The bus was one of those double deckers from a few years ago, the ones I think of as new, even though they're not new. But they're one of the best on our shoddily-provided bus route. They are shiny with pale plastic and lots and lots of chrome handholds, but they have a major flaw: when the engine idles in traffic, noise resonates through the rear of the bus and echoes from the back seats off the shiny plastic walls and off the metallic handholds and gets into your ears as if swirling water was pouring from a jug or basin over your head. There is a rumble from the engine and the air vibrates and then you hear "Shrrshhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!" and every second or third syllable in any conversation is masked by a strange, white-noise-like, Doppler effect.
"I was in The Square and we_ oo_ eh_curt_es_an_as_eh_dy_..."
It only happens when the bus has stopped in traffic. Once the revs increase, the sound returns to normal.
I often think it can't be good for you.
How is it a health inspector has never condemned these buses as a hazard?
Half-way up the bus I was sitting feeling sorry for myself and feeling depressed over what a lousy job I had to work at. In the back seat a mobile phone rang and a young, well-spoken man answered it and chatted unabashed. I gazed out at the buildings going by, half listening, tuning out when the bus halted and the shrilling, swishing noise buzzed about the cabin.
"...There's no problem at all. I just decided that living in the house with the lads would put me back into a place I didn't want to be again. So I'm on the bus now and I'm on the way over to...."
"...and I'll sleep in the car."
"....was taking 40 mils of Methadone and gone off it. I'm doing okay. There was one day I was sick but it's okay now.."
"...one day just blow yourself away with a needle, so I thought it would be better if I got out of there..."
"...you're right, you're right. Your man asked me to mind something for him and to have some for myself if I wanted. So, of course, I fucked myself up and my mother saw me and said she'd seen your man's car and if she saw it again on the road she'd call the police.
"So I told him and he said he didn't want any trouble with police and I told him I couldn't look after his goods any more..."
"....course is a year. A whole year. They retrain you. I have the literature there. But she said I knew as well as she did I'd never do the day course. She said, the best thing you can do is hang on for the house and get away from everyone. You do better on your own. She told me a lot about myself, more than any other counsellor ever did..."
The bus moved by the playing fields in Old Bawn, half-a-dozen gangly youths clad in T-shirts and shorts kicking a football back and forth on a football field. The sun shone brightly through the right hand panes of the window glass, making those passengers in the offside seats squint and sweat.
"The best thing you ever did was tell me to get out."
"...I'll have to knock on the door, though, and ask for a blanket..."
"No, no. There's nothing you can do...."
"I had three pillows on the bed. Can you get them for me...?"
"Oh, no bother. No bother...."
I stepped down from the bus and shuffled home. The young man was still speaking away on the mobile phone as the bus pulled out from the kerb going off down the road to who knows where.