Soapbox – The Bus Chatter

Illustration: Freya Williams
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My friend and I were travelling on the bus, seated on those high chair style seats that give you that distinct ‘public transport power complex’, as you stare at the rows of scalps seated below you. At the front of the bus, standing casually beside the driver was a middle aged man. He appeared to be speaking like a young child around a large family dinner table, quickly and without pause for breath. I thought to myself that he and the bus driver must be old friends, possibly school acquaintances, or maybe their wives worked together? I had a beautiful origins story mapped out in my head, when all of a sudden, the driver yelled: “SIT DOWN MAN!” It suddenly hit me. They did not know each other at all. What I had just witnessed was merely a terrifyingly brave display of severe friendliness.

All my life, I have boarded the bus to the sight of a person standing up the front and speaking to the bus driver. No matter how busy the bus is or how disgruntled or stressed the bus driver seemed the chatter, let’s call him Sam, will just keep going and going. Truly a mile a minute conversation. But Sam does not know the bus driver personally.

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What if Sam is just lonely? What if Sam sits down, takes out his earphones to listen to Spirit FM, realises his phone is dead and so decides he wants to play with the big guns, mess with the public transport hierarchy and walks up to the driver’s window and begins to talk? From fragmented snippets every time I ride on the 46a, I encounter a Sam discussing what Irish people tend to talk about on buses. Staring out the front window and telling the bus driver what used to be where something big and shiny is now. Pointing to a Centra and stating how once, single cigarettes could be bought off the secret nicotine menu, at the now alien shop that used to be their local newsagents.

Truth be told, I admire and adore Sams everywhere. They are the pillars of our society.  Maybe Sam is the true guru to first year students in college? Maybe that intensive method of friendliness is what Italian literature students need on a Monday morning? In this dog-eat-dog world, you can be a Sam or you can be a grumpy bus driver. Choose wisely!

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