Soapbox: Karma Commuting


Fresh from being soaked waiting for the 145, Alison Lee attacks public transport

Cast your mind a month back, when Dublin ground to a halt thanks to a spell of unseasonably cold weather. No buses were in operation. That same week I travelled to a snowy Germany, and yet everything worked. Trams glided with swan-like elegance along the icy streets; helpful digital signs at every stop informed commuters when the next tram was due; a tram was delayed for about five minutes once during the trip. The shock and outrage on the faces of the healthy blonde Aryans sharing the platform with me made me shake my head in wonder at their childlike naïvety.

I am a battle-scarred public transport veteran. That bus shelter beside the N11 is my own personal Vietnam. For over two years I’ve trudged there in the rain, laden down with books and gym gear. I’ve elbowed little old ladies and sobbing first-years out of the way for that elusive seat on the 145, only to have the surly driver shut the doors in my face with the words “We’re full” without even so much as an apology. Then again, life isn’t that much better on board – especially on a Friday night when you’re inevitably subjected to the shrieks of tipsy teeny-boppers on the way to Wesley, or skangerlings blasting Cascada from their mobiles.

Dublin’s “public transport system” is one of Ireland’s more shameful disasters. We have a grand total of two metro lines (which, though built at the same time, cannot connect together because one line is wider than the other). We have a vast labyrinth of bus corridors served by buses operating by an entirely different timetable to the one displayed at the bus stop (and that’s if there’s one displayed at the bus stop) – and don’t forget the “light rail system” which exists solely so the affluent denizens of Dalkey and Greystones can avoid getting the aforementioned buses, unless they attend UCD of course, because Ireland’s largest university isn’t served by either the DART or the Luas.

Then again, there’s something spiritual about waiting for the bus. Something almost…meditative. As a commuter, learning how to be patient is essential, unless you want early-onset stress-induced heart disease to cut your life short. Think of commuting as an obscure unofficial sect of Zen Buddhism, where they key to reaching that Nirvana of resignation lies in accepting that a bus might come soon, or it might come late… or it might not come at all.