Location: Innishannon, Main Street. I’m sitting on the cold concrete window ledge of Wolfe and Co. solicitors. Glancing to my right at the steady flow of oncoming traffic, I see only cars and return my gaze to the grey pavement slabs. A minute and a half later, I turn my head again southwards, my eyes attempting to draw a number 237 bus from beyond the horizon. I worm my hand into my jacket pocket to retrieve my phone, pressing the lock button so the time flashes up on the screen. 7.46 a.m. I mutter a “for feck’s sake” to myself and shove the mobile back into my jacket with hands that are quickly becoming numb.
It’s a Monday morning, and I’ve been sat waiting for the 07.29 a.m. bus to Cork city for over twenty minutes. I’d like to say that this is the first case of unpunctuality I have experienced at the hands of our national bus company but, since returning to university three weeks ago, I have yet to catch a bus that has arrived less than ten minutes after it was scheduled to do so. As the clock ticks past ten to eight on this particularly frigid morning, I feel the lure of my cosy bed grow with every second that drips by.
A red and white bus finally comes into view at 07.54 a.m. Myself and the three other irritated prospective passengers rise to our feet, glad to be getting out of the cold. Then, as I turn to face our approaching means of conveyance, my heart sinks. “Sorry. Bus full”. The hissing vehicle stops alongside us and one measly passenger is seen to alight. The heartless driver proclaims from his cushioned throne: “One person only, please.” Of course, we allow an elderly woman to board – even if she had arrived only ten minutes earlier. The driver attempts to placate us, assuring us that another bus is following closely behind. I think to myself that it’s probably the 10.30 p.m. from last night, arriving just behind schedule. He then swiftly departs, perhaps fearing a hijacking from myself and my two remaining comrades, shivering beside me.
As they pull away, I again check the time; 8.01 a.m. If the next bus arrives soon, I may still make my nine o’clock lecture. I can see my companions making similar calculations in their heads, weighing up whether to risk another thirty minute wait or whether to start tackling the journey at a swift jog. After a moment’s contemplation, decisions seem finalised. The young woman, who looks to be in her early twenties, suddenly darts back along the pavement and turns up a side street, her business heels clicking as she power walks home to beg for a lift from a sleepy Mom or Dad. Though maybe she’s just thought: “fuck it”, and has gone to lie in bed and watch Gossip Girl, deciding she cares more about the sexual frivolity of Serena Van Der Woodsen than she does for her internship at EMC.
This tangent of thought is cut off as I notice that the other member of our trio has decided to stay. I notice now, as he sits on the far end of the ledge, that his bag bears a UCC crest on its flank. It matches the one emblazoned on the breast of my hoodie. This common ground somehow cements us as brothers-in-arms. Two students, burdened with the task of attending our nine o’clock lectures; a feat, only achievable by overcoming the wholly inadequate rural bus services of our country. I feel gratified that the strife I face is not only my own. I attempt to ratify this newly bound connection by nodding my head skywards and saying: “What a load a shite, huh” and tutting in a fraternal kind of way. Softly shaking his head and, in a manner only slightly perturbed, he replies: “Some dose, alright”. He then turns back to the phone held in his hand and continues to scroll placidly through his Facebook newsfeed.
It seems I may have romanticised our shared despondence of the Irish transport system and am about to become even more forlorn when another bus breaches the horizon and saves my mood. I whisper a quick, “Thank Christ!” and sling my bag over my shoulder. I’m about to make some congenial remark to my waiting-mate but as I turn I catch sight of the front of the bus:
“You have to be joking me!”
I don’t manage to keep this one to myself.
“Bus fecking full!”
I remain where I’m standing, immediately next to the bus stop. If one passenger gets off that bus, I’ll fight anyone to the death to obtain their vacated seat. I don’t care if Rosa Parks is waiting patiently in line behind me, I’m getting on that bus. The traffic is moving at little more than a creep, so the driver gets a prolonged view of my shaking purple face as he drives on past us with not even an apologetic wave in our direction. As the bus crawls away my vision blurs and my clothes begin to tear as my muscles expand and turn green beneath them. In one deft movement, I leap thirty feet into the air and land directly in front of the departing vehicle. With a swift swipe of my right hand, I tear the windscreen from its fixings and smash it against a nearby wall. The muffled words:
“That will be ten euro forty retu…”
Are lost as I grab the driver from his snug seat and start stuffing ticket stubs down his throat.
Actually, that didn’t happen. What did occur, as I watched the last bus that would deliver me to college on time disappear, was that I became very silent and closed my eyes. After about ten seconds my stoicism abandoned me and I let out an audible: “Bollox!” and lay my face in my freezing hands. This was going to be the year when I put my heart into my course and really started working. I had dreams of achieving a one hundred percent attendance record. Did Bus Éireann not see that they were making this goal extremely difficult to attain? I lowered my hands from my face. I was now alone, my confrere having deserted me without so much as a fist bump. Defeated, I trudge back towards my place of residence, slip into bed and resume the episode of Gossip Girl, paused from the previous evening.
They say a sure sign of insanity is when someone repeats the same act over and over again and expects a different result every time. But sure, tomorrow’s Tuesday. The buses will surely be quieter.