Tuesday 21 May 2019

Roddy Doyle's Charlie Savage: What becomes of the broken hearted? They take the 29A…


Illustration: Ben Hickey
Illustration: Ben Hickey
Roddy Doyle

Roddy Doyle

I'm leaning against a bus shelter. And in case you're wondering why, I'm waiting for the bus. I've an app on my phone that tells me when the bus is due and, more often than not, it's bang-on. So, strictly speaking, I don't need to be here, holding up the shelter. But I've always been of the opinion that, to fully embrace the experience, you have to do one of two things, either be a bit early and have to wait, or be a bit late and have to run.

My running days are a bit over. I can do a three-yard sprint without toppling or having a heart attack. But other than that, I'll be walking or staying still from here on in. Unless there's a fire - then I might trot.

So anyway, I'm a few minutes early.

I've never had a problem waiting. In fact, I've always enjoyed a good wait. Even in the pre-shelter days, when the Irish summer was an afternoon in August, I didn't mind standing at the bus stop. As long as a bit of the world was passing while I was there, I was happy enough.

By the way, is it my imagination or did the weather start to pick up after Dublin Bus began putting up the shelters? They were built to withstand rain but, really, it's shelter from our equatorial climate the designers should have been thinking of.

The roofs should be made of palm leaves, not iron, and there should be fans in under the seats.

But anyway, that song George Formby used to sing: "I'm leaning on a lamp post on the corner of the street, in case a certain little lady comes by." Well, that was me, except it was a bus stop, not a lamp post, and I wasn't singing. But I was waiting for a certain little lady and her name was Eileen Pidgeon.

There was this one time, a few weeks after Eileen Pidgeon had broken my heart, when I'd found her kissing my little brother, Pat, behind our coal shed. I'd forgiven Eileen by then, and I'd put a 6in nail through both of Pat's bicycle tyres.

None of this happened recently, by the way. We're going back nearly 50 years - and I still haven't admitted to Pat that I burst his tyres.

Anyway, the bus stop was right outside the Mint, where Eileen Pidgeon worked two nights a week after school. So, I'd positioned myself strategically, shoulder to the pole, eyes looking everywhere except through the window of the Mint. I stood there for well over an hour as half of Dublin's bus fleet zipped straight past me.

I smelt her Juicy Fruit before I saw her.

- Howyeh, Charlie.

I stepped onto the road and pretended to look up the street, to see what was keeping my bus. Missis Mooney nearly swiped me in her orange bubble car, so I jumped back off the road and whacked the bus stop with the back of my head.

Eileen was waiting, like she'd witnessed nothing out of the ordinary.

- Where're you off to? she asked.

- Eh… I said.

I hadn't thought of that, why I'd been standing there at the bus stop all night. Then I thought of something. I was a genius. I believed that - for four seconds, maybe five. Eileen would be insanely jealous. She'd fling herself at me and demand forgiveness. She'd weep bitter tears onto the shoulder of my second-best jumper.

- I'm waiting on me girlfriend, I told her.

- Oh, grand, she said. - There's bound to be a bus with her on it sooner or later. Seeyeh now, Charlie.

I stood there and watched her going. Her walk, her glide - I waited for her to turn and look back at me and smile. I stood there for years.

Ah, well.

Just to be clear, I'm not at the same bus stop today. And I'm not waiting for Eileen Pidgeon. I'm a bona fide commuter and I'm waiting for the 29A. But I'll admit it, I often think of Eileen when I'm waiting for a bus, or even on the bus. Any bus, anywhere. I was on a tour bus once, going past the Eiffel Tower, and I looked out, and up - and I thought of Eileen Pidgeon.

- Fabulous, isn't it? said the wife.

- Ah, yeah, I said.

But anyway, I'm leaning against the shelter and I notice the ad. I take a few steps back to read it properly. Pain Relief for All the Family. It's a cartoon family, all smiles. It looks like a bad ad for a holiday camp but it's actually for drugs.

I'm outraged. I'm appalled. Something should be done. It should be bloody banned.

But my bus is coming and I hitch up my trousers, just in case Eileen Pidgeon gets off when I'm getting on.

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