“Honey, this would be great drone footage,” I said, patting Will’s leg insistently. Little did I realize that this suggestion would take us through a wild afternoon.
William, my fiancé, looked up quickly from his seat on the passenger side and agreed. The emerald fields stretching out on either side of the car were a perfect testing ground for the state-of-the-art drone we’d brought with us for our 10-day sprint through Ireland. My 26-year-old brother nodded in the back seat, agreeing that it was a great location for aerial footage.
Coasting to the narrow shoulder of the country road we were cruising, I stopped in order for Will to pull the drone out of trunk and power it to life. After it whirred off into the sky he sat in the car next to me, my eyes on the road and his on the drone screen in his lap. He flew the drone behind our rental car as I sighed over the gorgeous, dancing hills and castle ruins.
Maybe a mile from where we launched the drone, Will got restless next to me: he’d lost sight of the car from his view through the drone’s high-definition camera.
“Pull over,” he asked tersely.
The drone was a DJI Phantom borrowed from one of his friends, cradled in a large checked bag through 24 hours of flights and layovers. Will had grand visions of aerial footage cut and posted to YouTube that would be the envy of all our friends.
He lept out of the car and on to the edge of a yellow-green field, ruined castles within the field’s stonewall borders. Using the castle as a visual marker, William’s only goal was to find our tiny car and himself—as large as an ant—through the drone’s camera.
After a few minutes of panic, he jumped back into the car bereft of any idea where the drone was. It had lost power—for all its high-tech capabilities, the drone could only be up in the air for about half an hour—and was routing itself autonomously to the point we’d launched it.
We lurched into a five-point turn around and went screaming down the road to find the drone. When its coordinates disappeared over a cow field, William grimly asked me to pull over. With drone control in hand, he got out of the car and prepared to hop the large cattle fence, hoping not to get shot for trespassing. I parked in a farmhouse’s driveway across the narrow road.
A black car came gracefully to a stop right in front of Will. Unthinkingly, he waved the woman and her elderly passenger on when they asked if he needed help.
I heard, from my open window, the woman ask, “Excuse me, are you William? Are you looking for a drone?”
With a GoPro mounted to the window of our rental car, we caught—on camera—William’s mouth fall open in a mix of disbelief, shock and excitement.
“I found a drone in the road back there and picked it up,” the mystery drone-savior said. “Your email address is printed on it. I was just going to email you from the pub, but since you’re here you can have it back.”
Surely enough, the drone was in the backseat of her car, still recording. With a whoop of relief, several rounds of hugs and shouts of disbelief, we had our drone back and were in the car. William’s eyes, bloodshot with the stress of having lost the drone, met mine.
“I can’t believe that,” William said. “This is so amazing.”
Keyed up, we decided—for the continued success of our multi-hour journey from Cork to Dingle—that we needed to stop for a Guinness, or several.
A quarter-mile down the road we stopped at a corner pub with a red door. Deep in Crookstown, Co. Cork, we had just stopped at Clifford’s Bar—more of a living room with locals crowded around watching the rematch of Mayo and Dublin’s football teams.
Walking up to the bar, we caught none other than our drone savior on the phone—later we learned she’d been telling her husband about “this crazy, cool exchange I just had with some Americans.”
Whooping with another round of jubilation—and a promised round of drinks on us—we walked into the bar and ordered a drink waiting for her to finish her call and join us. The locals eyed us warily but seemed fine to share their bar as long as we were quiet during the game, all eyes glued to the small screen above the bar.
Helen, as we learned, was our drone savior’s name, was there in rural Ireland visiting her father. She and her siblings took turns visiting and would take their father to the pub, one of his favorite outings.
Her 90-plus-year-old father sat at the bar, watching the Mayo-Dublin match with the rest of the boys. The men cried out when Mayo scored and booed referees when Dublin scored. While no one in their direct area was in the game, the general rumblings throughout most of the country were that Mayo was the favorite to win. Irishman, through and through, love rooting for dynamic underdogs, it seems.
Helen talked to the three of us for the better part of a half hour while we drank Guinness, ordered shepherd's pie and watched the football game unfold. She asked about American politics, with a gleam in her eye as she asked our views on the candidates for the upcoming presidential vote. We talked about Irish and English politics in turn, briefly.
While our trip had been largely successful thus far, Helen sat and listened about our slapstick mishaps and joked about her life and family.
"My brother will be so jealous," Helen told us. "He always says nothing happens when it's his turn to take dad to the pub, he'll be so mad that I had this big adventure!"
Regularly a few of the women in the pub would approach Helen and give her a hug or a friendly greeting. Helen was beloved and had grown up in the area, from what she said, but no longer lived there.
About two Guinness' into our conversation—two of my Guinness, I drink slowly compared to some—a local woman came over and touched Helen’s shoulder, saying that her father was asking for her from the other side of the fairly long bar in the loud pub.
Helen swooped into action. She handed her car keys to the woman and turned to us.
“We have to go when dad’s ready to go, so I’m off,” Helen told us. “It was lovely meeting you, though. Good luck with your drone and getting more videos.”
With that, she strode over to her dad. After more than a few pints, the elderly man was moving to get up. Two other pub-goers went to the doors of the establishment and held them open while Helen put her arm under her father’s shoulder.
She tapped the arm of the young man sitting next to her father.
“Hey, do you mind?” she said, motioning to her father and disregarding the young man’s Guinness that had recently been handed to him.
It was in that moment that something magical happened.
The young man—clad in designer sportswear, looking quite tough—got up and put his shoulder under the old man’s other arm unquestioningly. Together they turned her father to the door. Helen’s father was a little unsteady on his feet, lurching forward and then stopping in his tracks.
The young man looked unsure at Helen, as did we. What should we do with our hands? How could we help?
“Oh, it’s OK. Just give his foot a little push,” said Helen.
The young man looked dubious. We looked dubious.
He gently nudged her father’s foot forward. Bazinga! The foot moved and the elderly man was still standing. Helen scootched his other foot forward. On and on they went this way until they had him out to the car.
Another man—a different man apart from the people holding the doors, the local who’d moved the car around so that the passenger-side door faced the pub door and the young man across from Helen holding her father's shoulder—held the door to the car open for Helen to easily help her father sit down in the vehicle.
As they drove off in the little black car, William and I sat down, staring at each other in disbelief of the respect and community effort we'd just witnessed.
As the locals filed back in, they went back to their beers and their seat at the bar or the small surrounding tables, chatting or anxiously watching the match. Mayo scored—or came close to it, it was hard to see on the television set—and everyone erupted into cheers.
It had returned quietly, effortlessly, to an afternoon at the pub unmarked by the community effort that had just happened, as if that sort of effort and respect were as commonplace as the Guinness in front of us.