Sunday 19 January 2020

Modern life: Do you know what really p*sses me off?

'Real Time Information' - utilises a concept of time that would baffle Dr Who. Photo: Steve Humphreys
'Real Time Information' - utilises a concept of time that would baffle Dr Who. Photo: Steve Humphreys
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Tourists - please don't drag every footstep
Leslie Ann Horgan

Leslie Ann Horgan

I am angry. Emphatically punctuated angry! Furrow-browed, crimson-faced emoji angry. All caps ANGRY. If anger is a red mist then my current level is the kind of deluge that would make Teresa Mannion shriek about unnecessary journeys.

What has me so enraged? Well, I'm glad you asked. At the top of my list is Dublin Bus's 'Real Time Information', a service so simple that its entire function is summed up in its three-word title. Stand at a bus stop, it promises, and the electronic signs will tell you in 'real time' when your jaundiced carriage will arrive. What's not made clear, however, is that the system utilises a concept of time that would baffle Dr Who.

Ten minutes' wait, the orange lights blink. That's not too bad, especially with these shopping bags. Nine. Eight. Seacht noimead. Six. Five. It's started to rain but there's no point in getting out the brolly at this point. Four minutes. Five. Wait, what? Six minutes. Five. Four. My plastic bag of groceries has caused the loss of all feeling in one arm, other than the searing pain of the welt the handle is making across my palm. Five. Five. Five. Argh, why didn't I just walk? Four. Three. Two. The now sodden paper bag in the other arm implodes. One…

By the time the countdown has expired the original 10 minutes has lasted 18 and I am seething. Bubbling over with a venomous bile that I will spit indiscriminately at the people who think the queue begins at the electronic sign and not the actual stop, the chatty driver, and the imbeciles who lurk in the narrowest part of the bus just inside the door, when a wonderland of empty seats lies mere steps beyond them.

Not that running out of numbers - and the fact that the sign now says 'ann' meaning 'here' - indicates that the bus will actually appear. Oh no. It may take another 10/18 minutes for it to arrive. Or it may simply vanish from the sign altogether. Poof and it's gone, leaving behind disconsolate souls at the mercy of another time-warped countdown, and me, throbbing with anger. If ever you hear of a destructive rampage through Dublin by a woman armed with a 'Real Time Information' sign, you can be sure I've just been 'ghost bussed'.

Other things that turn me from reasonable human to raging Hulk include:

Slow walkers: Why, teenager, are you walking at the speed of an octogenarian and zig-zagging across the path so those of us with actual lives to live are bottle-necked behind?

Anger Level (AL): Irate.

Tourists - please don't drag every footstep

Tourists: Does the gravity in Ireland differ so that you're forced to drag out every footstep infinitely, or are you just here to visit the slow walkers?

AL: Raging.

Queue jumpers: Yes, you did know that I was next and, no, being a pensioner does not excuse the absence of manners. In fact, it makes it worse.

AL: Livid.

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Office kettle stealers: There is a special place in the depths of hell reserved for those who purloin the water filled by another.

AL: Boiling point.

Everyone at an airport: Stop feigning surprise, you know the rules about liquids and luggage allowances apply to you, just like everyone else. And take your bloody belt off.

AL: Splenetic.

For all of this pent-up rage - simmering under the surface, just waiting for the chance to go full volcano - what doesn't register on my anger levels, however, are the very things that should.

I don't agree with water charges, but I passively paid them anyway. I think that the under-funding of mental health services in this country is reprehensible, but I've never tackled my local TDs about it. I believe in a woman's right to choose an abortion, but I don't own a 'Repeal' sweatshirt. I agree that our gardai and nurses and teachers deserve to be paid more, but I've never done so much as tweet about it.

That childcare costs are forcing talented women out of the workforce - meh. That we're all paying through the teeth for the sins of bankers and builders - what of it? That Donald Trump may soon be the leader of the free world - oh well.

Is this selfishness or just denial? How can I be moved to the point of spontaneous combustion by Dublin Bus' Real Time Information signs, but hold no strong opinion on the Dublin Bus strike?

Perhaps, in our Kardashian-ised society, I've become so focused on own petty travails that I'm apathetic about everything else. (Incidentally, I'm not remotely annoyed by the Kardashians.) Or maybe it's just that in a country where we've had close to a decade now of disaster piling on top of disappointment that my brain has begun to block out the bigger picture.

Mindfulness tells me that I can't control the world, I can only control my reaction to it. Somehow, when it comes to the pressing issues facing our society, I seem to have only taken in the first part of that message. As for everything else, well I appear to have some work to do on my anger management skills.

Rest assured, however, that next time that a protest march snakes through the centre of Dublin city, all passionate chants and hoisted placards setting out to change the world, that's where I'll be… Stuck behind it on a bus that I've already had to wait 18 minutes for. ANGRY.

Irish Independent

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