Dry Irish witBy
I thought I was a sarcastic person. I thought I had a quick sense of humor. I was wrong. We Americans are as earnest as they come in terms of humor. I want to tell you just how ruthless the Irish are in pursuit of a joke, but in order to do so, I’m going to have to buck up and tell you a story I hoped I wouldn’t have to tell. It’s the story of my more embarrassing moment since moving abroad.
Deep breath. Here we go.
Rebecca was my best friend in Galway. She’s a sweet German girl who was studying at the university and she’d put herself out there when I first moved to Ireland and needed a friend. Her boyfriend was also a nice guy, but he had a razor-sharp wit about him. I learned quickly to try not to give him ammunition against me, because if you did something too embarrassing, you’d be the butt of his jokes all night. Somehow though, despite myself, I always managed to give him ammunition.
One night we were out with Brenden’s friends, drinking Guinness. He says he’s not drinking tonight, but I don’t hear him. When he returns to the group with a red drink, I ask what he has. “Vodka cranberry,” he answers with a completely straight face. It strikes me as strange that he’d get such a girly drink amongst the guys, but I tuck away this bit of knowledge to use at a later date.
We’re out drinking with the same group and I’m not feeling like another Guinness, so I approach the bar and recall our previous conversation. “I’ll have a vodka cranberry,” I say with gusto, proud of my ability to recall that with these fellas, vodka cranberries are A-OK.
Before I even sit down, they’re ripping into me for my emasculating choice of drink. “But you ordered this exact thing a few weeks ago!” I say. A long pause as Brenden remembers what I’m talking about. He bursts out laughing before saying, “I was joking!”
Thus, I proved my gullibility to Brenden, and he took it as a challenge. What piece of information could he get away with passing off to me as true?
A big group is at Massimos, a noisy Galway bar on Friday night. The bar blares dance music over the speakers so loudly that you can’t hear the person next to you without yelling. We’re sitting at a booth when he sighs and talk/yells at me, “I’m not looking forward to tomorrow.”
“Why not?” I ask.
“I’ve got to be up at 7 p.m.”
“I said I’ve got to be up at 7 p.m.”
“Oh,” I reply, just thinking I’ve misheard him. I’m deaf in one ear, so mishearing things is something I’ve learned not to let phase me. But upon reflection, there’s no way I’ve misheard him here.
“Wait, you have to be up at seven PEE EM?” I ask.
“Yeah, we’ve got a gig to play to Cork at 8 a.m.”
I sit back, thoroughly confused. He sits back like an expert fisherman, just waiting for me to take the bait. He’s not too eager. He doesn’t push it. He just waits. Inevitably, I dive back in.
“Wait: You have to be up at 7 p.m. tomorrow MORNING for a gig at 8 a.m. tomorrow NIGHT?”
“Yeah,” he replies, looking uninterested. I pause again, confused.
“Hold on,” I say, “What the hell are you talking about? 7 p.m. is nighttime!”
“Ohhhhhh ho ho ho, I’m sorry,” he says with a good-natured chuckle. “I forget you don’t know Irish. In Irish, a.m. is p.m. and p.m. is a.m.”
“No way, seriously?”
“Yeah, sorry, when we’re hanging out with all my friends I forget you’re new here sometimes.”
“You’re fucking with me,” I say.
“I’m not! Hey Maidhc, in Irish a.m. is p.m. and p.m. is a.m., right?”
“Oh yeah,” Maidhc replies without a moment’s hesitation.
And with that, I’m convinced. How could I be living in Ireland for so long without learning such a basic anachronism of the native language? I start telling everyone of my new discovery. I post it to my Facebook profile. “I can’t believe I’ve gone this long without knowing that a.m. and p.m. are reversed!” I tell plenty of mutual Irish friends of Brenden and me. They just smile and nod, letting Brenden have his joke. Most embarrassingly, the American woman I was dating had her family out to visit from California. She asked me to join them for dinner, and you better believe I told my new tidbit there. I remember her dad even saying something along the lines of, “I think someone’s pulling your leg.”
“No no,” I tell him. “A real, live Irishman told me this. This is true.”
But it wasn’t. And it was only weeks later that Rebecca finally told me the truth. I turned bright red. And I swore never to believe another Irishman again.