The journey to Dublin wasn't so comfortable on one of these
There was a piece in the Evening Standard about romantic hook-ups on the London Night Bus. It all sounded very civilized and as far away as I could imagine from all the years spent using buses in Naas.
I choose to travel by bus most days here but back then we couldn’t drive, so the bus was our only way in and out of Dublin.
There was one coach that rattled so violently it was christened the Metallica bus.
It was depressing enough to be stood outside the Post Office in the dark and rain of the winter, then this mucky red and white thing would appear around Murtagh’s Corner. Shaking.
The backrest of the seat stopped short of your shoulders and there was a metal rail in front of you to hang onto. It was perfect for conducting the energy of the bus down your arm.
You could smoke too.
Not just down the back.
A few of the other Dublin bound buses had a flip out ashtray on the back of every seat — the luxury editions.
Someone from Naas mistakenly branded the return journey to Dublin ‘the communication’ but they were right in a way because there were lots of breakdowns.
More than once my journey ended amid clouds of black smoke that forced the driver to ditch at Kill.
On other days the driver blitzed it up the hard shoulder to make the city in so quick a time you felt cheated of sleep while
But by the time college rolled around the novelty of bus travel had worn paper thin and these journeys dripped like some kind of Chinese water torture.
It was twice a day, Monday to Friday, extremely tedious and were you were extremely vulnerable too. Because anyone could get on, slump in beside you and talk the ears of you all the way to O’Connell Street.
People pretended to be asleep but without dribble dangling these performances lacked authenticity.
On the way home you’d more control over who you sat beside because you could scout the queue approaching Piano Plus on the Quays.
And relief seemed to be the overriding emotion, always. At seeing the bus to Naas coming, at being on it when it was going, especially late at night from the city.
But if the morning journeys into town were subdued then one journey was anything but and the bus to the school disco signaled a wild charge across open space that looked like a rescue.
On those occasions, Tom Cross pulled up at the Fairgreen to bring everyone to Stirrups and found the bus surrounded.
It was like we were fleeing from somewhere, half-soaked, full drunk and pale from all the hours preparing in the town's outdoor lounges.
I always marvelled at how Tom could drive the coach, not by looking out the windscreen, but by looking directly into the rear view mirror, at us.
This was a journey with no music, no radio but there was no shortage of commentary.
- ‘Sit down!’
- ‘Do you want to get off?’
- ‘No smoking!’
Not all bus journeys were internal either. On the busiest of Naas nightclub nights, space on board the town’s fleet of mini-buses was at a premium.
Desperate passengers often had to cling onto the back. It was like one of those trains in India and just as dangerous. You needed to anchor yourself with one foot on the ledge, the tips of your fingers on the roof-lip and then brace for the bumps.
It was sobering, just watching.
But then it always felt like you’d an ally in Tom and Rita in Clancy’s Cabs — once you paid Tom your pound of course.
Because like Fennell’s Coaches at the other end of the town, you could charter these buses anywhere and at any time.
The Point Depot, Croke Park, Kildare aways days, Slane — with the no smoking signs peeled from the windows, a haze of Rothmans and a million pit stops.
Come to think of it there were liaisons on some of those journeys.
Only they didn’t sound like the ones in the Evening Standard.
Robert Mulhern is a London-based journalist contracted to RTE radio's Doc On One.