Monday, August 07, 2006

With a Mad Irishman Behind the Wheel

Here's another story from back in the days when I was a young punk, a grad student in math at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Math department picnic out at some city park, beginning of the school year, end of August, I rather suspect it was 1979. A couple of us were looking for a ride to head back to the math building. We ended up catching a ride with a fellow graduate student, an Irishman named Phil.

Phil was from Ireland, somewhere near Dublin. He had a little compact car, I forget what make. There was Phil behind the wheel, my office mate Dave in the front passenger seat, and me sitting in the back.

We went tearing off down the street. Phil was driving like a mad Irishman, whizzing through the streets of Madison at 65 miles per hour. I repeat, this guy was doing 65 in the city!

Coming up toward campus, where a sports event of some sort was letting out at Camp Randall Stadium. You know the traffic around a sports stadium after a game? I mean, traffic jam, gridlock, wait and sit and drum your fingers on the wheel? Well, Phil went tearing right through this traffic, weaving and twisting in between cars, scarcely slowing down from his full-bore highway velocity. How in the world did Phil know he was going to find a way through as he dodged between cars at high speed?

But my memory is that, even weaving through that heavy traffic, Phil hardly brought her down much below 65. Up front, I saw Dave with both arms frantically braced against the dashboard, knuckles white.

Now we had to turn left to head up toward the math building. Phil downshifted and made a left turn at 35 miles an hour, only yards in front of an oncoming city bus.

Finally we arrived at the math building and got out of Phil's car. Phil was standing there, lighting his pipe. My knees felt like rubber, and I realized I was trembling. Dave, who also looked rather shaky, said, "Say, Phil, did you used to be a race car driver?"

Phil stood there, his head wreathed in pipe smoke: "Och, it's nothin'!"

Tearing through the streets of Madison, with a mad Irishman behind the wheel. And I lived to tell about it.

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2 Comments:

Anonymous Lucy said...

Laughed until tears rolled down my face. Literally. Children came to ask what it was. I was laughing too hard to tell them. They tried to guess. THAT didn't help me stop laughing! Oh, the memories, the memories ...

Tuesday, August 08, 2006 10:25:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Giggle giggle

Tuesday, August 08, 2006 8:29:00 PM  

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