The Mini and Me: Getting pranked at the dump

I love jokes but hate being at the receiving end of them. My earliest memory of being pranked was in Spain when I was around six years old. I was out at breakfast with my father when it came to paying for our meal, he patted his pockets and looked at me in a very concerned way.

“Robert, I’ve forgotten my wallet. I have no money.”

I was terrified. In my six years of life this had never happened to me before and I felt totally powerless.

“What do we do Daddy?” I asked.

I was a child and implicitly trusted everything my father said.

“Ok, listen carefully Robert” he said “When I count to three I want you to jump up and run away as fast as you can”

I primed my little legs as he counted down.

“Three, Two, One.”

I was off, like a starship jumping to warp speed. As I got around the corner I heard fits of laughter. There was Dad cracking up laughing. Of course he had his wallet and he paid for our meal. This story has become legendary within our family and is still recounted to this day. My point (as I have discovered this with age) is that my father shows affection through gentle teasing and that I am an easy mark.

Fast forward fourteen years or so and I find myself following Dad to the Dublin South City dump in his pickup truck with Dean with him. I was in the Mini with my other cousin, Leon. In the back seat of the car is a solitary black trash bag. This was only a Mini after all, and Dean, Leon and myself were hired hands on this day.

I had owned the Mini for nearly three years and in that time, the rust that had been visible on the car had spread like a cancer all over its bodywork. Every panel had some form of corrosion. The rear quarter was the worst affected, with bubbles of rust under both rear side windows. There was also a hole in the floorpan, just behind the gear stick. If you looked down while driving, you could see the road beneath the car. This was amusing to some of my passengers, and unsettling to others. To me, it was dangerous. I knew if I hit anything on the road, the car would crumple like wet toilet paper.

Despite this, I took great pride in this little car. I knew it was disintegrating around me and I was powerless to do anything about it. I was in my first year in Trinity College and I was working as a pizza delivery boy, earning very little money. Nowhere near enough to restore a classic Mini. Many of my peers had begun driving and they had more modern, structurally sound vehicles. Inwardly, I was jealous of them and felt a little embarrassed too. The Mini was rather comical and on more than one occasion I noticed someone pointing and laughing at the car. I certainly didn’t find it funny.

As we arrived at the dump, Dad’s truck was the first to reach the barrier. Leon and I chatted about something trivial, like dinner plans as we sat waiting . We both thought it was taking Dad a long time to get past the barrier. I assumed he was just annoyed with the usual red tape at the dump, where you have to announce what you are dumping and pay a set fee for different items. Dad hates being told by other people what to do. Finally, he moved through and we got to the kiosk. A middle-aged woman was sitting on her chair, looking at us curiously. Her hair was greying brown, tied into a tight bun. She wore purple glasses and too much makeup for this occasion.

“Sorry luv, you can’t dump that here.”

I assumed she meant the bag on the back seat.

“It’s only one bag.” I replied.

“Look at the rust all along the side of your car. And that front grill looks like you found it in a breakers yard.” she continued.

How the hell does she know that?

Leon began to smile and he knew what was happening before me.

“And that steering wheel looks off set too. Did you fit that yourself?  Like I said, you can’t dump that here.”

Leon began to laugh as the penny dropped. I looked at this woman and she began to laugh.

Rude Bi**h, I thought to myself.

I looked at Leon and he was pointing in Dad’s direction. Both Dean and himself had gotten out of the truck and were laughing too.

“Your father told me to say that to you.” she said, still smirking. Another car had crept up behind us and we had to get moving. Dad and Dean got back into the truck and we followed them to the dumping site. Dad parked and got out and again still laughing. Leon and I were also out of the Mini, with the black bag in my hand Dad came over and hugged me

“Sorry Rob, I couldn’t resist.” he said.

What could I say. I was annoyed at being caught out and the car teasing as well. The Mini and I had bonded and it meant more to me emotionally than a car probably should. I connected my self-esteem to it, and so felt hurt by this joke. I did get a free lunch out of him later that afternoon and this dump story became yet another tale, often told within our family. The Mini was to be sold six months later and it was replaced by a MK 2 VW Golf, in yet another comical event staged at my expense. But to read about that, you have to buy the book.

Looking back, I can now fully appreciate the effort Dad took to fool me, and it was funny. Part of me wonders where 729-UZO is today. I fear crushed, crashed or abandoned somewhere in Dublin. It was the perfect first car and I wouldn’t change it for the world.

If anyone reading this blog knows the fate of my Mini, please email me at: