As I approached the screening area at Dublin airport, the security officer was still smiling. She had just been chatting with another local, commenting on the grumpiness of some travellers.
"What's the point of being miserable," she had said. "People drain the life out of you being glum, why not be happy?"
It was 6.30 on a busy morning, but there was time for a laugh.
"Go on, grab a tray, while the good mood lasts," she chuckled, in my direction. "Belt off, laptop out," she instructed, before the coup de grace.
"And put your 'Mork and Mindy' in the tray", pointing to my sleeveless puffer vest.
"In Ireland that's what we call those jackets, ever since that show," she said, referring to the Robin Williams series featuring "Mork from Ork".
I conveyed something between surprise and amusement, before collecting my belongings, and giving a wave.
"Na-Nu, Na-Nu", she replied, mimicking Mork's famous greeting.
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As an episode, it was the perfect climax to my Dublin trip. In 20 years of travelling I'd never experienced such a situation, but I'd also never been to a place quite like Ireland.
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The Irish are special and their unique humour, wit and charm can elevate everyday situations into thoroughly memorable experiences.
These had started on arrival, as I explained to the Customs officer that I was in Dublin to watch the All Whites face Ireland at the Aviva Stadium.
A few of players had been on the same flight from Doha, and stood in the queue behind me in their New Zealand tracksuits.
"I didn't even know the game was on," he quipped. "Alright, so, if I don't let these boys in… it will be an advantage to Ireland?"
It continued the next day, on a city bus tour. I haven't done many "hop on-hop off" trips, but they follow a pretty similar formula, with places of interest, some local yarns and anecdotes blended with historical knowledge.
But not here, as our host was a stand-up comedian masquerading as a driver.
"Welcome to Dublin," he said, introducing himself as Greg.
"We have more than 1000 pubs, but they are only for visitors; Dubliners don't really drink, they only go to bars to keep the tourists company."
We headed past historic St Anne's church, where Bram Stoker was married ("he got the idea for horror stories after his wedding") and Dawson's Lounge, known as the smallest pub in Ireland ("It's great when it's full…you can't fall over").
We passed Dublin Castle and Christ Church Cathedral (founded in 1930), before stopping at the Guinness storehouse, established in 1759 and the largest brewery in Ireland.
"Have you heard about the Guinness diet," he inquired, as a group of Germans alighted. "I tried it once…lost four days."
There he greeted a new load of passengers — "Hello, my name is Paddy" before telling us more about his 25-year marriage.
"We go for a romantic meal twice a week," he said. "She goes on Tuesday, I go on Thursday."
There was much to admire as we drove.
A herd of deer roaming through Phoenix Park, twice the size of New York's Central Park and the biggest urban parkland expanse in Europe, the iconic General Post Office building on O'Connell St (where the Proclamation of Independence was read out) and St Patrick's Cathedral, which dates back to 1192 and sits beside a well where Ireland's patron saint used to baptise converts.
On the bus, the banter was still flowing.
"Welcome on board, my name is Sean," he said, as a couple boarded. "Thank you for choosing us. Don' t get on the yellow and red (competitors)' buses…they are crap."
"In Ireland we love whiskey," he added, as we passed another distillery. "It's the water of life, but it's all about moderation. Just one bottle at a time."
Mixed in with the fun there was plenty of history, insight and (serious) advice – "make sure you ask for directions; our early street designers were probably affected by Guinness fumes". Greg put his heart and soul into what could otherwise be a repetitive job, and it was only later, on another bus with a recorded Wikipedia-style commentary, that I realised what an unexpected delight it had been.
Earlier, picturesque St Stephens Green, the largest city square in Europe, proved a great spot for a wander.
Across the road was the Little Museum of Dublin, where our guide expertly brought the unique collection (in a public appeal for historic objects, more than 5000 artefacts were donated) to life.
There was a lot to see, but my personal highlight was the room devoted entirely to U2, with particularly good coverage of their early years.
Bono cops some criticism – "he's a social justice warrior but doesn't pay taxes in Ireland", one local explained, but most are immensely proud of the band and everyone seems to have a U2 story.
The best came from a taxi driver, recalling the time he dropped a group to a house party on the outskirts of town.
He was stunned when Bono and his wife came out to meet the cab, telling his passengers "Wow, look at that...it's Bono."
"Yes...yes it is," came the nonplussed reply from the passenger seat, and only then did the driver recognise The Edge, sitting next to him.
[DROP CAP] Music swirls through Dublin's lanes — the Icons Walk had colourful tributes to Van Morrison, Bob Geldof, Sinead O'Connor and The Waterboys — and the city comes alive in the evening.
The Temple Bar area is the mecca, for locals and tourists alike, with live music day and night. But just about anywhere can provide great memories.
I wandered into Napper Tandy's - centrally located but far from the tourist hot spots, a random bar on a random Tuesday night - and encountered some of the best Irish cliches you could imagine.
The Guinness was perfect, a black and white work of art. The air fizzled with humour and craic, the barman was quick with a joke and the food was hearty and warm.
Tucked away in the corner, a musician belted out songs with verve and pride, while groups of business colleagues and friends engaged in animated conversation.
The singer finished with some traditional favourites, as many of the punters joined in, in a wonderfully unscripted demonstration of national pride, passion and fun.
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