Cork Bus Driver’s Dogging Den

Cork

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.

 

 

Pioneer Irish Women

The Great Telescope at Birr Castle

The Great Telescope at Birr Castle

Birr in County Offaly is famous the world over for having at one stage the largest telescope in the world.  The 3rd Earl of Rosse was a science pioneer and set an example that has been carried on by his family to this day.

In August 1869, in a sad accident, one of the cousins in the family, Mary Ward, became the first confirmed person in the world to die in an automobile accident.  The Earl’s sons built a steam car and Mary was racing around County Offaly with them when she was thrown from the car on a bend and fell beneath the wheels.

Then, in August 1896, another Irish woman became the first pedestrian to die in a car accident.  Bridget Driscoll was run down by a petrol engined car in the grounds of Crystal Palace.  She also became the first person in the UK to die in an automobile accident.

At the inquest into her death the coroner said that he hoped “such a thing would never happen again”.

I ran over a guy in my car once.  He was on a bike, in the rain.  I pulled out from a side road in front of him.  He crashed into my bonnet and went over the top.  I got out and asked if he was all right.  He got up and said he was fine.  Then he apologized for crashing into my car.  I got off lightly with that one!

Joyride 2; by Aram Stefanian

As she wrapped her car around a tree
A weird thought ran through her mind:
‘If I’m feeling no pain, then my soul is free
I’ll have to part with the daily grind”

She tried desperately to get out of the car
But the door was smashed and didn’t obey
Seeing on her arm an ugly bloody scar
She fainted, wishing she was melted away

When the cops were towing her car out
They were amazed to find no driver inside
Though one of them had a gnawing doubt
That he heard a woman crying over a joyride

Biker Gang

Cyclists

When you drive you drive alone.  When you ride you are part of a tribe.

As I cycled through Dublin earlier this week I observed something profoundly interesting.

A lady on a bicycle had an accident.  She caused the accident in fact.  She broke a red light and cycled into a taxi that was turning right.  She hit the front of his car from the side, tumbled over the bonnet and landed hard on the road.

At this point I hopped off my bike, placed it against a lamp post and ran over to see if she was hurt.  She was fine, just a little shocked.

Then I looked around and realised that five or six other cyclists had done the same as me.  She was surrounded by a lycra clad, high viz vest and bicycle helmet gang.  The driver of the taxi stepped out of his car.  Although he was totally in the right he was visibly nervous of the situation.  He was in the right but alone.  She was blatantly in the wrong, but she had a gang.

Other drivers did not get out of their vehicles to support him.  They were frustrated at the stoppage.  They just wanted the accident cleared so they could get to work.  One driver even began to honk his horn.

This little moment highlighted for me the key difference between cyclists and drivers.

Cyclists are engaged in the real world.  We are in constant danger from drivers and we can’t rely on the drivers to look out for our safety.  Our lives are in our hands.  As a result we are wide awake to our environment.  We are not enclosed from the world, we are out in the open.  We can make an easy transition from cyclist to pedestrian and back again.

If something happens nearby the cyclist is part of it.  If someone falls over they may check to see if they are OK.

Drivers are enclosed in a glass and metal box.  They are in their own private world.  They look at our world through a window.  They see it but are not part of it.  They are physically and psychologically disengaged from the reality of life outside.  They are possibly elsewhere, on a phone call, or listening to the radio.

If someone falls nearby they observe it as though they are watching it on TV.  It is not a part of their reality.  Besides, it is a lot of trouble for a driver to disengage from the vehicle, to become a pedestrian, to walk over to the person who fell, and to see if they are OK.  And if they do that the other drivers will get frustrated with you leaving your vehicle.  They will honk at you to get moving again.

It is easier to sit in your vehicle and wait for some passing pedestrian or cyclist to check out the situation.

When a driver has an accident the other drivers nearby do not empathise with the driver.  They do not get out of their cars and stand around in a group, unless it is a particularly unusual situation.  in the normal day to day world of fender-benders you stay in your car and wait it out.

If a cyclist is in an accident the situation is very different.  Other cyclists seem to appear from nowhere.  They come in droves.  They are like white blood cells racing to a point of injury in the body.  Before you know what has happened there is a gang of yellow, pink and orange people in strange space-age outfits.  They identify with each other.  They are a flock, a band, a gang.

What is true for cyclists is doubly true for bikers, and may explain a lot about why biker gangs seem so threatening.

Life should not be a journey to the grave

with the intention of arriving safely

in a pretty and well preserved body,

but rather to skid in broadside

in a cloud of smoke,

thoroughly used up,

totally worn out,

and loudly proclaiming

“Wow! What a Ride!

Hunter S. Thompson

When Health & Safety goes mad!

health-and-safety-logo

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My eldest son was describing his school science class to me.  He told me how frustrated his science teacher is, because Health & Safety guidelines have resulted in the removal of many substances from the school.  Teachers cannot demonstrate many of the bread and butter experiments any more because they are too dangerous.  Bunsen Burners are being removed and replaced with hot plates.  Sodium and Potassium have been taken off the experiments list – way too dangerous.  And forget phosphorous.

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For many years in Ireland the study of science was in decline.  The government of Ireland made science education a priority.  We want kids to study science.  We want them to experiment and to have fun and to get excited about the subject. At the same time the Health & Safety gremlins want to make sure that our kids are not boiled in acid, blinded by explosions, scorched by naked gas flames, gassed by toxic fumes or knocked out with chloroform. The problem here is that the H&S gremlins always win the argument.  There is no reasoned debate.  If you ask “how many kids were actually harmed in school experiments in the last 12 months” they will not answer.  They work on the basis of risk assessment, not risk fact, or risk history, or reported incidents. This is a problem for the teaching of science in schools,and in universities.

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Science involves pushing the boundaries of what is now possible.  Science is about doing risky things.  If we let H&S take over the world then we can say bye bye to any new breakthrough discoveries. The minute I start to talk like this the H&S gremlins roll out their big guns.

Insurance.  If you don’t listen to the gremlins, they warn that the Insurance costs will skyrocket.  Even worse, they warn, we will be open to claims of liability.

The very fact that H&S have raised a risk means that we automatically become liable to that risk in a way we never were before. Just imagine, little Johnny is in class carrying out a titration experiment.  The teacher warns the class not to boil the alcohol.  Johnny thinks this is funny and turns up the heat.  The alcohol boils and ignites.  There is a relatively harmless flash which removes Johnnies eyebrows, much to the amusement of the class.

Mommy is not laughing.  He was scheduled for a set of head-shots for a modelling job. She sues the school.  Her bottom feeding pond sucking scum lawyer knows exactly what to look for.  He unearths the minutes of a school meeting where the Health and Safety officer expressed concern that bunsen burners in the hands of children were a danger.  The school did not remove them.  QED, the school is at fault.  Case closed.  Now, if H&S had never reported the risk, the liability of the school would have been lessened.

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My own take on all this is simple.  I want my kids to learn science properly.  I want them to engage in experimentation.  I am prepared to sign a liability waiver as a condition of my child taking part in potentially dangerous experiments.  If little Johnnies Mommy is not prepared to sign the waiver I am quite happy to see little Johnny study something less dangerous instead.

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Art?  No, chisels are too dangerous. Technical drawing?  No, compasses are pointy. Music?  No, drumsticks, violin bows, breaking strings, risk of deafness from Cymbal crashing. Home economics?  Sewing needles, knives, scissors, hot cooking plates, no way. Religion.  That should be OK.  Nobody dies because of religion.  Do they? Problem is, how is Mommy going to protect little Johnny from himself, and from getting his heart broken by a girl, and from his personal failures, and his nasty boss, and from the random vagaries of the world?

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Chemistry Experiment; by Bart Edelman

We listened intently to the professor,

Followed each one of her instructions,

Read through the textbook twice,

Wore lab coats and safety goggles,

Mixed the perfect chemical combinations

In the proper amount and order.

We thought we were a complete success.

And then the flash of light,

The loud, perplexing explosion,

The black rope of smoke,

Rising freely above our singed hair.

Someone in another lab down the hallway

Phoned the local fire department

Which arrived lickety-split

With the hazardous waste crew,

And they assessed the accident,

Deciding we were out of danger.

It was the talk of the campus,

For many weeks afterwords.

We, However, became so disillusioned

That we immediately dropped the course

And slowly retreated from each other.

The very idea we could have done

More damage than we actually did–

Blown ourselves up and the building

From the base of its foundation–

Shook us, like nothing had before.

And even now, years later,

When anyone still asks about you,

I get this sick feeling in my stomach

And wonder what really happened

To all the elementary matter.