Taking your chances on thumbing to home

A Different View with Dave O’Connell

Back in the day we never called it hitchhiking or even hitching – we were thumbin’ a lift, as we traversed a more innocent Ireland armed with nothing more elaborate than a polite hand gesture.

The Friday ritual was the same; get the number 66 bus out of town to its further destination, Maynooth; walk out past the university onto the Galway road – and take your place at the end of a very long but socially-distanced queue.

If you timed it wrong, there could be 30 people thumbing in front of you, all wearing their heaviest coats and best smiles in the hopes of a car or a lorry slowing down to deliver them into the west.

Sometimes you were blessed as a car with a ‘ZM’ or ‘IM’ (Galway reg, for those who don’t remember life before the ‘G’ cars) came to a halt and you knew you were on the express lane home.

Except of course that, not alone was this before they changed the number plates to the county’s initial, it was also before the motorway – and the express route home brought you through Kinnegad and Rochfortbridge and Tyrrellspass and Moate before you even saw the bridge in Athlone.

There was one dark winter’s evening when one driver dropped me on the outskirts of Kilbeggan, a place I later came to know for its great racecourse but which for many years I remembered for its big old water tower.

Because I stood in front of it for what seemed to be an age, and which at one stage looked like it might be my home for the night, until the thumb finally worked its magic and we were one further step closer to home.

Once you reached Ballinasloe, things never seemed so bad because, worst case scenario, someone would come over to collect you.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune:

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