| 18.1°C Dublin

Leaving me in charge? That's plane dangerous

'WHAT could possibly go wrong?' is a phrase that inevitably heralds disaster in my experience, so they're words I try to avoid even thinking.

"Are you sure you'll be alright for a whole week this time?" asks my wife as we drift into the drop-off lane at Dublin Airport.

"What could possibly. . ." I begin, then bite my lip. "Don't worry about a thing," I try instead.

We pull in behind a car and I put the blinkers on. "I'll call and check on you," she says. "I'm 47-years-old," I tell her, irritably. She gives me a look.

I flip the back of the car open and drag her suitcase out and we hug.

It's the second time in a fortnight she's been away, and I'm determined to handle things in a mature way this time – to finally shake off this image of me as part Homer Simpson, part Jim Royle and part The Dude from The Big Lebowski.

When I get back in the car and look over to give her a final wave, she's already gone, so I trundle off into traffic with a heartsick pang.

I make a mental list as I drive to the motorway. The two middle teens and the youngest are home, off school for Easter and probably not even out of bed yet. The eldest is minding our office in the town.

"Everything is under control," I mutter, taking a deep breath and puffing my cheeks out as I exhale.

With nothing pressing, I decide to take a detour to browse a hardware store, an appropriately grown-up thing to do, I figure.

I spend the next half-hour opening and closing barbecues and making "hmm" noises in, what I think is, a manly way.


I saunter back the car, quite full of myself. "Incredible", I guffaw to myself as I dig for my keys, "how women have this idea that as soon as they're out of the picture we morph into some Mr Bean man-child, hopelessly incapable of the simplest. . ."

It's then I realise my pockets are empty and, seizing the handle of the locked door, I spy my keys twinkling at me from the driver's seat.

I try every locked door before tilting my head up to the sky and clenching my teeth, just in time to see a seagull fly over, cackling, as it delivers a final, punctuating dollop of guano to the windscreen.

"No," is the printable version of what I say. "No. No. No." In fact, yes. I am standing in the car park of a hardware store at the side of a motorway, tens of miles from home, locked out of my car, and my wife is probably not even through security yet.

I take my phone out of my pocket and see with some degree of resignation that it's out of juice.

I'm suddenly overwhelmed by the urge to stroll over to a nearby thicket, break off a branch and return to give the car a damn good thrashing.

I resist the temptation. I've seen that episode of Fawlty Towers a hundred times and not once has it ended well. Instead, I decide to deal with this situation in a mature, responsible and manly way.

So, I frown. What WOULD Vin Diesel do? Commandeering a vehicle is probably not a good idea, however, I could at least ask someone for the lend of their phone. I look around to see an elderly man slipping into a Fiat Punto and I walk over to him purposefully. He looks up, slaps the locks on and rolls up his windows.

"Hello!" I mouth through the glass. "Do you have a phone?" He shakes his head frantically, eyes wide, pats his breast pockets and shrugs before fumbling with his keys and reversing away at speed. I watch him go. "Thanks anyway," I whimper.

Turning on my heels and loping back into the hardware store, I root through my limited mental cache of friends who a) have phone numbers I know; b) live within driving distance; c) can actually drive and, d) might be home on a midweek morning. I come up with one, then ask to use the shop phone.


He pulls up an hour later with a wide grin and hands me the spare keys that he picked up from my house. "Only you, bro'," he chuckles. "Only you."

I finally arrive into our office in the town just as the phone rings.

The eldest hands it to me without missing a beat. I whisper hoarsely over the handset: "Everything okay?" He nods. I answer it.

It's my wife. "Is everything okay?" she asks me "Everything is fine," I tell her. "So, you didn't just lock yourself out of the car in the car park of a hardware store then?" she shoots back.

"Jesus!" I reply. "Where ARE you?" I picture her looking out the window of a departing plane and clutching her forehead at the sight of me, far below, hammering on the windows of our car.

"I'm still waiting for my flight," she responds.

"Everything's under control," I tell her. "Right," she says.

I'm almost afraid to ask: "How did you know. . ."

"I called the house. Your friend had just been around, you idiot," is what she says.

"Have I told you lately," I say, "just how bloody terrifying you are?"

"Thanks," she says. "I love you too."