Just another normal evening, you think, as you board the bus in Iniscarra at the end of another sweltering day in the Irish heatwave of 2018.
July in Ireland, you can usually get relief, as the weather breaks and rain falls again once the state exams are over. Not this year. Irish Water has declared a state of emergency, hosepipe bans, asking people to ease up on the showers, baths are a big no-no.
Two sweaty and tired lads knocking off from their summer job climb onto the bus. It is not full.
Near the front is a lad who appears to be a little touched. He is singing to himself. Back from him is a good looking young girl. She is heading into Cork for a night on the tiles. Dressed to the nines. Hair and makeup all done. Black fingernail polish. She looks a bit ridiculous in broad daylight, not yet 5pm, but she will look amazing tonight in the club. For now though she must be melting in all that makeup.
Down the back is a parody of the stereotype of an American tourist. Grossly overweight, shorts and polo shirt, wearing hat and sunglasses, backpack, camera round the neck, map spread out wide over his bare knees.
The two lads settle in for the 40 minute trip to Cork. The driver guns the engine and goes into rally driving mode down the narrow winding country road.
Sadly this bus is not destined to complete the journey. In the Lee Valley a car is attempting to pull out of a side road and the Bus driver careens into it. Then the fun begins.
Instead of doing the thing required by the law, you know, stopping at the scene of an accident, the driver takes off. In dramatic style he swings up a side road and begins a madcap speed chase through the Irish countryside. Behind the poor divil in the smashed car does his best to follow, but the Bus driver has no trouble shaking off his pursuer. You see, the bus driver knows these roads, very well, as we shall see.
The bus driver pulls into a remote site where he can park the bus. He declares to his passengers “I had to leave the scene of the accident, because I would have caused a traffic jam. This bus can’t go any further, the axle is damaged. If you wait a while we will get a replacement.”
The passengers are looking around at the uninviting site surrounding them. Should they stay on the bus or wait in the parking area outside?
The man who was singing to himself at the front of the bus looks round and finds a comb on the floor. He picks it up and proffers it to the heavily made up girl. “You dropped your comb” he says.
“No” she replies “It’s not mine”.
“But you can have it” says the man.
“No thanks” she replies politely, realising that the guy is a bit special. Otherwise she would probably have flipped him off by now.
“But you have long hair” says special guy, “you would need to comb it a lot”.
Makeup girl decides to sit outside.
The guy at the back asks the bus driver “Hey, buddy, how long will we have to wait?” confirming for everyone that he is indeed an American.
The Bus Driver has no idea.
The passengers drift out into the blazing 30 degree heat of another stifling day. It is not a pretty vista. They are in some kind of area for cars to pull in. There are some large concrete blocks, the type the Council use to prevent Travelers from parking caravans and setting up an unapproved halting site. It is an unkempt, ugly site, what you might expect in an industrial city suburb, but perched out here in the countryside.
There is a field beside the pull in area. The grass is burned brown by the heatwave. In the field is a dead horse, flies buzzing lazily over the corpse.
There are two cars already in the car park. It is hard to see into one. The other contains a shirtless guy with a dog on his lap. The guy seems annoyed by the arrival of the bus.
The passengers file out and find concrete blocks to sit on. The two young lads and the girl are immediately into their smartphones, rearranging meeting times around the delay.
The two cars at the site start their engines and pull away. Silence descends. There is the song of birds, the cheeps of shrews and grasshoppers. The bus driver remains on the bus and his five passengers sit in the sun like so many marine iguanas on the rocks of the Galapagos, absorbing energy directly through their skin.
A car arrives. The passengers are hopeful. Is this some emergency response by Bus Eireann? A rapid response team to rescue stranded passengers?
The car pulls up. A woman opens the drivers door, leans out and vomits. She closes the door and pulls away. The pool of vomit remains, providing a balancing contrast to the carcass of the dead horse in the field.
The lads are looking at each other and cracking up. You could not make this up.
Another car pulls up, neatly avoiding the pool of vomit. A middle aged man steps out of the car. In his hand is a smartphone. On the smartphone they can clearly see that he has a Tinder page open. The man scans the area and looks annoyed. He pauses for no more than a minute, re-enters the car and drives away.
Now it sinks in. The shady parking area. The concrete bollards. The remoteness of the area. The lads parked up. Tinder.
The bus driver has parked them in a hookup site, and when the sun sets it is in all probability a dogging site! The bus driver found it unerringly. He has been here and more than once. If they could see what these concrete bollards have seen…….
The replacement bus arrives. It is a city bus, not the usual coach used in the countryside routes. The passengers are whisked away, leaving behind the damaged bus, the driver who fled the scene of an accident, the dead horse, the pool of vomit and the memories held by those concrete cubes.