My cabbie to Shannon airport was a very interesting guy. He was a big man, shaved head, lots of tatts; the kind of guy you wouldn't want to run into in a dark alley, but really a big teddy bear at heart.
Our conversation started with him asking me what had brought me to Limerick. When I said it was a UN training course he asked me if I'd worked with them overseas, and of course I answered that I'd just been in the Philippines. "Oh a lovely part of the world," he said. "You've been there?" "Yeah, I was stationed there for a while." Suddenly the large frame and haircut made sense and I couldn't believe I hadn't picked him as a military man. "Were you with the Irish army?" "No, no, nothing like that," he replied.
We chatted away for a minute about something unrelated and then he asked me if I'd been to Africa. I said no, and he said he'd had some interesting adventures there with the Legion. "The French Foreign Legion?" "Yep. I joined up after school with a mate, we'd met a French guy in Holland who invited us to Marsailles, and from there we went to Paris and it just kind of happened. I called my Mum to tell her that she wouldn't be hearing from me for a while, and I wasn't allowed to speak to her for 6 months."
I was intrigued. What was life in the Legion like? Where else had he been? What did he do? Turns out after a few years he was invited to join the paratroopers, and you don't turn down an offer like that. He spent 4 years and 9 months as a paratrooper and was looking forward to re-signing after 5 years. But then he got shot. "Oh my goodness, where did you get shot?" "Just in the leg, clean exit wound through the back of my thigh." "No, where in the world did you get shot." "Oh right, it was in Angola, by a cracked out 14 year old with an AK47. After that me Mam didn't want me to sign up again, so I didn't."
It was the most interesting cab ride I've ever had. Except for the part where he told me how he'd had a guy who was an airline steward who'd told him how he was supposed to be on the Air France flight that went down recently. For whatever reason, the guy had swapped shifts. That's the day you buy a lottery ticket! He then told me that the bodies that were recovered were naked, which meant the clothes had been swept off them, meaning the plane had broken apart in two when it hit turbulence much faster than it should have. "But don't worry about that, I'm sure your flight will be just grand!"
And apart from Elbows McGee (i.e. an old Indian lady) sitting next to me banging into me at all hours, and the really bad Air France and Qantas food, the trip back was pretty grand.