“Hello, my name is Kathleen Peddicord. I understand from my shipping company that my container of furniture has been delivered to you for storage?”
“Aye, luv, Kathleen Peddicord, yes, right. You’re from America, are ye’, luv?”
“Yes, sir, my husband and I moved recently from Baltimore to Waterford. We shipped a container of household things that arrived last week. However, we’re not ready to take delivery of the container yet.
“We’re renting a small cottage while we look for a house to move into. So we’ll need to arrange for long-term storage of our container there in Dublin. Would this be something you could help us with?”
“Aye, yes, of course, luv. I’ve been to America, years ago, and I have a cousin living in New York. Do you know New York?”
“Yes, sir, I know New York…
“Our container was delivered from Baltimore. I have the reference number for you. Perhaps you could check to confirm that you have the container there as our shipping company has indicated?”
“I have another cousin living in Boston. Well, she’s my wife’s cousin. My wife isn’t well. I’ve had her to the doctor three times this past week.”
“I’m very sorry to hear that. Could I give you the reference number for my container? So that you could confirm that you have it?”
“Aye, I’ve got it, luv, no worries. I’ve got to run now. Got to take my wife back to the doctor. She’s not doing well at all.”
“OK. Well, could I call you back? I’d like to find out the cost of storing our container with you long term. Do you charge by the month? What is the fee?”
“Aye, no worries, luv. We’ll work it out. I’ve got to run now…”
The line went dead, and I hung up.
Lief walked out of his office and came over to my desk.
“What did he say?” he wanted to know. “Does he have the container? Can he store it for us month-to-month? How much will it cost?”
“He says he has it, though I never was able to give him the reference number to confirm that whatever container he thinks he has is in fact our container. And he says he can keep it long term, but I don’t know how much it will cost.”
“What do you mean you don’t know? Isn’t that why you called the guy, to find out?”
“Yes. It’s hard to explain,” I said. “His wife is not well, and he had to run to take her to the doctor. I’ll try him back tomorrow.”
I called the next day… and the day after that. Then I called weekly and, eventually, once a month.
I got to know Patrick well. His wife recovered nicely from her illness. His cousins from America wished us all the best in our new life in Ireland. Patrick took a great interest in our ongoing property search and offered opinions on different houses we viewed, asked after our daughter, wondered how she was getting on in her new school…
I never did, though, succeed in finding out how much it was costing us to have our container in Patrick’s shipyard all this time. I came to terms with this ambiguity, but my new husband struggled.
“What will we do if he presents us with a bill for tens of thousands of pounds at some point?” Lief would exclaim.
I had no reply and no idea how to manage this ongoing business relationship more effectively. I was at a loss.
It wasn’t only the dock storage guy in Dublin who confounded us those early, getting-established days in Waterford.
After we’d found our little cottage on the river and installed our emerging operation in the office space we sub-rented from Ray the accounting software developer (more on that another day), we moved on to getting-settled item #3…
We needed a car. So, one Saturday morning, we got up and out the door early and set off, Lief, Kaitlin, and I, to find a taxi.
“We’d like to visit some of the car dealerships in town,” Lief explained to the driver. “Would you be able to take us around and wait for us while we have a look at two or three places?”
The driver stared back at Lief, puzzled.
“You’re wanting to go where?” he asked.
“To two or three of the car dealerships around town,” Lief explained again. “We’d like to buy a car. Would you be able to take us from one dealer to another and wait while we shop? Perhaps for an hourly fee?”
“It’s Saturday, sir,” the driver replied.
Lief and I looked at each other.
“Would you be wanting to do this Monday morning, is that it?” the driver asked.
“No, not Monday. We’ll be working Monday. We’d like to go now.”
“But it’s Saturday.”
Finally, a light went on.
“Is it that the dealerships aren’t open today?” I asked. “Because it’s Saturday?”
“Aye, luv, of course. It’s Saturday.”
Monday morning, we got up and out the door early. We walked Kaitlin to school, and then Lief and I set off to find another taxi. This time the driver didn’t object but took us straight out the Cork road to where the car dealerships were lined up, one after the other. We started with Honda.
“We tried to come by on Saturday,” Lief explained, “but were told you weren’t open.”
“On Saturday? No, no, we’re not open on a Saturday. We tried opening on a Saturday some time ago, but it didn’t work out.”
“You didn’t sell many cars?” Lief asked.
“Oh, no, we found that we sold more cars on Saturday than on any other day. But we also found that working Saturdays didn’t leave us enough time with our families.”
When we moved to Ireland, almost nothing was open on Saturday. Car dealerships, banks, and shops also closed every day for lunch. The entire city of Waterford called it quits by 5 p.m. each afternoon. And Sunday you saw nary a soul anywhere, other than coming and going from church.
“When do they run their errands?” Lief would wonder.
The answer was that “they” didn’t. Their wives did. While this country was in the midst of big changes at the time we arrived, it was still a traditional place. Most women stayed home to raise their children. They could run to the dry cleaners or the bank anytime. Lief and I, on the other hand, both working full-time, had to excuse ourselves during office hours to take care of these kinds of chores.
Back in Baltimore, every woman I knew of my generation was working full-time in a career-path position. Here in Waterford, I was an anomaly in this (as well as many other) regards.
The first several weeks after Kaitlin started at her new school, moms of her new friends would call to ask me to join them for morning coffee or afternoon tea. I accepted a couple of times, only to have to back out at the last minute in deference to an impending deadline or an impromptu meeting in the office. I understood when they stopped calling.
By the time we decided to move from Waterford to Paris, the cultural landscape in Ireland had changed dramatically. There were more shops, new franchises, bigger malls, and, everywhere you looked, another housing estate breaking ground.
Over the seven years we lived in this country, we watched as the Irish enthusiastically imported every American consumer idea they could identify—from keeping businesses open over lunchtime, on Saturdays, and, even, by the time we left, in many cases, on Sundays, too… to credit cards (these were a rarity in this country when we arrived, but everyone had one seven years later) and low-interest 110% LTV home financing.
We watched as the Irish raced in the direction of their own demise, speeding toward an economic cliff that, not too many years later, they hurled themselves over.
But I’m getting ahead of my story…