A few months back there was a major delay on the buses. As I was waiting at my stop on O’Connell Street I saw a little old lady milling in and out of the crowd. She was one of those tiny little ones who looked like a strong wind would shake her, but quite likely had more energy than all of us put together.
Eventually she came up to me. I had headphones on which sometimes deters people, but not my new friend. ‘Excuse me’, she said, ‘Could you tell me what the machine, (The RTPI), says about the next bus?’. I told her what I could, that there were major delays and it might be a while. She didn’t seem all that bothered once she knew there was a delay and by then she seemed to have decided we were friends and kept chatting.
She had one of those little wheelie suitcases with her and she told me that she was just coming back from a trip from Cork to see her friends. I asked if no-one could have driven her and she said, of course, but why should they when she was perfectly capable of travelling herself. Me told. I asked how long she had lived in Dublin and if she’d move back to Cork now she was older and she told me the following story.
She had met her husband in Cork when she was 19. They fell madly in love and got married when she was 20. Her husband got a great job but it meant them moving to Dublin. She was very nervous about moving to a city but he assured her they’d be practically living in the countryside it was that far from the city, he meant Glasnevin. She told me that when she first moved up she was so lonely. It was a new housing estate and not many people lived in it and she had no children by then so little chance of meeting new people.
‘There were no fancy mobile phones in those days, and Cork may as well have been a different country, it would be months between seeing my family and friends’ she told me, but she was smart and she developed a plan.
Every Saturday morning she would get the bus into town and go to Clerys for a cup of tea and a bun. After she had paid she would wait near the till and listen to people paying for their tea and hope for a Cork accent. When she’d hear one, she’d sit beside them and wait while they had their tea. She said she used to love those tea-breaks, because no matter what they spoke about, she’d pretend it was one of her friends or family and she was having tea with them, and it would ease her lonliness for that short while.
By this point I was trying not to cry, but she carried on. She’d gone on to have children, a veritable ‘fleet of Dubs’ it appears, and she told me that once you have children you rarely have time to be lonely.
‘What a wonderful life I lead’, she said, before the bus finally arrived.