Crossing the (White) Line

I had a memorable bus journey this morning.

This morning, I stood at the bus stop for ten minutes. The number of people waiting had almost doubled by the time the bus arrived. The empty bus rolled up, boasting empty seats and room to swing many cats. The automated doors opened with a “whisht”. The attendants at the bus stop clambered aboard. Two minutes later, people still boarded. I was second last to get on. I swiped my card. The bus was swollen full at this stage. I was forced to stand near the entrance beside the controversial white line. For those of you from ‘down the country’ or outside of Ireland, the white line is the all important line for safety on Dublin buses. It lies two or three feet from the entrance/exit of the bus. Passengers should never cross the white line until the bus has come to a complete stop. The bus brimmed to capacity. We were squished up, praying no one would fart or sneeze. It was then that the bus driver added some excitement.

“If you’re over the white line, you’ll have to get off the bus,” he shouted abruptly, looking the tightly packed congregation up and down.

The passengers demonstrated team work and camaraderie by contracting. With a little shuffling and sacrificing of personal space, all the passengers were brought behind the white line. I clung on to the edge of the crowd like a cat up the highest of trees. Each time the bus stopped, the group of tightly packed passengers were thrown forward. Since the passengers down the back refused to crowd surf or leave via the window, we were forced to alight the bus to allow them dismount. Once everyone had disembarked at their desired stop, we re-boarded the bus to set off on the next stage of the journey The process of getting off and getting back on the bus was re-enacted three or four times over. The usual five minute journey took nearly fifteen minutes. When it was time to disembark the bus, I was a little sad. I felt sad for leaving these people with whom I had shared an intimate journey; intimate in the sense that their body parts had brushed against body parts of mine that my friends had not even come into close confines with.

The bus stopped. It was time to say farewell to my fellow passengers. I thanked the bus driver – like Irish people tend to do – for bringing the other passengers and I together for that brief moment in time.

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