There were two men driving tractors who each took a bet as to who would take more time driving their vehicle through Schull.
The track was laid out from the welcome sign on the road along from the Mizen, down through the Main Street, where there was the most potential for congestion, and then on to the road out to Ballydehob and the sign that said ‘See you again.’
In a car on a good day the journey should take no more than a couple of minutes but the men reckoned that with a fair wind, bad weather and some foreign drivers they could spin the journey out to at least a good hour.
Their tractors were big vehicles; the width of a car and half again with wheels the height of a man and at least a foot thick. With an average car parked on either side of the Main Street there should be just enough room to squeeze one of them through the gap in the middle, but all that it took was a car too big or badly parked and the tractor would have to stop and wait for whoever might be driving the car to step out and move it.
They set down some rules. If the tractor was stationary for more than five minutes or there were at least four loud parps from different cars stuck behind it then the driver would be obliged to step down from his cab and investigate the shops to try and find the driver of the offending car.
So much the better if the driver should a parent who had taken time out to send children into one of the shops to be kept quiet with ice-cream. The gathering audience would be able observe as the errant father emerged from his shop having placating his brood to be presented with the sight of his car being the root cause of the horns and general unhappiness outside.
The ideal was to get in to a situation so that the tractor was coming down the hill with a hire car of some sort travelling the opposite way. The tractor driver would have to drive sufficiently slowly so as to lure the hire car and any cars following into the main drag of the Main Street to a point where there was no reversing for either the tractor or the hire car. At this point the driver of the tractor was entitled to disembark so as to able to provide useful but useless guidance to the hapless driver of the hire car.
If the driver of the hire car spoke no English then so much the better. If English was spoken then the tractor driver was allowed to thicken his accent. Either way he would ensure that the hire car was addressed as ‘this feckin’ car’ but with a smile so that no offense was intended.
If a queue of cars developed then the tractor driver would be able to walk along to each in it to set out the predicament. Once at the back of the queue and down to the last car he would start on his instructions to reverse up. He would wave the car backwards, taking it slow so that no damage was done, and either park the car up in a space on the street or manoeuvre it into one of the side roads where it could block further traffic to come.
There was a great deal to be had in the timing. Mid afternoon worked best as then there would be a tide of cars driving up from the harbour. They would be able to back down on the Pier Road and the addition of four or five cars down there could only add to the confusion on Main Street. If horns parped down there then they were free to go at it as they pleased. But added delay could be had with a diversion down there to explain something of the problem and to put the blame on ‘the feckin’ car that some feck can’t drive being stopped up the hill with nowhere to go.’
Points were to be had if the maximum distress and unhappiness could be reached outside of Hackett’s. There an audience would be sat with the benefit of a good lunch and a few pints well able to appreciate the slow grinding of gears and the dissipating of humour as cars were locked into stalemate for an hour or so in the heat of an afternoon.