Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Growing a Social Conscience While Travelling with Dublin Bus

An Spailpín Fánach boarded a city imp bus in Dublin city centre this evening at sevenish on his long journey home from another day's slavery in the Salt Mines. I made my way to the back of the bus to find living space, eventually squeezing in beside a Russian welterweight who had a bagful of teddybears - to remind her of the motherland, no doubt. I stuck my snout in my book, as is my custom and advice to all commuters, and switched off from my environment.

Until I was dragged from the 16th Century to the back of a city imp bus in the 21st Century by the wailing and squealing of an infant on the back seat of the bus. I glanced up at him, and understood all. This was a bad boy - he's a bad boy in the sense that if his parent(s) brought him to visit middle-class you in your middle-class home, his squawking would cause middle-class mortification, and you would remark, on his exit, that Mrs Whatever is letting that child run wild, wild! But that's not a bad boy in this young fella's world - not being so strung out on smack so that you look for all the world like a tracksuited rat, twitchy, furtive and utterly useless, is not being a bad boy in this young fella's world. Anything else is very small beer indeed, such as being loud and rude and a pain in the ass on the bus home from town in the evening.

I started to feel sorry for the poor little hoor then. What chance has he, really? Not only is he doomed, he doesn't even know he hasn't a hope, thus damning his chances even further. I looked further for the mother - spotted her easily sitting in the corner beside him. Fat, tracksuited, blinged, pasty complexion, careworn, beaten. You know the type. And then I started to feel sorry for her - you can't even look after yourself, I thought, and now you're in charge of this fella as well? Musha God help you.

I looked back at your man. He was slugging the last of his bottle of Sunny Delight, the head tipped back, the bottle tipped up to its extremity so as not to miss a drop of industrially treated chemical goodness. Ara God help him, I thought, and his poor mother -

My reverie was stopped suddenly, when I looked back at Ma, and saw that she was now a mirror image of the young fella - head tipped back, and chalice tipped back so as not to miss a drop. But where the young fella was treating himself to a spot of Sunny Delight, this lady was refreshing herself with a 5o0ml can of Budweiser, the king of beers.

Call An Spailpín Fánach an old fuddy-duddy if you must, but the back seat of a bus at seven o'clock in the evening while in charge of a five or six year old child is no place to go on the beer. "These are thy Gods, O Israel," I muttered to the Russian girl, my hopes for social justice about as likely as my hopes of playing at stand-off half for the Lions in South Africa in 2009.

She smiled at me - a nice smile. She was pretty, even if a little fonder of the buns than was good for her. I smiled back.

"I said 'enjoy the city,' ma'am," I said as I rose to leave. "It'll be yours in ten or fifteen years' time. We'll never hold it."

I walked off into the night. Oblivious, Mummy took another belt of her Bud.