It’s the part of the internet that makes you a little sheepish. You’re filling out a form, typing in your name and address and then the website asks for your ZIP code.
You almost blush on behalf of Ireland. It’s like being the customer in a queue whose situation is complicated and needs to speak to someone sympathetic in order ‘to explain your situation’. “Well it’s like this you see … I’m from Ireland, we haven’t got ZIP codes.” You can hear the rest of the Internet sniggering. “Even we have postal codes” – whispers an Afghan sardonically. ”And our country has been in a permanent state of war since 1980.” In the end, as the website tut-tutted, you hastily type 0000 into the field and carry on, praying no one will notice.
That is all going to change. They were first mooted for 2008 but put off because, during the financial crisis, we didn’t know if anyone was going to write to us again. We are getting postcodes.
Of course technically we already have postcodes. Although the Dublin postcode less a postcode, more a signifier of class.
There are even Cork postcodes but they don’t seem to be used – like a vestigial tail. I first became aware of them when I used to work at Christmas in the sorting office in Eglinton Street in Cork. I saw envelopes with Cork 4 written on them. At first I thought it was a sort of jokey reference (like we used to call some of the nicer clusters of houses in our area Dripsey 4). But there are Cork 1, 2, 3 and 4.
Your address is a huge part of your life that was one of the first things you learned. I’m sure I’m not the only one who among us who hasn’t at some stage between the ages of 0 and 25 written their address out as fully as possible: Agharina, Dripsey Co. Cork, Munster, Ireland, Europe, The World, Earth, The Solar System, The Milky Way (and in literally a quantum leap) The Universe, God.
While postcodes won’t prevent that, they will introduce a kind of alphanumeric certainty, thus removing the need to specific which Galaxy you live in.
There are never going to be conversations “We were flying until ANOTHER JOHN TWOMEY moved in. And after that then, I’d say there wasn’t a week went by that the post didn’t get mixed up. Although we became good friends after that. Would you believe didn’t they invite us to the daughter’s wedding?”
Postcodes have a serious benefit. Emergency services will save valuable minutes by being able to locate a house immediately but this too has its downsides. You will now only need to put the postcode into your sat nav and the GPS will bring you directly to your destination. There’s a strong argument that these should be the only people allowed to use them.
Otherwise we will see the regrettable phasing out of the complex network of ould lads leaning against walls contemplatively chewing on a blade of grass and passing on gnomic directions to puzzled tourists. This will have a devastating effect on any authors writing humorous books about ‘the real Ireland’.
It’s potentially a serious issue. It will need to be addressed.
Colm O’Regan’s book “That’s More Of It Now, the Second Book Of Irish Mammies” is out now.
First published in the Irish Examiner on October 14th