Adventures Awry: The Naked Irishman

Sometimes, things don’t go as planned…

1003870_10151620921581655_2075013563_n.jpg

I was 23-years-old on my first solo trip outside of the U.S., and this story is 100% true.

Ireland seemed like a safe place for my first jaunt as a solo globetrotter. After a few days alone in Dublin, I boarded a train for Tipperary and the Glen of Ahlerow. I planned for two days in the Glen before traveling on to the western coast where I would meet up with cousins.

1010973_10151620901541655_119025592_n.jpg

There were moments along the journey that made me wonder if Ireland was up to some kind of wicked mischief. The countryside is rich and lush; the cities are gray, ornate and stoic; and the people embody the adjective they use to describe everything  — lovely. Still, Ireland remains the most confusing country I’ve ever visited…and I’ve been to East Africa.

For example, when asking for directions, I was consistently met with the phrase “Oh, well you can’t get t’ere from here” even if the map, internet, and GPS said you could. Upon arrival in Tipperary, I found the taxi station closed (on a weekday, in the early afternoon) so the station’s platform manager whipped out his cell and called up his friend Paddy to come pick up ‘the wee lass waitin’ at the platform’.

Now, Paddy was a 75-year-old cab driver, born on St. Patrick’s Day who, at one point, reached over and seized hold of my thigh, declaring I was “a grand pretty dame, and not fat like t’e o’ter Americans.” As we drove through the town of Tipperary, I asked if there were travelers (gypsies) in the area. Paddy was almost offended. “Naw, we have no travelers here. Perfectly safe. But you’ll not be wantin’ to walk around town much because there is lots o’ people here that do the crystal meth and heroin, so they’ll likely stick ya wif a needle.”

1006311_10151620916131655_1022255708_n.jpg

Safe or not, I fell hard for the Glen of Aherlow. A mossy valley with rolling green hills and stone cottages. The owner of my B&B, Mary, had a foul mouth, spectacular spunk, and I knew her life’s story within the first few hours. She sat me down with cups of strong, black tea and we chatted in the parlor waiting for the afternoon rain to let up.

“Mary,” I asked, “Is it safe to walk around?”

“Oh t’be sure! I walk with my wee boy Aidan every day. You’re grand.”

I hesitated, since walking alone in a foreign countryside didn’t seem like a good idea. But girls in movies do it all the time (bad logic). The rain stopped, and Mary tossed me an umbrella with her blessing — “Good woman. Have a lovely walk.”

I started down the dirt road away from the B&B, cutting into the woods. The path was canopied by thick branches, secluded, and right away something felt wrong. Women who travel alone — that gut feeling is not to be ignored. Don’t do what I did – don’t be stupid. Nine times out of ten, its the Holy Spirit waving a red flag and you’re wise to listen. After 20 minutes of walking in the woods, I heeded and turned onto a main road I knew led back to the B&B.

It started to rain again, when I saw a white van parked in the trees by the side of the road. In the States, we call those “creeper vans.” Hmm…bad feeling again. I crossed to the opposite side to avoid it, and as I passed the van, I saw him. A man about 65-years old, 6-foot 4, maybe 250 pounds, naked as the day he was born. Just standing there. Naked.

What goes through a person’s thoughts in moments like this?

Lots. All at once. Ranging from “that man is actually naked” to “that’s the palest person I’ve ever seen”to “I’m not getting out of this one.” Then I was scared and angry and confused because who stands in the rain by the road naked? Clutching Mary’s umbrella like a javelin, I marched past him with feigned confidence and purpose. As soon as I was out of sight, I kicked off my shoes and ran for my life, at one point crouching in someone’s driveway to catch my breath. I heard the engine of his van sputter and cough and knew he would be close behind. I was in a full sprint when I went crashing through the B&B parlor door.

Sitting in the parlor were two very raucous new guests, an Australian woman and her step-mom from South Africa. They were chatting with Mary, guffawing at a crude joke, not noticing the trembling American girl with huge eyes who had burst in the door like a banshee. Mary finally noticed. “You alright, dear?”

“There is a naked man at the bottom of the hill. I think he followed me here.”

The room erupted in profanities. Mary ran for her car keys and camera. leaving me with the Aussie and South African, who peppered me with questions while Mary drove off “to find the {expletive] lunatic.” She returned a proud huntress having barreled down the hill in her minivan, while snapping evidence with her camera. He had actually followed me back to the B&B and she chased him off with her car.

“Mary, do you know him?” I asked.

“Aye. T’be sure, I know him. Tis himself, your man, the town pedophile.”

Now, most communities can boast a town drunk, or a village idiot. I had just met the town pedophile, and apparently himself was my man. The Aussie handed me more tea while Mary called the garda (Irish police). I told my story to the officer who jotted down notes in his yellow notepad and muttered to Mary “T’ poor girl. T’ poor lass.”

1003339_10151620916881655_1676531660_n.jpg

The happy ending: The rest of the evening I spent chatting with those two boisterous guests. We belly laughed over dinner and glasses of wine as they shared invaluable life wisdom and travel tales, admitting that The Story of the Naked Irishmen would be one of the best they’d ever heard. Mary wouldn’t let me out of her sight for two days, and insisted on driving me everywhere I needed to go.

The rest of Ireland took my breath away, almost as abruptly as sprinting up a hill to escape the town pedophile. My time in Tipperary was summarized best by Mary. When her toddler went streaking through the parlor (also stark naked), she ran after him calling “Jaysus, Aidan! Don’t ya know what t’e poor woman’s been through?”

Happy traveling, friends!

Sami

Samantha Bossalini