Saturday, June 02, 2007

Culture shock

The bus pulled in at the terminus at The Square and in keeping with tradition the passengers disembarked and the engine was switched off and somebody started to complain as the driver tried to go on his break.

"You're late!" the middle aged Dublin woman said to the African in the Dublin Bus uniform who was trying to wave her off the step so he could shut the door.

She stepped back down onto the pavement.

"I've been waiting here for hours and then you just go on a break!"

The driver calmly closed the door. He said:

"How many hours?"

There was a definite look of surprise on the woman's face. Not only was she, a native Irishwoman, being addressed by a black person, but also by a black person in a position of authority. It was evidently a shock to her system.

"How many hours have you been waiting?" he asked. "One hour? Two hours...?"

She looked at him in bewilderment.

"Half an hour!" he said. The bus arrives every thirty minutes or so.

She retreated to the relative safety of the bus shelter. No-one else joined in the argument on her side.

"That's right," she rallied. "You go on your break now and get your cup of coffee or whatever it is you're getting."

The driver spoke quietly to her and I couldn't make out what he said. But her reply must have included something along the lines of

"And what are you going to do about it?" because he then said, loud enough for all to hear:

"I can refuse to take you on this bus. All of these people can travel. You cannot."

He turned and walked off in into the Square.

Ten minutes later we boarded the bus. The complaining passenger politely proffered her fare and was given a ticket. A few stops on, a friend joined her. They spoke cheerfully abut the weather and about hospital appointments and stuff like that. Then after a quarter hour their voices lowered and they whispered together. I wonder what the subject was.

Nice one, driver. I think.

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