Bending the rules – Just a bit!

At some stage, each of us has interpreted a rule or law in a unique way. This interpretation may have been something that we thought was perfectly ok, but someone made that law/rule for a reason. Why is it, that Irish people in particular, feel so at ease with bending the rules?

I reckon it starts at a very early age. The child in the supermarket whose parent told them “no sweets or toys”. As mum/dad turns away to closely examine the jars of pasta sauce, reading the ingredients of each one carefully…. junior is scoffing down that chocolate bar they swiped earlier. Ok, some of you are thinking “that’s a child, give them a chance”. Fair enough. How about a lad I knew whose mum would take all the family shopping for groceries. They would slowly stroll from aisle to aisle, while the kids ate and drank as much as they could stomach – as their mum told them to do! They were instructed to discard of wrappers and bottles under the shelves – “make sure that you finish that before we get to the til!”. If junior has mum insisting on doing this, then that sets a benchmark for later life, surely?

How about cheating in exams? Yes, this is probably something that happens everywhere, or is it? I’ve seen a teachers son hide numerous A4 pages of notes behind the radiator he sat next to in the leaving cert. For those who don’t know, this exam ultimately decides what course/college, if any, you end up going to. I know a girl who, when exam time came round, would switch from wearing trousers to wearing a skirt. It meant that she could write notes on her thighs and no supervisor is going to ask a girl to pull up her skirt. How about the young chap who was in hospital when the exams came round. A teacher was sent in to supervise him as he sat the test in the hospital bed. The teacher ended up helping him with the exams and he aced the test. Or the guy who was truly awful at Irish. He was going to struggle to get a pass grade at lower level. Cunningly, his brother was a genius at Irish, so he got him to sit the test instead.

Bending the rules can often give you a little high. Knowing that you could be caught. As a kid in school, I knew a lot of guys who would go to the local shop as a group. While someone would be asking the shopkeeper for 20 penny sweets, the other lads would be rolling large bottles of various soft drinks along the floor with their feet and out the door.

How about the girl who would calmly switch prices on various items in her favourite shop. This became a progressive thrill as she would try to increase the gap between the actual price and the “new” sticker each visit. It ended with her getting a certain item for about 10% of the actual price and just before the shop installed a barcode reader.

But sometimes it’s not just the person bending the rules who operates in the game, others can play a part too. Take for example Speed Vans. You may be forgiven for thinking this is some kind of race series, unfortunately its the opposite. In an effort to raise more money for the state, a thinly disguised tax, collected by these vans became part of driving in Ireland. I’m all for safety, but these vans are often on the best stretches of road, sneakily positioned just within a lower limit or at the one place where overtaking is safest. However, this is where the rule bending turns into a team event. As you approach a speed van, or as some say a mobile government atm, often you’ll be flashed(no, not the fleshy kind, just their headlights) by someone coming toward you, to warn you of the presence of the van. This then mostly results in a return flash/wave/salute or thumbs up in recognition. Why? Well people are obviously not impressed by these vans and are happy to help one another avoid being caught.

Maybe the rule being bent is not having a license? I know plenty of people who drive without a license and even more who have a provisional(learner), for decades. It could be a dog license. If you haven’t already heard it, check out the audio clip of the farmer who got a prank call from someone pretending to be from the authorities, investigating his lack of license. The guy totally denied having any dog, only to have one start barking in the background. You have to listen to it!

How about people who don’t have a tv license? There was a time when not many people could afford a tv, hence not many needed to have the license. But today, you can get a tv set for free if you look around. Trying to convince the inspector at your door, that you don’t have a tv, isn’t easy if there is a big satellite dish mounted to the chimney.

I knew an old guy who said that Christmas Day was the “meanest day of the year”. His reason for saying so was that he couldn’t get into the pub for a drink. Same went for Good Friday. For those who did manage to get into a pub on these two days(against the law) the illegal drink was the nicest of all. The same goes for the pint/s had after closing time. This practice is often refered to as a lock in, as the pub door gets locked and the customers stay put. This is something you’d think would/could only happen in the furthest reaches of the land, in the middle of nowhere. But, plenty pubs in cities get away with it on a daily basis. In fact, I heard several stories of pubs being raided and customers being cleared out, only to have the officers stay and have a few drinks themselves.

Only in Ireland!