Do you ever find as you read a fellow bloggers posts you imagine you ‘know’ that blogger? So perhaps many of you have pictured an innocent, Irish, law abiding, amazing mother and wife when you read my posts? Well maybe that’s not quite the perfect picture.
For there was a time when my picture hung up in a public place with a warning from the local police (the Guards we call them over here). A case of wrongful identity you may wonder? Alas I must tell you it was not.
It happened a couple of years ago, when one morning I answered my phone, to discover the local Garda sergeant on the other end.
‘Hello this is Sergeant ……, could I speak with Patricia Kearney?’
Feck. He saw me go through those lights yesterday!
‘This is me’ I replied in my most motherly, innocent voice.
‘Oh good. Well Mrs Kearney can you come down to the station please? I’ve a photo here of you taken last month in Sullivan’s garage. You were filling your car with petrol’.
‘Okay, and that is a problem why exactly?’.
‘Well you drove off and you didn’t pay! So now they’ve contacted ourselves and you’re in a spot of bother if you don’t go and pay for it’.
‘Are you sure it’s me?’ I asked, blushing at the thought.
‘Well I’m afraid I don’t know you’ he replied laughing, but to be honest it looks like a man in the photo, maybe your husband?’
I snorted, ‘Oh good. I’m sure it’s him. I’ll get great craic out of this I can tell you. He’ll never believe me’.
‘Is your husband low sized, with short dark hair?
My celebrating heart sank. ‘No, but I am’.
‘Ah well it’s not a great photo’, he stuttered, ‘will you come and have a look at it and if it is you, go and pay your bills? We have the car reg also’.
I hung up and an hour or so later made my way to the Garda station. The tiny waiting room was full and not very private. Finally there was just one lady between myself and my mug shot. The lady was filling out a new passport request for her son but was having a hard time understanding what was being asked of her.
‘I need to see your son’ said the garda slowly.
‘Yes, yes here he is’, she smiled, triumphantly producing his passport photos.
‘Okay, but I’m afraid I need to see him here’, said the Guard tapping the counter.
‘Yes, I show you him’, she nodded enthusiastically, ‘here’, pointing to the photos again.
In an effort to help her understand, the Garda pointed to a young boy in the waiting room, ‘I need to see him here, like this’.
The woman shook her head, ‘No, no, no, not him. Here l show you’ and once again pointed to the photo.
Just as it looked like we’d be there all night, a gentleman who spoke her language, arrived into the once again full waiting room and saved the day.
Up I went, mortified at the hush behind me.
‘Hello’ I smiled, ‘I’m Patricia Kearney. The sergeant rang me earlier today asking me to come down to look at a photo?’
I’d assumed the Guards had shared information, but no this fella hadn’t a clue what I was talking about.
‘Do you know what sort of a photo?’ he boomed.
I leaned in and whispered, ‘The one of me in the garage’.
He stared back blankly.
I leaned in so close that any nearer we’d have had to marry. In a tiny whisper, I said in a moment of genius, ‘I think it might have been my husband getting petrol and forgetting to pay’
The Garda nodded and left for a moment, returning minutes later with a black and white video recorded still of a car reg.
‘Is this your husbands car?’ he announced in a voice akin to a judge in a courtroom.
‘Em, no actually’, I whispered once more, almost cramping up as I leaned forward, ‘that’s my car’.
‘Oh right, so is this you?’. He handed me a grainy photo taken from above, of myself. Yes definitely myself. I nodded.
‘Well you didn’t pay for your petrol. If you don’t go to the garage and pay within fourteen days you’ll be summonsed to court. Here sign this’.
I scrawled a signature which looked nothing like my usual trademark. I managed to squeak, ‘Thank you’ before walking at speed out of the station.
I couldn’t believe I’d not paid for my petrol. Maybe it was early Alzheimers?
Now that I knew I had been identified by my local garage I was more than a little embarrassed driving up to pay my debt. I wondered what to do? Should I have phoned in advance or just walk in? Did the manager need to be contacted? Most importantly of all, would it be busy?
Entering the shop my heart sank, only one till was open and there was quite a queue. I decided to wander about doing some pretend shopping, while all the time keeping an eye on the queue. Peering over the top of the doughnuts I felt a little queasy. Was there no easier, more private way I could admit my guilt?
‘Are you alright there?’, came a voice from behind me?
‘Yes, yes I’m fine thank you’, I laughed, almost hysterically, before bagging a jam doughnut and making my way to the queue.
I was two away from the til when I saw it. My photo! It was stuck up on the wall behind the teller, for all the world to see. How much petrol did I get that they were blacklisting me? I usually put in €30 worth. Would they treat me like enemy number one for that amount of money? Maybe I filled up? Maybe I owed €60?
I stepped forward.
‘Hello’ said a rather pleasant lady.
‘Hello’ I began, before giving her a big grin and saying almost without a breath,
‘I’m the lady in that photo behind you. I’ve been told I went away without paying for my petrol. Can you please let me know how much I owe you? I’m really sorry, but I’ve no memory of the event at all.
She removed the photo and stuck to the back of it was a receipt.
‘You owe €10’.
‘€10? I never get €10 of petrol?’.
‘No you got €40 but when paying with your visa card you only paid for €30’.
‘That’s probably because I always get €30 and must have forgotten. Why did the teller not ask me for the correct amount?’ I asked, beginning to feel a little aggrieved.
‘I’m not sure’ she replied, matter of factly, taking my €10 without caring one bit about the debt. Crunching up my photo she threw it in the bin. Matter ended, as far as she was concerned.
I returned home, eager to share my pain and indignation with my family. Howling with laughter at my fury, they gave me no sympathy as I described my case as a serious miscarriage of justice. For weeks I raged and made my disgust known at that garage by boycotting it. Unfortunately my actions seem to have gone unnoticed, by all but me who had to drive to a garage further away for my petrol. My boycott lasted all of a month, before my petrol light forced me to fill up there once more.
I can assure you I paid the right amount. But I didn’t smile, in protest.
** Garage name changed in case they remember me.