It’s rare to hear any horns honking here. Dublin traffic flows as though choreographed, with the utmost respect shown to pedestrians, many of whom, like me, are tourists. We are reminded at every street corner to ‘look right’ or ‘look left’, words that are actually painted onto the pavement.
Even if there is a red light directing you to wait, you are expected to cross the street if there is no car coming. You look like an idiot if you stand there and wait as nobody else does that! If the light is red and there are cars heading your way when you reach a corner, you have to hit the button that just about every crossing is equipped with. The light will change to green within seconds, emanating a bird-like sound to help the vision impaired. No talk of jay walking here, no fear of being mown down or given the finger by an irate motorist like back home!
A further civility exists when you ask a Dubliner for directions. Well, now dear, let me see. Ah, you see that church over there? Well, you want to be making a right turn when you get to it! I’ve actually had a man give me directions and then walk with me all the way to my destination, just to make sure I got there. How nice is that? He was a barrister, as it turns out, on his way back to the office after a morning in court. I tried to dissuade him, especially as it was a rainy day, but he would not hear of it. When we got to the right street he just walked off without another word!
It’s true that when it comes to directions, things can get a little complicated, due to the fact that street names are not always posted, and if they are, they more than likely will have changed in the last block. For example, Suffolk Street becomes Nassau Street which becomes Leinster Street South and then changes to Clare Street, which in turn becomes Merrion Square North! So you could be on the right street all along but not know it if you were a block away. I no longer look at street signs, I simply use buildings and bridges as my guide.
I have seen very few dogs here, which is good because they don’t seem to have a poop and scoop policy. They are also very lax about littering. I have observed elegantly dressed women in suits and high heels, flick their cigarette butts onto the street like seasoned truckers. All street corners look like giant ashtrays. I have also seen people throw food wrappers into the river while crossing the footbridges when in fact there are many bins throughout the city.
Although there is litter, there are armies of people (leprechauns?) who come out in the night to clean so that every morning is a fresh start. It's a radical idea but perhaps, in an economy where the unemployment rate is at an all-time high, littering is a way of keeping people working.
Not only is unemployment high, there are also many homeless people. They are young and they are old, men as well as women. In the neighborhood where I live there is an elderly lady who regularly makes the rounds of the many restaurant terraces, begging for change, crossing the bridge back and forth with her walker.
Travel opens your eyes to so many things, some delightful, some frightful.