Thursday, January 8, 2009
"Education is what remains after one has forgotten what one has learned in school."
"An bhfuil cead agam dul amach go dti an leathras, más é do thoil é?"
It had been a handful of years since I last heard those words. Every young person educated in Ireland, I suspect, knows how to precisely ask the teacher if they might be excused to attend the toilet. The weary repetition is necessary to earn that permission, and schooldays would be immeasurably troublesome without it. That said, its very length and verbosity was painful enough, as one would need sufficient time in hand to get the words out and reach the toilet before it was too late.
During one of our recent excursions to a neighbouring city, I found myself standing at a bus stop with Mater.
At length the bus approached and halted beside the gathering of twenty or so travellers. Before anyone could move forward, the elderly driver jumped out and made a dash for the station building. He ran, but not before pausing to ask quietly, in Irish, if we would mind being delayed momentarily as he desperately needed to use the facilities, particularly the leathras.
Of those that were in earshot of the request and of those that understood the familiar chant, none minded in the least, and some of us took note of the cheerful fellow.
Certainly his schooldays were far behind, but his memories had endured. It might be that what we absorb as youngsters stays long with us: not every fragment is worth clinging to but some details can, at the most peculiar times, serve us very well.
Posted by Phyllis Hunt McGowan at 5:12 PM