hell she was going.

I figure she did. She clearly knew how to cope with the treacherous roads.

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