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A fronte praecipitium a tergo lupi. (In front of you, a precipice. Behind you, wolves.)

Friday, May 27, 2016

The Ciarrai Shirt Incident

Don't I look jolly?
I said before I'd tell the story of the shirt, so here goes:
It was May 7, 2016 and I was in Ireland with me mum and me sisters (the K's) and a tour group. We'd been to Muckross that day, our first real rainy Irish day. Three of us had walked home instead of riding the bus, and I'd caught a cold from which I still haven't emerged. 
After we got home, the girls had gone shopping and I fell into a coma and then took a jacuzzi. I emerged feeling about 95% better, so it was off to explore again. I found a great place to get a hot ham and cheese sandwich and watch football (soccer). Then I went in search for my peeps.
I found the K's on the street and we bummed around looking in shops and buying atrocious touristy things. Again we saw a cool street performer--one of the better buskers I've ever listened to, and so entertaining. He sang happy birthday to me and heckled passersby. 
After a bit we ended up at the pub at the hotel there in Killarney. Some old codger danced my mom around for a couple of beats and then she ensconced herself near the band. That same guy danced me around and flung me into a beam, knocking over the glasses of beer that were sitting there. They fell and shattered and got beer all down my back. Not pleasant and really embarrassing. I tried to help clean it up, but they wouldn't let me. Apparently that happens sort of often in pubs. Who knew? :o) I blew it off and got us some 7-ups and went to sit by Mom. The band (two guys--I wish I'd gotten their names) was really fine and Mom was really impressed again at how many songs I knew to request.
(Just a note: The afternoon when we'd first hit Killarney, we went to a sports uniform shop in a little mall and found nice jersey shirts like the ones we wanted, but they cost 50 Euros and up ($65 American).)
I looked over at the bar and saw a guy with a Ciarrai (Kerry) shirt on, so I went upstairs and got my sweatshirt and baseball cap. I was not going home with that bulky thing, especially since I'd already bought another sweatshirt just as bulky at Bunratty Castle.  
He had a woman with him, and another guy, both keeping an eye on him. I figured that if they thought I was really taking advantage of him, they'd decline for him, and I knew I'd never see him again. So I pumped up my courage and went up to him and said, “Hello.” 
He said, "Hello" back, kind of weaving as if he were standing aboard a ship in a fair-sized gale. Shirt man slurred his words badly and had a horrible time trying to say anything. I knew he was either heavily blitzed or more than a little mentally challenged. But since he was in a pub and sloshing a drink around in his hand, it was undoubtedly the first.
“My sisters and I have a bet going that I can't trade someone this football sweatshirt and brand new baseball hat for a sports shirt. Would you trade me?” 
He said, “Well it's a very special shirt.” 
I said, “Well this is a very special sweatshirt. And the baseball cap is brand new.” I turned on the Please Please Please Gigantic Eyes look my kids give me when they want to go to Dairy Queen or money or to get out of doing dishes.
He sort of listed for a second, and said, “All right. If you'll wear it.” 
I figured I already had a back full of booze, so what the heck. So I said “Sure! Let's do this.” So I handed him my sweatshirt and cap (so thankful I hadn't worn it in the rain, so it still looked nice). He skinned off his shirt and handed his to me. Over my beery shirt the jersey went and the rank stench of sweat nearly floored me. My sweatshirt was snug on him, and he said so. I told him, “Ah no, it fits you just right.” Then, in case he changed his mind, like a freaking chicken, I went back to sit next to Mom. I don't know what she must have thought, seeing her firstborn jumping around like a Mexican jumping bean over taking a sweaty shirt from a drunk guy. I couldn't believe it, though. I'd done the exchange and hadn't had to have the younger, prettier girls do my talking for me. It was a real coup...and a testimonial of how completely snockered that poor guy was.
Now and then I'd go back over because my sister, Lisa, was over there getting chatted up by a different drunk guy. 
The woman with Shirt Guy was really sweet. I thought she (Jac B Bsomething I found out later) might be his wife, but if she was, she was awfully okay with strange women asking him to take his shirt off in public--and hand it over.  
The first time back that woman asked if we wanted pictures with him. I thought that was interesting, so we did it. He went and got another shirt on and came back, still carrying my sweatshirt and still wearing the ball cap. So I was still thinking he might regret his folly. I went to hang with Mom--you know--out of sight, out of his mind.
Later, I went over to tell the K's we were heading up to the room and we started out. Jac B came running over and asked if we wanted another picture with Shirt Guy. She said he was a golf pro. She offered to let us follow him through her facebook site. He'd told me his name but I'd forgotten it in the press, so it was a good idea. But I'd given him a false name (Aislinn Murphy), so after the pics, when she offered us her facebook addy, I let Ju handle it since I had the wrong name.
When I finally had a good chance to look at the shirt, I saw it was really special. It was an official Ciarrai Football jersey (soccer), but more than that, it was a commemorative shirt especially for the centennial of the freeing of Ireland. On the back of the shirt is their Declaration of Independence or Poblacht na H Eireann. I'd totally lucked out. Mom was just floored. And I was pretty much high as a Woodstock hippy on that success.
Maybe, though, I should find out who Shirt Man actually is and send him a little money. My sweatshirt wasn't new or even very special. The whole Shirt Exchange was mainly an ego stroke thing. It was a goal reached and a message to myself. And it felt great! For the first time in a while I felt like I mattered.
And I love the shirt.


  1. What a great experience and a fun story to share!

    1. Thanks! It kind of made my trip in a crazy way.