Gemma O'Doherty: Grin but please don't bare it
Published 27/11/2010 | 05:00
If you're planning a trip down the ghostly new M9, skip the double latte before you leave. It's such a joy to think that you can get from Dublin to Kilkenny in the bones of an hour these days, but heaven forbid you should find yourself in possession of a busy bladder.
Those brave enough to drive all the way up the country's only toll-free motorway from Waterford to the capital will have noticed there's not so much as a half-decent bush on the side of the road to shield you should you need to answer nature's call, not to mention an actual public toilet. Nor are there any plans to build services on the motorway due to the state's empty coffers.
This Dickensian state of affairs has led to a new breed of motorist -- mostly male, I hasten to add -- who throw their shame to the wind, if they had any in the first place, and insist on carrying out their business in full view of the rest of the road.
You can hardly blame them, but it's a roadside distraction we could do without.
Now that we've brought the Euro to the brink and left the world in no doubt that we really are a primitive little backwater, battalions of bare bottoms scattered up and down the national highways do little to enhance our tattered image.
So consider your nation's battered dignity and hold on.
If you're a first-timer on the new motorways and find yourself in a delicate predicament, it's a high-risk strategy to head for the nearest exit in the hope that you'll find a friendly petrol station with a WC.
I made that mistake recently on the way down south when I took a spur to a sweet little village, only to discover it had sweet-darn-all in the way of lavatories.
So I headed for the local shop, left my modesty at the door and pleaded with the owner for a lend of his loo. The only problem was he didn't have one, apart from a bockety old outhouse in the back that was in no way suitable for public use.
My heart skipped a beat. I told him I would be the judge of that. We walked shame-faced to said outhouse, which was indeed bockety and old but, to the needy traveller, it was a God-sent life raft in a barren sea of tarmacadam.
And so it was with even greater joy I found myself on the Dublin-Galway M4 the other night long after midnight, food deprived after a day in Offaly (could the Taoiseach's constituency please shake up its act on the food front?) and in need of a Ladies.
In the distance, the bright lights of the brand new Applegreen, the M4's newly opened motorway service area, beckoned like a beacon of hope on the lonely road.
Okay, so the best they could conjure up in the line of hot food was a bacon double cheeseburger and fries from Burger King, but it did the trick on that wintry night.
The facilities are a joy to use, the staff helpful and pleasant, and there are even hot showers on-site for the weary trucker. Free Wi-Fi, indoor playgrounds, Costa coffee and pay-at-pump facilities will make life easier for motorists, too.
Four other service areas have also opened on the M1 in recent weeks, at Lusk and Castlebellingham, but there's no cash left for any more on other motorways.
So forewarned is forearmed. And remember if you're heading south, keep your legs crossed and your liquids to a minimum.