Yes we finally turned into a whole flock standing last night at the bus stop in The Square with the wind howling down from Tallaght onto us. We just kind of shuffled forlornly sticking a beak out from time to time into the gale to see if *anything* was happening at the place where the double-deckers pull in to park. A woman waddled up to me and squaked:
"Are you waiting on the 311 to Rathcoole?"
"No," I croaked back. "A 49 or a 75 will do me."
"I think I see people over there who might live in Rathcoole. One was due at 17.05 and it's now 17.20," she said, shuffling off and flapping her arms slightly. I heard her say:
"Are you waiting for the 311?"
Another woman's voice said:
"I'm not sure if I am or not."
It was that kind of night. Fifty of us on an ice-flow showing no signs of melting. Everybody wearing thinsulating hats and scarves and trousers stuck to us with wind and rain coming over the mountain. A lady with a bottle of blonde hair on her head cradled a crafty cigarette behind the end of the bus-shelter, but it sent off little sparks in the night every time she pulled on it.
At last a 75 pulled in and we waddled up the steps asking for tickets through gritted teeth.
At Belgard Square West -- ten minutes later (it lies 100 yards away from the bus-stop but traffic was heavy) -- a man and woman got on, her pulling a small, two-wheeled grocery trolley behind her. They stumbled up the stairs together as the bus lurched forward and sat down somewhere behind me. I couldn't see them as my neck was frozen and wouldn't turn.
"Hello!" he shouted suddenly down a mobile phone. "I was given your number about trying to find accomodation for the night."
A few titters erupted from the youngsters near the front of the bus.
"My partner and I had gone to bed. We were going to watch Crime Scene Investigators upstairs because the reception is no good downstairs. Anyway, she was asleep and after a while I smelled smoke. I opened the bedroom door and the whole house was on fire. I got out in the clothes I was wearing. She was in pyjamas. I'm badly burned.
"We had the fire inspector out. They think it might have been electrical, but the heat had destroyed everything so they're not sure. They think it might have started in the kitchen.
"We were in the Council all morning and they've stamped our forms and everything. No, it doesn't matter..."
Aside, to her: "She says we might be separated, but it doesn't matter, does it?"
She said: "No."
He went on: "We got on a 75 bus just to get out of the cold. I'm on a mobile, so I'm not too sure of the cost. Oh! It's a Freephone number. Well, I'm not too sure how long the battery will last."
To her: "Give me a pen."
She said: "Do I look like I have a pen?"
He goes on: "Yes, I know it. 17-18 **** Street. Yes, we can go there. We should be there before 8.00pm. No, there's no drink involved or anything. I'm a bit unshaven, like, because I was burned..."
A few more arrangements were made, and he repeated the address until he knew it by heart. At the end of the call he said to his partner:
"Right. We need to get off this bus."
They hobbled downstairs, having a small argument about who was going to get the trolley out of the luggage compartment. Then they went off into the night, looking to catch a bus for town.
I suppose there are worse things than waiting 40 minutes for a bus to bring you home to your comfortable life.