Friday, June 22, 2007

Going sideways

As the 75 bus pulled out before I could set my booted foot upon it and as I had spent an afternoon at work stuffing envelopes, I was not inclined to turn up my nose at the prospect of a single-decker 49 bus which appeared ten minutes later.

I usually avoid these ill-conceived monsters like the proverbial terminal cough and bursting bits. They are constructed so that the last two-thirds of the bus contains the majority of seated passengers. One sixth ahead of that is for luggage, and between the luggage racks and the driver's compartment is an aisle which rapidly fills up with standing passengers such that one fat, tired, and incredibly annoyed person who happens to look exactly like me, can't get to the front in time to alight at his chosen stop.

This evening I would have accepted a lift in the back of a dung-carrying donkey car.

"I'll find one of those seats for wheelchair helpers or something and sit in it. Bugger ability!"

So it was that I found myself a single seat jammed in behind the driver's compartment and a luggage rack. I was sitting sideways on in a passably comfortable position like a cork shoved into a bottle. The world went by like a microfiche reader.

Whizz! Greens, brick reds, flashing indicator lights, No-Through-Road signage, pink and bottle-blonde blobs of people waiting at the side of the road for other buses.

Clunk! There's the front door of the Tallaght SuperValu, framed perfectly in the window. Western Union money transfers done here, I see. Free car parking for 2 hours around the corner. The unseen traffic signal changes and we lurch away again.

Wheee! The building site on the southern side of Tallaght Hospital jumbling by in horizontal, tubular lines, poles and scaffolds, dark cavernous unfinished rooms, piles of dug-up earth, large wheeled lifting machines.

At the roundabout -- where we Clunked! briefly to a halt again to let traffic by -- the centrifugal force almost pulled me out of the niche I was sitting in. I gripped a handhold and counted in my head how many times the bus would be turning right. Once more, on this journey, at least for me. At the next turn I was ready and didn't get sucked out too far into the aisle.

Wheee! Unfinished walkways and galvanised rails, stainless steel posts and loungers sipping drinks at the tables outside the Metro bar.

Then warp-speed ahead! The limestone wall of the Priory shot by in perfect parallel lines, its crooked lines of mortar merging together in long, unbroken, mermerising horizontals. I looked away. I was feeling queasy at the sense of speed and the lack of anything to fix my gaze steadily upon.

On the floor where it had rolled was a shiny penny. I looked at it in the dust and chewing gum until my light headedness went away.

People got on and looked at me in surprise. I was facing the doors as soon as they opened. Even the bus driver sits facing away. A man spoke in Arabic on a mobile telephone and argued with the driver about his fare while trying to carry on his mircowave-linked conversation.
"Two stops! Two stops!" he said loudly. "One euro!"

"Bottom of Old Bawn Road!" the driver said loudly back to him, punching the button which spat out the ticket.

The Arab man took the ticket without acknowledgement. Then he had a loud conversation down the rear of the bus on his telephone. After two stops he got off and carried on at the side of the road, sometimes making gestures the person on the other end couldn't see.

Cold air blew in at me. I was glad my shoulder bag was resting on my lap and giving me some protection from the weather.

A woman jumped on suddenly through the open doors and said to the driver:

"Can I ask you a question?"

She was sober, but obviously didn't spare herself on food or drink.

"How do I get to Sundale?"

She added: "I'm driving."

"Oh, you're driving? Well, go back to the Tallaght Bypass. Turn left and go up to the pub there at Jobstown..."

"The one near the petrol station?"

"Yes. Turn right there and go down to the roundabout. It's around there..."

"Thanks!" she said and rushed off, jangling cheap jewellry. I couldn't see her car. I was facing the wrong way. The bus creaked along a little way before the doors closed again.

At Firhouse, a young man stopped the bus, got on and dropped a coin in the slot.

"One Euro, please."

"Bottom of Firhouse Road!" the driver exclaimed, and punched the ticket machine button. The man looked at him warily from under his fringe, took the ticket and went to sit down.

At the back of the bus, a black girl who had paid the child fare was wondering if the driver would remember shouting "Templeogue Post Office!" The tension was unbearable.

I looked at the arrangement of the bell pushes. The last one was to my left and I would have to step down from my bucket seat and reach the wrong way with my left hand to press it. I couldn't tell its colour, which somehow annoyed me. Was it a blue bell button, or a red one, or some other colour? I pressed it and a muted "Ding! sounded in the driver's compartment.

The world spun back into a recognisable going-forwards scene and the driver deposited me safely at the bus shelter on Ballycullen Avenue. I was the only one he hadn't announced a destination for out loud. Strange, I thought, and walked the 100 yards or so home, facing forwards all the way.

1 comment:

Jo said...

Oh the wearyness of a long day at work. I felt for you, feeling your tiredness and boredom of the trip home. Still you were alert enough to see and hear what was going on around you. What a busy world we live in eh.