Judith’s bus adventure

As of last week, we are now a three-car family.

Helen passed her driving test and the pressure of five drivers sharing two cars had the potential of physical violence, if not divorce.

Despite the fact that Johnston rarely uses the car during the day, we sometimes have five people wanting to go to five different places in three cars.

What’s wrong with the bus, I often ask/demand/scream/yell (depending on my frustration level).

I can spend ages telling the girls how in my youth we were lucky to get the bus, as in my area of North Belfast they were more often out of service due to having been burnt out after a spot of rioting – we had to walk and be thankful.

They have all the answers – they make you feel sick, you can never get a seat, you have to wait for ages, they cost the earth, they go all round the estates and take forever.

So, to prove a point, I decided to take the bus last week when I was meeting my sister in town to help her pick accessories for her special outfit for her son’s forthcoming wedding.

I wasn’t buying anything myself, so the argument about carrying all those bags home did not apply.

One drawback is that from our house you need a lift to the bus stop, but there is usually someone who can spare 5 minutes and Helen duly obliged.

So I set off on my big trip to town; my first public bus journey for maybe 20 years.

The fare was really good value I thought – 2 for a day’s bus travel anywhere in Belfast – certainly a lot cheaper than parking the car in the city centre and I couldn’t complain about the journey.

The route was direct, the seats plentiful and comfortable and there is no smoking nowadays, so I could breathe comfortably.

The handbag, gloves, shoes, necklace and tights were all eventually bought and, with only a few miles of the return journey to go, I rang home to double check my lift from the bus stop.

Problem – Helen who had promised to pick me up wasn’t at home and there were no cars about for Jenny to come.

Oh well, probably Helen had gone somewhere else and was going to pick me up on her way home; everything would be fine.

But when I got to the usual spot, no sign of the blue Punto. I rang home again, no word of Helen, and when I tried her number there was no reply.
So I started to walk towards home, sure that I would see her on the road.

I checked her phone again, no reply. By the time 15 minutes had passed I thought I must have missed her – perhaps she approached by the other direction – so I rang home again to say I was walking back to the bus stop.

Meanwhile an uncle had arrived at our house, complete with car, so he ran down the road, picked me up and took me back to the bus stop, where Helen had been waiting for the past 20 minutes.

I must have literally walked past the parked car.

She wasn’t particularly pleased, so I didn’t even bother with my planned lecture on how the bus is a very economical and practical form of transport for the rural dweller.

Somehow it just wouldn’t have had the same impact.

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