Wednesday, October 8, 2014

a black mercedes

I had to go to Belfast for a meeting yesterday. As I was nearing Dublin, a beautiful old black Mercedes whizzed past me. Well, perhaps 'whizzed' is too strong a word. I was doing slightly under the speed limit and it overtook me. But whizzed is the word I feel like using for a car like that. I had a brief glimpse of the front in my mirrors before it went by, and it was a joy to behold. 

Why are old cars always so much easier on the eyes than modern ones? Do elderly motors have some kind of automatic nostalgia effect? Will the day come, some decades hence, when folk will look wistfully at my fairly inelegant Fiat Punto, and sigh 'they don't make them like that any more?' without adding a sneering 'thank goodness' immediately after?

I was interested to know exactly how old this merc was. Irish license plates have the year the car was first registered on them, so I increased my own speed a little to catch up. Only to the limit, mind. But the merc continued to draw away. Not too rapidly, so perhaps the driver was doing a few miles above the limit. Maybe not even that. Car speedometers under-register the speed by a few mph. I was still probably doing a little under, while he was doing the limit. Even knowing that, I still don't like to chance going over what the indicator on my little dial says. Just in case. And much as I was curious about the year, I didn't think it was worth the risk of a ticket and penalty points, driving as I was in an area much decorated with signs warning that speed cameras were in operation. 

The merc was soon lost to sight; and the car itself lost from mind. Traffic was flowing well, especially for the roads heading into Dublin around lunchtime. I thought that I might for once get on to the ring-road that would take me around the city and on the way to Belfast without hitting a tailback. 

But then, just as I could see the signs for the ring-road, advising what lanes one should get into depending on where one wanted to go, the traffic seemed to grind to a halt and I spent the next 15 minutes crawling forward. I thought at first it was down to the road works that are a near-permanent feature of this stretch of road. Then I saw that there was an obstruction up ahead; there was a lorry seemingly parked in the middle of the road. A man in a luminous jacket was directing people around it. Drawing near, I saw that there was a black car parked along side it, a little too close for comfort, the front fender caught under the front bumper of the lorry. Edging past, I saw it was, alas, the old black merc.
I doubt speed had been a factor. As I said, the driver wasn't going all that fast. Probably just one of the unfortunate things that are bound to happen when you have lots of vehicles merging together, especially when some are a lot bigger than the others. 

No one seemed to be injured, but I said a little prayer anyway. I wondered if the poor driver was very upset. He must have been. Any car accident is a shock; but to have it in a car that was a bit of a classic in pristine condition, surely his pride and joy, must be far worse. I was saddened, and I'd only seen it briefly on the road. 

'How easily things go wrong;  how uncertain everything in this life is,' I thought. And then I was on the road to Belfast, trusting that nothing would go wrong for me on my own journey in my own inelegant car, that it would get me there and back again safely and without incident. As it happens, it did. Deo gratias.

Oh. As I drove past the banged up merc, I got to see the license plate. It was registered in 1983.

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