We had just left Clifden in West Galway on a beautiful hot sunny day heading for Westport in Mayo, one of the nicest drives in Ireland along the southern shore of Killary Harbour.
I was travelling with Eanna Brophy who wrote the Down Your Way feature that occupied the back page of the (now defunct) Sunday Press. We were in no hurry as we took in the scenery and the fine weather on the winding Connemara roads.
A few miles out from Clifden we came upon a man hitch-hiking. He was twenty something I reckoned, well dressed and he had a large suitcase on the ground beside him. It was unusual to see an ordinary suitcase, haversacks were more the thing with hitchhikers. I decided to give him a lift and I stopped the car.
He was an American and he was heading for Westport. The smile on his face was gratifying, the audible sigh telling us he had probably been waiting for a long time for a car to come along that quiet road. We offered him a seat.
I suggested he throw his case in the boot and hop into the back of the car. After closing the boot on his case he paused and stood for a moment, happy at the prospect of getting off his feet at last. I have no idea what possessed me to do what I did next.
I suppose it was the warm weather or a sudden rush of blood to the head but as he paused on the road behind us I put the car in gear and took off fast, leaving him standing on the road. The man in the mirror froze, standing still as a statue on the tarmac as we disappeared from his view around a bend.
I stopped out of his view, unable to carry on with laughing. Eanna had no prior warning of what I had done and his expression was something between disbelief and bemusement, maybe even a little shock. Then he laughed.
It took us a minute or two to stop laughing before I reversed back to our forlorn traveller. As we rounded the corner he was still standing exactly as we had left him, frozen to the spot like Lott’s wife.
His relief was palpable on our return but he said nothing immediately. He sat silently into the back of the car and took deep breaths, like a man just saved from drowning. Then his relief released and he graciously babbled his thanks like it was we who had saved him. I almost felt guilty.
When we got to Westport we headed to the nearest pub where we felt it only proper that we buy him a much needed pint. We stayed for a couple of pints before saying farewell to our new friend from Chicago, who vowed to never again carry all his money and his passport in his suitcase.