Thursday, November 10, 2005

Dude, Where's My Bus Stop?

This morning, I awoke to the upsetting discovery was that the Internet was broken. Yes, the whole damn Internet was banjaxed. I know this because I carried out extensive diagnostic tests (namely attempting to open a variety of sites on the browsers of two separate computers) and then performed the single act of Internet healing that I have in my arsenal – I rebooted the cable modem.

All this, resulted in a big fat nothing. The magic I-Mac couldn’t find Google. My nifty laptop couldn’t find Google. Ergo, the Internet was, in fact, well and truly broken.

Peter is the only one in our house with sufficient Black Magic skills to fix the Internet and he was sleeping. I weighed my marriage against my email/blog addiction and the marriage won. I’m not going to tell you the margin (I don’t want anyone getting complacent or, on the flip side, unduly worried.)

A thing like a broken Internet could wreck my whole morning, but it ended up okay. My second novel is deliciously close to completion and I used the extra time to proofread and make minor adjustments. Breakfast, coffee and proofing were all had and I was still on schedule.

I left the house at the usual time and walked the 100 feet or so to the bus stop across the street, where two Eastern European guys were having a discussion that involved a lot of whispering, gesturing, and looking around. My paranoia instantly kicked in and I was sure they were going to kidnap me to sell me to a Russian drug lord. As I was frantically plotting my escape should the worst happen, an Irish guy in a high visibility vest arrived and his presence put me at ease.

Shortly after my hero arrived, a third Eastern European guy showed up and the whisper/gesture/looking around thing started anew. It only lasted about a minute, then the guys walked off together up the road. Strange, yes, but who ever said that people made sense? Maybe they didn’t like yer man’s “Arrive Alive” vest. Maybe they thought the pickings for lone scared girls would be better down the road. Maybe they were just using the bus stop as a meeting point.

Whatever, their leaving left prime real estate next to the bus stop open, so I moved up closer to the actual bus stop. I should stop and explain bus stops in Dublin. They basically come in three varieties:

· Deluxe bus stop – has a shelter of some sort, usually plastered with advertising, but doesn’t have seats because, you know, homeless people might sleep on them. Instead, the best you can hope for is a rail to lean your ass against. Usually also includes a standard bus stop pole with a schedule.

· Standard bus stop – a blue pole with a yellow circle on the top. The circle lists the numbers for the busses that stop there. The schedule is printed on a cylindrical tube that’s at eye level and you can spin it around to find your bus number’s schedule. Although it’s not really a schedule. For a Dublin bus, it’s more like recommended arrival times.

· Abandon All Hope bus stop – just the blue pole, maybe with a yellow circle, if you’re lucky. You find these on deserted rural roads and I think they’re actually traps to cull the gullible people out of the population. I don’t believe that busses ever actually stop at them. If busses actually stopped at these stops, they’d display a schedule, right?

Our bus stop was the standard variety. So, this morning, when the Warsaw Pact moved off, I went to stand closer to the pole. But…the bus stop was gone!

"I felt a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror and suddenly silenced."

Or at least one voice – mine. Where was the bus stop? How does an entire bus stop disappear overnight? I was truly flummoxed by the missing stop. Mr. High Visibility Vests appeared unconcerned though.

I looked a bit closer and I’m pretty sure that I could see some concrete or spackle in the hole where the bus stop pole used to be. I couldn’t see any sign that the stop used to be there. No chunks of bus stop, no flakes of blue paint, no stump of a pole. There also wasn’t a sign or memo informing the loyal Dublin bus customers of the fate of the Rochestown Avenue bus stop.

When the bus rounded the corner, I put my arm out to flag the bus, the way I do every morning. After I paid, I asked the driver if that was still a bus stop. He had a wonderfully thick Cork accent and spoke like a man who shot caffeine directly into his veins:

Him: Yesyessoitsoitis. Tha’sstillabusstopsoitis. Yeapwhathappensissometimesthestopsgetstolen, but what’lldoiswhenIgetbacktothegarage,I’lltellthemthat’saftergettingstolen,soIwill.

Translation: Yes. Sometimes the signs get stolen though so I’ll let them know at the depot.

Him: We’llstillstopferyeocourse weknowwhereallthestopsare

Translation: We’ll still stop if you stick your arm out.

At this point, he took his hand off the steering wheel and indicated how to wave down a bus in a vigorous fashion. I was a shade concerned as I like my bus drivers to keep both hands on the wheel, especially the ones who are hopped up on caffeine. Oh, and it goes without saying, I like them to keep their eyes on the road.

I made the decision to thank him politely and swiftly before he crashed the bus on my account. As I was walking to the stairs, I heard him shout something back to me that sounded like “Ah look, here it is.”

I looked out the window and saw a shiny new stop, about 500 feet from the old stop. Standing at the stop were the Warsaw Pact. So, apparently, the bus company moved the stop, but didn’t bother to inform the drivers or the riders, which of course, for an Irish semi-state agency, makes perfect sense.

The reaction of my fellow bus stop users was very interesting. The Eastern European guys obviously wanted to stand at the official bus stop. The Irish guy didn’t care – he’s probably seen thousands of bus stops come and go in his time. I wasn’t worried about the bus not stopping, I was just confused.

I guess tomorrow I’ll go to the new bus stop, although I’m curious how long passengers and drivers can keep the old stop in operation.


At 11 November 2005 at 19:29, Blogger Shane said...

That is a wonderfully backwards way to run a bus company. It's almost charming.

And a word about the softly speaking Eastern Europeans: whenever I hear a group of people speaking softly in a language that is foreign to me I get suspious. Even if I know them personally. I think 'oh they are talking about me and want to push me off a cliff.' Eventually, I realize that maybe they are just being nice. Perhaps they don't want to be the loud obxious tourist or new immigrant. Of course all bets are off if they look like the people who my country happens to be currently fighting a war against ;)

At 11 November 2005 at 21:39, Blogger -Ann said...

I had more stupid bus tricks this morning. I had to be at work early, so I couldn't risk missing a bus because of the whole stop issue.

The bus stopped for me no problem and everything was going great until we got about 3/4 of the way through the trip. For no apparent reason, the bus driver took a left and proceeded to drive us in a big rectangle for no apparent purpose.

It wasn't exactly a rectangle, it was more like a weird shaped wedge but part of his "route" went on a street that is not designed for busses, has no bus stops and has big honking speed bumps every 5 metres.

I was looking around in alarm, plotting back up plans and everyone else was spacing out. When we got back on the correct road, I was very relieved. Then when I got off the bus, I asked the driver "Was that a detour or a route change?"

And he said "You mean I'm not meant to turn off and go through Donnybrook?"

I said "No, we just go straight down the Merrion Road all the way."

Turns out he doesn't drive the route very often and he had some scribbled cheat sheet that said he was supposed to go that way. He said one person even got off the bus in Donnybrook. Poor sod of a passenger, probably afeard of his life!

And this guy, the driver, was a Dub too.

At 13 November 2005 at 19:52, Blogger Arbusto said...

So i'm sitting here giggling about the "So I wasn't supposed to go that way" idea.

When/how are we going to be able to get copies of your novel?

At 14 November 2005 at 17:48, Blogger Career Guy said...

I guess you come by this honestly, since I feel the same way about bus stops. They should be where they are supposed to be, and none of this "stick out yer arm" stuff.

At 14 November 2005 at 18:13, Blogger weese said...

ireland sounds fun.
love the busdriver lingo, and really appreciated the translations.

At 14 November 2005 at 21:34, Blogger -Ann said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 14 November 2005 at 21:35, Blogger -Ann said...

Yes, Peter thinks I am far too hung up about the bus stop and the weird routing. It's been a frequent topic of conversation in our house. I still stand by my belief that a bus stop should be something you can depend on. It shouldn't move in the dark of night like the Cleveland Browns.

Arbusto, I'm working on getting an agent. I am, as yet, unpublished in novel format. As soon as I have any news on the front, believe me, it will be on my blog in 24 point font. :)

Weese, Ireland is loads of fun. I do love it here, you tell by how much I make fun of it and complain. :)

At 14 November 2005 at 22:40, Blogger Arbusto said...

I'm in need of a really good, completely involved book in which I can get completely absorbed.

What are your favorite books?

At 15 November 2005 at 05:35, Blogger -Ann said...

What genre are you into? I honestly read a lot of trash, most of it of the girly variety. :) But let's see...

My favourite mystery author is Ian Rankin. I'd suggest starting in the middle of his Inspector Rebus series, with the book "Black and Blue". (Up until that point, his books are competent but ordinary, he transcends into the contemporary literature arena with Black and Blue.)

For good page-turner mysteries, I like the early Patricia Cornwell, Steven White (but only the books written in 1st person, not the 3rd person books), and Virgina Lanier.

If you want to read a good law/courtroom drama sortof mysetery - I'd recommend "Silent Witness" by Richard North Patterson.

One of my favourite books right now is "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime" by Mark Haddon - the voice is incredible, entirely written from the point of view of an autistic savant sort of kid.

Another book with a great voice is "The Lovely Bones" by Alice Sebold.

For non-fiction, Bill Bryson writes totally engaging travel books - "In a Sun-Burnt Counry", about Australia, is definitely the best of the bunch.

Hopefully, one of these will fit the bill of what you're looking for. :)

At 15 November 2005 at 12:14, Blogger Lyss said...

What's a high visiblity vest? What purpose does the man wearing it serve?

I also feel that people speaking in other languages are talking about me. This is mainly b/c whenever my grandparents, mom, aunt, and great aunt wanted to talk about something w/o us kids understanding they'd switch from speaking English to speaking Yiddish.

At 15 November 2005 at 12:15, Blogger Lyss said...

Peter probabaly only thinks you're too hung up on bus stop antics b/c he is from Ireland and therefore used to it.

At 15 November 2005 at 15:40, Blogger Arbusto said...

I read "Curious Incident..." and found it interesting. It made me totally not want to have kids, ever.

I read all kinds of books. My most recent favorite, other than the Harry Potter series, was "Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood pal" Absolutely hilarious.

I really really really got involved with King's Dark Tower series, until the final few books when it totally fell off.

Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is way up there, too.

I'll take a look at some of those other books.

At 15 November 2005 at 17:26, Blogger -Ann said...

Arbusto - I thought of two more on the bus (which stopped at the right stop and took the correct route whooo) - Nick Hornby's "High Fidelity" and "about a boy".

Also, I haven't read these but Peter highly recommends the George RR Martin books - "A Game of Thrones" is the first one. It'll be in the fantasy section but it's more than that. OH, I don't read fantasy/scifi but I did love Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere. (or it could have been caled Neverworld don't remember exactly)

Lyss - A high visibility vest is something that construction workers and cyclists and runners wear so that cars don't hit them in the dark. Around the solistice, we only get about 6 or 7 hours of daylight, so it's actually pretty common to see people wearing high vis vests or reflective strips. Right now, the sunrise is at 7:50am and the sunset is at 4:30pm. I think we lose something like 15+ minutes of daylight every week.

I have a neon yellow raincoat with reflective bits so I can run in the dark.


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