The Same-Only Different
Different approaches by America and Ireland, regarding building codes and road systems, interest me. We traveled smoothly, almost without interruption to Cork earlier in the week, on a system of roads that functioned very efficiently, and yet was very different in some basic ways.
The bulk of our traveling involved single-lane or single-lane
in-each-direction highways, and provided constant contrasts in style and technique. People who wanted to go fast were more than able to fulfill the Type A personality traits we are all so familiar with. The standard open speed is 100 kilometers per hour, which is pretty close to that at home, and unless there is road construction, nothing really seems to stop traffic.
Some people travel at a slower rate than others, but not anywhere near as slow as the farm machinery. People are generally so much more willing to accommodate others, that there is no way you could mistake it for a highway in California. On the other hand, highways in California frequently have wide enough, concrete shoulders, to allow for a tractor to pull completely off the highway, without slowing down to permit passing.
There was not a tremendous amount of active road construction, nor was there an inordinate need for it. However, when we encountered work, we proceeded very efficiently, being mindful of the curves.
There were no posted sign holders, to “alert” the traveler to upcoming roadwork, just the orange markers, mounted on sawhorses to the immediate side of the highway, amongst the undergrowth. The crews were totally focused on the job at hand, and all traffic direction was orchestrated by travelers.
We might be informed by sign that “convoy procedure” was in effect, so if you were tooling along in a flow of traffic with vehicles in front of you, your course was easy: go with the flow, being mindful of the curves.
If there was a gap between you and the vehicle in front of you, then you had to determine if there was oncoming traffic, and whether or not you would enter the construction zone, prior to the car in front of you vacating it. Of course, you have plenty of time to make that evaluation, because the scene unfolds before you as you approach the action.
If it is obvious that there are cars on the other side, waiting for their shot at escape, you probably do not wish to incur their wrath, because you still have to drive the length of the construction zone, before you can sail off into the distance, possibly leaving some steam floating above.
If discretion seems the better part of valor, you simply come to a halt, before the work zone commences, and pause. The vehicles behind you have no choice, and even if they did, position in the queue is everything. The highway we traveled was not terribly busy, so there were never more than a dozen or so vehicles in a line, before they were able to continue on their way, being mindful of the curves.
There are numerous turnouts, though “pull-overs” far better describes them, because you have to stop. This does allow a farm vehicle to permit passing, if he is so inclined. More importantly, the pull-overs allow travelers to simply pull aside and stop, which they seem to do a lot. Phone calls might explain some stops, but others seem without visible cause.
We traveled a lengthy stretch of highway that closely resembled our own Highway One, as it parallels the Big Sur coastline, except that our highway was paved, single-lane highway. For the most part, all is good, because the nature of the highway is that people don’t seem to be in a hurry.
However, there is still only enough room for one vehicle to traverse in any direction, no matter how slowwwww you go-there is simply not enough width. Therefore, as two vehicles approach each other, one or the other must pull to one side. If there are no pullouts, a driver must back up until one is encountered; there is no alternative, so it makes for watchful drivers. These highway challenges seem to occur with great uniformity, and yet, with such gentility, that it impresses me.
Besides being in Gaelic, the signs are not uniformly placed, as they might be in California, where they frequently hover over the center of the roadway. Signs appear on either side, and specific identifying signs can be ambiguous, at least from Yanks’ point of view, as we struggle to determine if R487 actually identifies the north/south route, or the other. Those pull-overs do come in handy, as Eric, Cecilia and Annie confer. Why don’t they ask me? I never leave the bleacher, and everyone knows it.
Traveling on the left side of the highway is not as disconcerting as it was in the beginning, though I would still never attempt it. As with baseball, I am too much of a reflex player, to think (or, rather, to know) that I could correct in the time that would be required, so I avoid it.
I would love to participate in the weekly softball games up on the mountain, but I don’t dare. I know I am incapable of simply letting a ball out of my reach zip by, without a reflexive-and possibly harmful-attempt to snag it. That nice Dr. Bowen told me he could only perform the tendon-for-ligament procedure once, and since Annie and I like to walk, I avoid playing baseball. Occasionally, I will make a comment on the subject of baseball, but I avoid the diamond.
Being mindful of the curves is a good strategy. Partly because of the left-hand perspective, and partly because of the narrowness of the highway, visibility around curves is poorer here, than in California. Theoretically, except for potential oncoming traffic, from would-be passers, nothing should impede progress, but it’s still nice to be able to verify that visually. Being mindful of the curves simply means not picking one of those moments, to reach down and retrieve that item from the floor of a vehicle “on Holliday.”
The building code California employs, is designed to ensure the safety of the public. California believes that it is not wise to allow the common folk to determine their own level of safety, so it provides handy guidelines that you must conform to, if you wish to get a building permit. In other words, from California’s perspective: “Play ball with me, or I’ll break the bat over your head.”
You pay a lot of money to the county, you pay a lot of money to the carpenters, and you pay a lot of money to the materials yard.
I do not have a clue what the Irish government permits and what they don’t. I do know that when a recent permit was submitted to Mendocino County, for the purpose of obtaining a business license for a Community Sponsored Agriculture program, it was turned down because it was determined that there was “an unauthorized greenhouse and carport” on the twenty-acre parcel under discussion.
Now I am certain, that amongst those reading this narrative, there exist no unauthorized (i.e, non-permitted) greenhouses or carports. You need a permit for a greenhouse? Oh, yeah, I knew that. Let’s see now, a business license in Mendocino County, for an organic farm. That sounds pretty normal-doesn’t everyone have an organic grow of some type going?
That the county would refuse a license for any reason not applicable to the business itself, is not only short-sighted and immature, it’s foolish. What a powerful message to send to our sons and daughters: Don’t bother applying for a legitimate business license, when there are far more lucrative paths to be followed. Thank you Mendo County.
Here in Carrigaholt, the home we are staying in, a modern, aesthetically delightful abode, is well-crafted and very correct in its structure. However, when we leave this twenty-one home, horseshoe-shaped development, architectural standards become less evident, especially as we move out into the country. I don’t mean to say that there aren’t properly built homes. I have mentioned the unique architecture, the universal attention to the exterior appearance, the creamy painted surfaces, and the flowers that accent the front of most every home, business, and edifice that stands in Ireland.
However, also connected to that sense of timelessness, about which I have prattled endlessly, is the direct connection that many structures are retrofits (absolutely the wrong word) of what came before. The process I envision involves time, care, and patience, because these kinds of rebuilding efforts are predicated on the need to ensure safety, without surrendering the basic premise that what already exists must be preserved if possible.
Codes demand uniformity, and that works for those newer countries, that popped up in the recent past, as opposed to these old timers who have been around a bit longer. Interesting concept, that.