On the Phone in Ireland

The Irish may have the gift of gab, but sometimes it's like speaking to someone in a foreign language.

The Irish may have the gift of gab, but sometimes it’s like speaking to someone in a foreign language.

This is the season when we have all hands on deck. That means nearly all our guides are busy leading our tours — and nearly all our researchers and co-authors are busy updating our guidebooks. I’ll be working on our Italy and Spain books this spring. Pat O’Connor, the co-author of our Rick Steves’ Ireland book, is busy in the Emerald Isle. Pat has an affinity for Ireland like no one I’ve met. But even Pat can find getting to the point on the phone in Ireland a challenge. Here’s a transcript from Pat that helps us imagine what it’s like to have a long list of things to check via the telephone — and finding it slow going:

Phoning an Irish Bike Shop

(Pat just needs the hours, bike rental prices, and website for a guidebook listing.)

Pat: (hears the phone being picked up after multiple rings) “Hello?”
Bike Shop: (silence)
Pat: “Hello?”
Bike Shop: (clears throat)
Pat: “Hello?”
Bike Shop: “Hello?”
Pat: “I’m trying to reach O’Leary’s bike shop.”
Bike Shop: ” O’Leary’s bike shop?”
Pat: “Yes, O’Leary’s bike shop.”
Bike Shop: “You want O’Leary’s bike shop?”
Pat: “Yes, is this O’Leary’s bike shop?”
Bike Shop: (irritated) “Sure, and why wouldn’t it be?!”
Pat: “Well, the way you answered, I just wasn’t sure.”
Bike Shop: “Then why call if you’re not sure?”
Pat: “Look, I’m just updating a guidebook and wanted to…”
Bike Shop: (impatiently) “Well, we don’t sell guidebooks. This is a bike shop.”
Pat: “No, I’m updating a guidebook that I write.”
Bike Shop: (suspiciously) “How much does it cost to be in it?”
Pat “It’s free.”
Bike Shop: “Where can I get it?”
Pat “It’s not sold in Irish bookstores, but you could buy it online.”
Bike Shop: (triumphantly) “So then it’s not free after all is it?”
Pat: “No, it’s free to be listed in it, but it costs money to buy it.”
Bike Shop: (coughs)
Pat: (trying to just get the basic info) “Do you rent bikes?”
Bike Shop: “Of course, €15 per day.”
Pat: (sensing progress) “Great. What are your hours?”
Bike Shop: (long pause) “Hours?”
Pat: (rephrasing the question) “Yes. When are you open?”
Bike Shop: (patronizingly) “I wouldn’t be answering the phone if we weren’t open now would I?”
Pat: “No, I mean, from what time to what time is your shop open?”
Bike Shop: “We open as soon as I get here.”
Pat: “Right, but how long are you open?”
Bike Shop: “Well, my grandfather started the shop in 1911, and he was a hard worker, don’t cha know. My grandmother said it would never last, but he stuck at it. And then after the war…”
Pat: (diplomatically interrupting) “Sorry, I mean how many hours are you open today?”
Bike Shop: “Until dinner.”
Pat: (rephrasing and trying again) “From what hour until what hour is your shop open?”
Bike Shop: “Well, that depends.”
Pat: (breaking it down into basic elements)”What time did you unlock the door this morning?”
Bike Shop: “As soon as I got here.”
Pat: (changes tack) “What days of the week are you open?”
Bike Shop: “Every day.”
Pat: “Seven days a week?”
Bike Shop: “Seven days.”
Pat: “The entire week?”
Bike Shop: “The entire week.”
Pat: “Including Sunday?”
Bike Shop: “Now, why would I be open on Sunday? Of course I’m not open on Sunday.”
Pat: “I’m a little short of time and just want to get the right info into our guidebook so my readers can rent bikes from you when they come to visit. Could I get more info from your website?”
Bike Shop: “You can.”
Pat: “What is your website?”
Bike Shop: “Well, my nephew set it up, and he’s a bright lad. He’s over in London now and taking computer courses. I had to help him with the fare to get over there. But he’s found a nice girl and…”
Pat: (trying to get back on course) “Sorry, but my phone is running out of time. Can I ask what your website address is?”
Bike Shop: “olearysbikeshop@gmail.com”
Pat: “No, your website please.”
Bike Shop: “olearysbikeshop@gmail.com”
Pat: “That’s your e-mail address. Do you have a website?”

Pat O’Connor, the co-author of Rick Steves’ Ireland, poses next to a statue of Oscar Wilde.

Pat O’Connor, the co-author of Rick Steves’ Ireland, poses next to a statue of Oscar Wilde.

Bike Shop: “I just told you, my nephew set it up, and he’s never wrong.”
Pat: “Yes, but I need your website, not your e-mail address.”
Bike Shop: “I just gave it to you twice. Now I don’t have all day here.”
Pat: (giving up with nothing but a headache to show) “Okay, thanks. Bye”
Bike Shop: “Hold on. My cousin Seamus has a fishing tackle shop across the street, and you should put that in your guidebook too.”
Pat: “Sorry, but I’m not looking for a fishing shop.”
Bike Shop: “But you just said it was free to be in this book of yours.”
Pat: “I only need a bike rental listing right now.”
Bike Shop: “Well you should be looking for fishing tackle shops. What kind of a book doesn’t list fishing tackle shops?”
Pat: (in full retreat from a wasted phone call) “Gotta run. Thanks for your time.”
Bike Shop: “Well, such carry-on and not even a fishing tackle shop when you know full well that…”
Pat: (click)

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