Mar 2007


Have you ever been on a five hour coach journey that became a twelve hour perdition due to bad weather? It’s pretty damn ugly let me tell you. Just arriving at a coach station is enough to shake a person’s confidence. The deep alien throb of two dozen large bus engines idling. It’s not the scream of jets, but you can still hear the planet burn. And while I’m far from being a religious man, and I don’t know about heaven or hell, I know for damn certain there’s a purgatory. The Catholics are right on the money about that one. It turns out you see, that the corporeal manifestation of the realm of lost souls forever denied grace… is the Irish public transport system.

And in one fell swoop, the Catholicism thing is explained. How else could that weird little gentleman’s club have held sway over a country for so long? For the answer; just show up at an Irish bus-stop and wait. I’m not saying it’s definitely enough to drive an entire nation to its knees, but it’s worth thinking about.

In truth though, torrential rains and galeforce winds making roads temporarily impassable is hardly a peculiarly Irish phenomenon. And half a day cooped up in a narrow coach seat isn’t noticeably improved by the nationality of the tarmac being slowly traversed. On that, sadly, I speak from bitter experience. A deep grimness cuts right to the soul. There’s a moment… about seven and a half hours into your five hour journey… as you pass what looks suspiciously like the halfway point, when you gradually become aware that you’ve exhausted every one of the limited number of possible positions your body can occupy in the restrictive confines of your seat. You enter a permanent stage of significant discomfort, and god help you if there’s a child within three seats. One with a toothache.

But as I say, coaches get delayed by bad weather all over the world. So it’s not really fair for me to lay this one squarely on the Irish public transport system. Unlike, say, when I want to catch the 75 bus to Stillorgan and find myself — an hour and a half into my wait — seething under my breath about how “I’ve been in third world countries with better public transport”. Which of course then gets me even more pissed off, because I don’t like the unconsciously patronising undertones of the phrase “third world” and I wonder whether my frustration at the bus is actually revealing cultural prejudice on some level. And nothing’s guaranteed to mess up your day more than a brutal dose of “dear god! maybe I’m even more riddled with unconscious prejudices than I thought”. Seriously, by the time I eventually get to Stillorgan I’m ready to emigrate again.

Please. Just take me to a place where the buses work… Is that really so much to ask?

Posted in: Opinion