You may ask why it was that a few weeks ago I happened to be sitting in a police station waiting room near midnight in the village where I usually live in Ireland, or indeed, how it was possible I was able to answer the question 'where on earth are all the Gards?' put to me by an older woman, possibly in her 70s, who was pacing back and forth in her slippers at the inquiry hatch. 'Two had to go a fire' I said factually, 'and two others went on a call, so she is the only Gard left in the station' nodding my head at Mary who was on the telephone to various hospitals cataloguing injuries of car accident victims of a crash she had attended the night before.
Finally, Mary finished on the phone and came to the hatch. It became apparent that the older woman had been 'parked in' by a car thoughtlessly positioned in the square outside and that this had caused her to be extremely upset. 'I am not sure I can do anything' said Mary, 'I'm the only Gard here'. 'It's right outside your station!' exclaimed the woman. 'Alright, alright', Mary came out from behind the glass partition and followed behind her to the entrance. Since regulations forbid a Garda station to be unattended, Mary performed a netball player lunge out of the front door, with one foot still firmly planted in the station and the rest of her body a couple feet away looking over the railing to see that indeed one car was being blocked by another. Taking the registration of the offending vehicle, she said she would see what she could do. A quick check of a car registration database gave a name and a home telephone number. She had the telephone on speaker and I could hear the number ringing and ringing.
"Jane, is it?" she called to me.
"Yes?", I said.
"Go out and ask them if there is any change".
I went outside and leaned over the railing trying to get the attention of the small group assembled round the car. "Erm, she wants to know are you still parked in?" I called. In a loud screeching voice the woman whose car looked forlornly like it was not going home that night called back "Of course I am still parked in, can't you see for yourself?"
"No change" I indicated to Mary on returning to the waiting room to take up browsing through my books once again. I had with me four books grabbed at the last minute from my desk in Cambridge where I am currently on sabbatical leave. Kristeva - Black Sun, Zizek - Fragile Absolute, Bion - Elements of psychoanalysis, Irigaray - Thinking the difference.
While I continued reading such lines as".the repressed spectral "virtual history" is not the truth of the official public history, but the fantasy which fills in the void of the act that brought history about", Mary was on the phone. "Does the name ___ mean anything to you" she said into the mouthpiece. "Thanks, right, and where are they this evening?" "Right, good" she said writing something down. She then dialled another number. "Is ____ at your place this evening?" she interrogated, and then on receiving the answer she raised her voice authoritatively and said "Well, it's Mary N___ from the Gards here and I want you tell to her to come outside and move her car right now as it's causing an obstruction." Without waiting for a response she firmly replaced the handset into the receiver. "Jane?" she called again, "go outside and tell them that the person is coming". I obeyed but not before placing a finger firmly in my book at the line I had just read ".the secret narrative that tells its story is purely fantasmatic."
After passing on the message, I return to the waiting room and sit watching out of the window that faces directly onto the square. I can see the older woman in slippers standing in front of the offending car with her hands on her hips, glaring at the windscreen. Into the frame of the waiting room window, walking very, very slowly, an even older woman appears, carrying a car key held out in front of her carefully like a pair of scissors or a knife. Nothing happens until she puts the key into the lock of the car and then the woman waiting for her, standing slightly taller than the car bonnet, lets out all of the vective she has stored up for people of this kind who are so inconsiderate of others. A duet of screeching ensues since the woman who has just arrived at her car does not share the view that she has done anything incorrect and puts her own opinion that there is plenty of room to squeeze past her car and there was no need to be getting a Gard to call her in the middle of the night.
I commentate all the action for Mary, although the dialogue is hard to miss even from her desk behind the glass screen. "She's getting in the car now. She shut the door. Headlights are on. The other one got out of the way. She's driving off.Yep, now the other car's driving off.
Peace and quiet.
"So, she's not coming in to thank me?" queries Mary, laughing. "Ah, I'm sure she's grateful" I offer "and anyway, that was a pretty good piece of detective work, tracking down that car owner. I'm impressed. It couldn't happen in a city".
Mary comes out from the office into the waiting room and stands in front of me. "So, where are you from yourself?" she asks. I sigh. Lately this has seemed to take on the character of a trick question for me.
"I'm sort of from everywhere" I say, "I have lived in Ireland for five years but I was born in Australia and mostly I have lived there. At the moment I am doing some research in the UK for four months". Mary indicates that she is one of the seemingly 98% of Irish people of her age who has been to Australia for a year on a working holiday. She describes to me the typical route of a holiday worker - Sydney-Cairns-Top End. Apparently it was brilliant and she would love to go back. (I remember how astonished I was to find that Ireland's population had not yet reached 4 million when I arrived in 1999 since I thought I must have met about that number of Irish people travelling around Australia).
"So, where do you work here?" She asks me
"Irish World Music Centre," I say
On hearing that, Mary gasps in shock, she holds her hands up to her face, she stares up at the ceiling, back at me, shakes her head, and exclaims earnestly: "I've always wanted to be a music therapist!"
1 The police force in Ireland is called An Garda Siochonna. "Gard' is the term used for a male or female police officer.
2 Since this story may have been invented it is probably not necessary to indicate that all identities have been changed except for my own.
3 Zizek, p. 70
4 Zizek, p. 71
Edwards, Jane (2004). Music Therapy Everywhere: One More Story. Voices: A World Forum for Music Therapy. Retrieved May 17, 2013, from http://testvoices.uib.no/?q=fortnightly-columns/2004-music-therapy-everywhere-one-more-story