Consisting of pensioners, poor students and other people without a lovely pink license, we travellers of public transport have quite a few stories to tell.
Falling into the poor student category, I’ve spent my fair share of time racing for trains, ag fanacht at rainy bus stops and staring out of windows and over the years, I’ve started to notice a few familiar characters cropping up arís is arís. No matter where you’re from or where you’re going, these ambassadors of our reliably unreliable public transport system are inevitable and thus, I have decided to celebrate them in blog form.
First and foremost comes the Old Dear. Wielding her bus pass and a bag of Werther’s Originals, the Old Dear is a sure sight on any bus or train. Possibly the most pleasant of people to meet ar an mbus, befriending the wonderful white haired ladies is nearly always a great experience and often carries the potential of a free milseán, their whole life story and even in particularly lucky circumstances, a free trip on the bus pass.
Ag Uimhir a Dó, we come across the eternal “Fifteen-Year-Old”. Typically aged between seventeen and twenty-one, said “Fifteen-Year-Old” has been blessed with a baby face and uses it to their full advantage to get that oh-so-sweet child’s ticket. Often heard arguing with the bus driver, common catchphrases include “Do you want ID or something? Sure what would I have ID for? I’m only fifteen!” and “It’s not my fault puberty came early”.
As in all things, of course we do come across some unsavoury characters on our travels from time to time and sadly but surely, there will always be the Smelly Stranger. Be it a pooey-shoe or just a bad dose of BO, there’s faic le déanamh but to hold your srón and bear it.
We’re lucky enough in a way here in Ireland, in that as a nation we’re all quite fond of our spás pearsanta and because of that we all accept the general rule that you do not sit beside someone else on public transport unless a) you know the person well enough to commit to conversation for the entire journey or b) you have absolutely no other option.
In the miserable event that you do in fact have no other option, most people will be sound enough to begrudgingly shuffle over and move their strategically placed belongings enough for you to suigh síos. However as the saying goes, there’s always one. That one person who really, really, really, REALLY does not want you to sit beside them, but alas, you’re stuck. Said individual will then proceed to sprawl themselves across the seat to leave you with barely an arsecheek’s worth of space and will sulk for the duration of the journey – letting out a loud exasperated sigh every couple of minutes as well, just to drive the message home.
But alas dear pals, as bad as that sounds, it could be níos measa fós believe you me, because nothing, NOTHING, is as bad as the Talker. Generally a chirpy, well-meaning, harmless soul…the Talker is to be avoided at all costs. This warning comes from those of us that have learned the hard way.
You see, what may seem like a simple “So where are you headed?” is actually a trap. A very dangerous trap that will see you locked into an inescapable conversation beginning with your destination and rapidly becoming the Talker’s life story, potentially including (and not limited to) the names and background details of each of their pets, a detailed description of the birth of their child, the story of how they overcame a harrowing drug addiction, how they eventually found peace with the help and love of the Jehovah’s Witness community and would-you-like-to-join.
All during which you begin to get a series of Leaving Cert Gaeilge flashbacks and come to the conclusion that Catherine from Cáca Milis was a very misunderstood character who deserved more sympathy.
Much better off not to engage except perhaps to give the occasional nod and smile.
The best option of all in fact, in my personal experience, is to pop in your ear phones, shut your eyes, drown out the world and find yourself fulfilling the last role on the list…