This post is part of a sporadic series on how our daily life is different in Dublin five years on.
Sometimes during church on Sunday I’ll look out the window–they are beautiful Georgian windows just asking to be looked out of–and I’ll see a train go by. Many times it’s the DART commuter train, and that makes me happy. Sometimes it’s a steam train, and that makes me very happy. When it’s the steam train I try to get Bill’s attention, but usually he doesn’t recognize that I’m using a special tap on his leg that means, “Look quickly out the window,” rather than my normal tap when means, “Hey, I need to tell you something,” so frequently he looks at me instead of the window and misses the steam train. There’s not much I can do about it. We’re in church so I have to be subtle.
Seeing trains from the window in church reminds me that we live somewhere different from where we did before. It’s a Dublin Moment. Many urban areas in the United States have commuter trains that run by churches, but I’ve never lived in one of those places. I’m from the land of cars. None of the places I’ve lived have a very advanced public transportation system. Many folks will argue that Dublin doesn’t have an advanced public transportation system, and compared with pretty much any other city in Europe this is true, but compared to say, Birmingham, Alabama and Austin, Texas, Dublin is easily navigable via bus, train and tram.
When we lived in Raheny I took the DART into town for work. Bill would drop me off at the DART station, and I would disembark at Pearse Station. It took me about twenty minutes to walk to my office on Adelaide Road. An Irish person would get there in twelve. Irish people walk very fast. We commuters would exit Pearse station en mass. When we reached Merrion Square I’d be lagging behind a bit, with the old ladies. By Baggot Street the old ladies would have passed me by. Five years later I’m still lagging behind Irish people.
About six months after I started my job I noticed a fella from my office boarding a bus right outside the station. I hopped on. “Does this bus go to our office?” I asked hopefully. “Indeed it does,” he said, and he was right. The bus stopped directly in front of the office. And there ended my routine of walking from the station. Eventually I started taking the bus home too. I had to take two buses, but I always seemed to hit a 20 minute gap in DARTs, so my commuting algebra determined x = y not take the bus?
Now I catch a bus at a stop about five minutes from our house, and it drops me at that same stop outside of my office. During the school year the buses get full during prime going-to-work time. Seeing that bus pass you by is very demoralizing. But the squashed passengers on the bus don’t look too happy either. I have good luck getting a bus around 20 or 15 to 9:00. I’m 30 minutes on the bus, so I get in relatively close to my official start time of 9:00.
Morning commuters are typically quiet, but school girls typically aren’t. I do tend to wind up on the same bus as a man who is frequently on the phone, and who has repeats himself. Repeatedly. “Yeah, that’s against policy. Against policy. That would be against the policy. The policy. The policy. Yeah, That’s against policy. Policy. Policy.” Yesterday morning I sat in front of a young couple planning their weekend. They were thinking about going to the National Gallery. They were very cute and they made me happy. Sometimes there are small children on the bus who are so excited just about being on the bus. We should try to hold on to that child-like enthusiasm.
If possible I sit upstairs. Many mornings the windows fog up. I’m attuned enough now that I don’t have to wipe a viewing spot to assess the location of the bus. I just wait until the windows on the right side of the bus turn green, and I know I’m at Stephen’s Green, and I’ll need to make my way downstairs in two minutes.
While I do prefer the upper decker, the stairs on the bus are a menace and it is very likely my epitaph will read, “She met her death on the stairs of a Dublin bus.”* You have my permission to write an elegiac song with that title as well.
Public transportation has its share of frustrations–disappearing buses; the elements; drunk people with bloody, bandaged hands–but I genuinely enjoy not driving to work.
And it’s not just that I don’t drive to work. It’s that I don’t drive at all. I should drive. Probably. Bill thinks from time to time that I should. In five years I have driven the car twice for a total of seven minutes.
I do miss driving. And singing while driving. Driving alone in the car is the one time you can just belt it out and know that no one can hear you.
Driving on wide, open roads is one of the things I love about being back in the U.S.
Watch this video to see what I mean:
Apologies for the lens schmutz and thanks to KGSR for the soundtrack.
*We recently agreed that Bill’s epitaph will say, “He loved him some funky, funky fish sauce. “