Tag Archives: the 84X

Power To The People

Back around this time last year I wrote that Dublin Bus and decided to amalgamate the first and second early-morning buses, having just one running at a time half way between the two of them. I bemoaned the fact that this meant that there was no bus that would get the people of Greystones into Dublin before eight o’clock, that the new bus was always packed and that the people who run Dublin Bus were all-round bad eggs.

A young local councillor brought a petition around the new, later bus each morning asking for the early bus to be restored. We all signed it enthusiastically, then equally enthusiastically voted him into full office as a TD (our equivalent of a Member of Parliament) in the General Election earlier this year.

Another, younger councillor circulated another petition and again was rewarded with signatures on the petition and votes on the ballot paper.

Dublin Bus have caved. From Monday next our beloved, 15-minutes-earlier bus is being restored. Power to the people.

The problem is that I don’t want it any more.

I’ve got used to spending 15 minutes extra in bed each morning. I’ve got used to waking just before six and thinking “great, nearly half-an-hour to go” and snuggling deeper into my duvet cocoon instead of waking just before six and thinking “crap, only ten minutes to go” and lying there disgruntledly for nine minutes before falling asleep again just in time to be blasted awake by the eldritch (a word I’ve never gotten to use before) screech of the alarm clock.

I’ve learnt that our company does not fall apart if I’m not the one who opens up. I’ve learnt that I can still get more or less the same amount of work done during the day.

But on Monday next I’ll have to drag myself up early. We have to show Dublin Bus that we were right, that there is indeed a need for that earlier bus.

In every meaning of the phrase, we asked for it.

Grumpy Old Man

Today’s post contains a certain amount of swearing, for which I apologise. It’s not my swearing, I’m just the narrator here, but like secondary smoke it still leaves its own mark.

The subject of my tale is an old bearded guy who is on my bus every morning. He sits reading for most of the journey in the front seat upstairs, and I sit just behind him, writing and listening to my iPod.

As we get about a mile from the city centre he puts away his book and I start to pack up my netbook.

Normally I leave the iPod on until the stop before mine, but one morning about a fortnight ago I took it off a couple of stops early and suddenly clearly heard him grumbling “oh, fuck’s sake, what’s he at“. I listened more closely, as you do, and realised that he was swearing at the driver downstairs.

I’m ashamed to say that I started putting my iPod away each morning as soon as he put his book away so that I could listen along. If he thinks he’s doing it under his breath, trust me he isn’t.

He has set standards that no driver could possibly live up to. The fact that there is other traffic on the road is no excuse for tardiness. After each stop we have to pull back out into the stream of cars, none of whom are happy to let a large bus out and be stuck behind it, so they all pass by leaving the bus sitting indicating patiently. “Fucking Jaysus, come on,” he’ll mutter, quite audibly.

Perhaps he thinks he’s in Kitt from Knight Rider, and we can jump traffic.

It’s not just the driver with whom he’s unhappy. One morning a girl’s mobile rang. Now it was 7.30 am, she did speak very loudly about total shite (sorry, that swearing was mine) for far too long, but that’s what happens on public transport. The rest of us just wrote her off as a twit, but he stared furiously across at her for the entire duration of her call.

We regularly get held up behind delivery vans parked in the bus lane while they, well, deliver. “Ah, get out of the fucking way“, he’ll moan.

He glowers at every passenger as they troop downstairs at any stop, obviously feeling that they should speed up the disembarking process by hurling themselves through a window instead.

As it’s the first bus of the morning, leaving Greystones before seven, it’s never totally packed but yesterday morning it was quite full, so a girl suddenly appeared beside him and motioned at him to move his bag from the seat so she could sit down.

I thought he was going to explode. I was amazed that she was able to sit there. I thought that the aura of sheer hatred emanating from him as he moved his bag onto his lap would act as a force field that she would just bounce off. If she had burst into flames under the glare of his glare I would not have been at all surprised.

When she got off he turned to stare at her departing rear as she made her way down the stairs (I have to admit that I did too, but only because she was quite attractive, and sorry, that‘s what men do). He then turned his fierce gaze onto her as she made her way up the street, not stopping until we had passed her and she was far out of sight.

As he looked sideways out the window I was able to study his face. I described him earlier as an old man, since his straggly beard and sour expression make him at first glance appear so, but having looked more closely at him I doubt now that he’s 60 yet, which makes him not that much older than me.

He obviously has enormous stress issues, and reminds me far too much of the overwound, sleep-deprived, internally-seething me of not too long ago.

I kept my iPod playing this morning, since I don’t find him entertaining anymore. I feel sorry for him, and hope that he gets some sort of help.

I could so easily have been him.

Running Late

What would you say to an extra 20 minutes in bed in the morning?

If you were me, or any of my morning busmates, you’d say “ah,for feck’s sake”.

For sometime now drivers have been telling us that there were changes coming to our bus route, and from tomorrow these changes come into effect. Our bus has been amalgamated with the next one, and will now run 20 minutes later.

What that means is that there is no single bus that will get people from the town of Greystones, just 19 miles from Dublin, into the city centre before eight o’clock in the morning.

There is just one earlier bus, at 5.30, and even that one doesn’t go all the way into Dublin, you’d have to get a second one.

Now, I don’t have to start at eight, but since I wake so early during the week (I think because of fear that I will oversleep) I do, and it is taken for granted that I will be first in and will open up and turn off the alarm in the office. May other people arrive at around the same time, so we’ll just have to make sure that enough of them are keyholders.

But Bernie, one of the people who is at my bus-stop every morning, starts work in the Mater Hospital at eight. She will no longer be able to use the bus at all, she will have to walk to the train station (at least half-an-hour’s walk from where she lives) and get the six-thirty train.

When you work just 19miles away and have to get up before more than two hours before you start work then there is something wrong with what is laughably called public transport in your area.

Their argument is that our bus wasn’t viable, that it was less than 60% full, which apparently is their criteria. But unless they think that the people on it were just getting it at that time for fun then obviously the service was needed, and I thought the idea of public transport was to give the public what it needed rather than what was viable.

I know that most of you reading this don’t even live in Ireland, let alone Greystones, and I’m kind-of sorry for ranting about this to you all. But the public being treated as dirt by so called public servants, people paid by us through our tax, happens everywhere and I’m be surprised if you didn’t all have some similar experience.

So, no jokes today, sorry.

No, wait, there is one. Our bus fare is going up from May 1st.

Shut That Door

After getting on the bus this morning I had just got my laptop set up by the time we got to the next stop. A couple of passengers got on and when the driver tried to shut the doors they refused to do so, preferring instead to make a noise like a banshee caught in a bin lorry. The driver pressed the same button again with exactly the same result (it’s funny how often that happens), then tried pushing the doors closed manually, all to no avail. While he was doing this I turned my laptop off and started to pack up, clearly we were going to be kicked off and be made wait for the next one, so I wanted to be ready.

Then the driver got the doors to close by turning the bus off and turning it back on again (see, that advice works for almost anything). He drove to the next stop, let someone else on and went through the same rigmarole again. When the doors finally closed the intercom came on. “Here we go,” I thought, “he’s telling us we’ll have to get off.” I was wrong.

“As you can see,” he said, “I’m having problems every time I open the doors, so from here to Dublin we’re only stopping where someone wants to get off, we’re not picking up any passengers.”

I turned my laptop back on. We were now the bus from Speed.

I’m ashamed to say that it got to the stage where I looked forward to each stop, just to see the differing reactions of the uncollected as we passed by in our almost empty bus. Most looked startled. Some tried to pretend they hadn’t actually had their hand out anyway. Others shouted at the bus as we shot by, and although we were going so fast that we’d only see about the first three words it’s was easy to lip-read their opinion of us.

One guy who had his hand out just closed four of his five fingers as it became obvious we weren’t stopping, in a superbly nonchalant gesture of contempt.

I should point out that this morning was an absolutely disgusting one, with a howling wind and lashing rain. The only way that those poor people’s mornings could have started any more badly would have been if the driver had driven through a puddle at each stop.

The fact that I found it slightly disappointing that he didn’t is one of the reasons why I would never be let become a bus driver.

Mo’ Bussin’ Blues

We bloggers like to believe that we have thousands of silent readers. Even if we get regular comments from less than 10 people we like to think that many, many others are reading, admiring, and talking to their friends about how brilliant we are.

Blog statistics are the pin that bursts that particular bubble. I got 44 readers for my bus post yesterday, and that’s assuming that each of you visited just once each. For all I know I have just one Kathy-Bates-in-Misery type reader, who hit my blog 44 times in swooning, lovesick devotion, in a room that has a picture of me (well, Brad Pitt, which is what she imagines I look like) on a small table, with a candle and a vase of red roses in front of it.

So it’s unlikely that all the drivers in Donnybrook Bus Depot cease their discussion each day about the Page 3 girl in the Sun, whether Liverpool will be any better under Roy Hodgson and how it should be permissible to mow down cyclists just so they can all gather around a computer and read this blog. So it’s unlikely that the driver of yesterday evening’s bus, having read of my morning bus adventures, thought to himself “huh, if he thinks that’s scary, wait till he sees this”.

Therefore the only conclusion is that he’s seen Speed, and thought it was a training video.

He beeped at people to get out of his way, drove for a while in the fast lane of the dual carraigeway, and overtook the line of traffic waiting to go right at the Killarney Road roundabout by driving up the left lane and then simply cutting across them. I didn’t actually hear any terrified passengers whimpering, but I think that’s because we were travelling faster than the speed of sound.

Having said all that, we got to Greystones 12 minutes ahead of my previous ever record, so on balance I hope they keep him.

By the way, the driver of this morning’s bus was the same driver as yesterday, presumably on the get-back-up-on-the-bike principle. I didn’t quite burst into applause when we reached our destination without mishap, as passengers do when touching down after turbulent flights, but I sure felt like it.

Catching the Bus

I was late for work this morning, even though I was up at the same time as usual, was at the bus stop at the same time as usual, and caught the same bus as usual.

As it’s holiday season many of the regular bus drivers are probably off, so we had what is known as a “relief driver”. Just why he was called this I’m not sure, unless it’s because during the journey he caused many of the more nervous passengers to relieve themselves.

He arrived late. We soon discovered that this was because he seemed to be under the impression that his bus was the width of an aircraft carrier, so he slowed and pulled in towards the side of the road every time a van came towards us, a car tried to pass us, or a bird flew by.

In this slow, plodding fashion, rather like the Tortoise would have run the race had he pulled in to allow the ice age to overtake, we climbed the hill out of Greystones, inched down the other side like a slinky toy coming down a flight of stairs, and headed out into the race-track madness that is morning on the N11 dual carraigeway.

Obviously he found this terrifying, as he pulled in to the hard shoulder and drove along on it. Whilst unorthodox, this would have been fine had he not stayed there as he passed the exit from Enniskerry. A guy in a blue Micra shot out of the exit, didn’t expect there to be anything right beside him as he pulled out, and caught the 6.45 am bus from Greystones – in the side of his car.

Obviously I wouldn’t be telling the story on a gentle blog such as this had the incident ended in a bloodbath of gore, injury and flying body-parts. There was a small bang, both vehicles had slight damage, and we all waited for the next bus. This should have been 25 minutes later, but we’d been travelling so slowly that we had only a five minute wait before it arrived.

This was also driven by a relief driver, but clearly one taking out his anger at having been fired as a jet-fighter pilot for flying too quickly. He pulled in at great speed, stuck his bus to the road just two inches behind our stricken one, loaded us all on, then pulled out right in front of a truck.

It has to be said that we all arrived at work wide-awake.

You just don’t get excitement like that on the train.

Piston Broke

When you write a blog like mine you are always looking for a whimsical, self-deprecating angle, something that will amuse one’s readers by gently making fun of oneself.

Take, for example, a situation where you wrote a post last weekend about how you were forsaking the boring, reliable, dependable train, and that from yesterday, June 1st, you were committing yourself to bus travel by buying a monthly ticket. Imagine how funny it would be if you could then report that the bus broke down on the way home on that very first day.  The temptation to invent such a story would be huge, though you’d know that this would be a very bad idea. Your readers would know that you made it up, things like that don’t happen in real life, you’d lose all credibility.

The great thing about my life is that I never have to make stuff up, because things like that really do happen. Regularly. So yesterday evening, on my first evening as a paid-in-advance bus-commuter, the bus genuinely did break down.

Sometimes I think my guardian angel is a Ghost Writer (by which I mean the ghost of an dead writer, not someone who writes this junk for me) who, having suffered during his own life the agonies of Writer’s Block, helps me avoid it by filling my life with daft occurences and odd coincidences.

Either that or Dublin Bus are so desperate for new customers that, having noticed me catch the bus for the first time a couple of weeks ago (well, they do admit their buses have CCTV), they put their very best bus on the 84x route until they lured me in. Once they saw me buy the monthly ticket they were able to relax and put back on the usual bus, the one held together with duct-tape and dried snot, the one that runs on the same engine as a pub-toilet hand-dryer.

I’m consoling myself by figuring that things can only get better. However, if I ever see a horse-and-cart (with or without the horse-nappy) approaching the bus-stop, with “84x” daubed on the side of the horse in day-glo orange lipstick, I’m back in the train-gang.

Bus Boy

Tinman's chariot

Today’s post will fill at least one of my readers with horror.

There are two ways into Dublin from Greystones. There is the DART, our train service, and then there is the bus, the 84, the very name of which will make Jo shudder.

And I’ve given up my monthly Train Ticket and am getting a monthly Bus Ticket instead.

The DART is clean, quiet and reasonably efficient (certainly given Irish Rail’s definition of the word efficient). The journey takes 50 minutes, and because I’m getting on at the first stop I can always get a seat.  The rail line runs along the coast, so that you’ve a sea view the whole way in, apart from the two sections where it runs underneath Bray Head, so that you go through two long tunnels. It is the obvious way to travel.

I’ve been doing it for years, and I hate it. It’s overcrowded, boring and full of girls with really loud ringtones, all with the same name (I know this because they all answer their phone and say “Hello, Amonda Dort”). 

As part of Irish Rail’s improved service this year (and again, only in Irish Rail-speak can a reduction in the number of morning trains be called an improvement) the DART now runs from Greystones every 30 minutes. One  day earlier this month I wanted to be at work at bit early, not half an hour early, so decided that instead of getting the 7.30 DART I’d get the 7.15 bus. Forty-five minutes later I was hooked.

Now I should explain to Jo, who is taking short breaths into a paper bag at this stage, that I am not getting the 84, I am getting the 84X, and the 84X is to the 84 what Eyjafjallajökull is to a scented candle. The 84 is a lumbering behemoth that weaves off the main road into every single bottleneck, picking up passengers in ones and twos at stops set twenty feet apart, like a bin-lorry on bin day. The 19-mile journey takes 90 minutes, and to put this into perspective it only took Apollo 11 three days to get to the moon.

The 84X (the X apparently stands for Xpresso, I think it runs on coffee) stops only at selected stops, and avoids the bigger towns on the way in altogether. At one stage it even travels along the motorway, where admittedly it is overtaken by absolutely everything, including kids on skateboards and grannies forced by sheer swearing frustration into making their first ever venture out of the slow lane.

And, at the time when people actually need to get to work, the 84X is very frequent. There are eight buses in the 50 minutes between 6.50 and 7.40, then one more at eight o’clock. And then, its work done, it vanishes for the rest of the day. It is the Brigadoon of buses.

It’s the same in the evening, there are five buses out of Dublin between 5 and 6.30, then it turns back into a pumpkin.

I ended up getting it most days this month, even though I’d already bought a train ticket, and from June 1st I’m switching full-time. At the moment I’m having so much fun I don’t even read – I sit upstairs, at the front if possible, letting the 10-year old me out again (I haven’t yet made a little hole in my ticket yet and blown into it, trying to make a sound out of it like a kazoo, though I’d love to have the nerve). I’m seeing places I’ve passed for years from a higher perspective, watching mad drivers, gobshite cyclists, lunatic pedestrians. The DART’s sea-view can’t match that, unless one day a Viking fleet hoves into sight. 

So, there you go, a post about buses. You can’t say we don’t tackle the burning issues of the day here at WDB.