I have spent much of this Christmas being late.
I was late (45 mins) for the School of Education Christmas party because I slept in; I was late (10 mins) for the carol service because I couldn’t find parking; I was late (one hour) for lunch with friends because I slept in; I was late (25 mins) for lunch with other friends because I parked at the wrong end of town; I was late (30 mins) for lunch with a third group of friends because of a laundry emergency; I was late (90 mins) when I visited my friend’s house because I got lost; I was late (2 mins) for Christmas morning mass because I was getting babies in a car; I was late (one hour) for a house party because my lunch went on longer than expected and Trinity Hall was locked down over Christmas; I was late (7 mins) for the doctor this morning because my bed was too lovely and warm to leave; I was late (20 mins) for the second of my “reunions” because I didn’t want to hang out there alone; and I was late (45 mins) for my nephew’s birthday party because I ran out of petrol.
I went for dinner in my cousin’s house two weeks before Christmas. He texted me to say they’d be starting at 12:30. No one eats that early. My cousin knows me well. So he told me 12:30 when he actually meant 1:00. The problem is that I knew this to be the case. So I left at 12:30, texting him to say I wouldn’t be there till 1:00. It is a short drive to Ongar, and I followed the signs for the N3, as I’d been told, but somehow, my car found itself on the N2. I genuinely have no idea how. I arrived at 2:00, an hour and a half later than I’d been told to come.
I hate being late. Hate it. People who are never late claim to hate being late, but how could they know? The punctual will never understand the self-hatred of the unpunctual.
On New Year’s Eve, I was going to a small party at a friend’s house. A small enough party that my lateness would be very noticeable. I resolved to be early. I live in Rathgar and the party was in Inchicore, both inner suburbs on the southside of Dublin, less than 4 miles apart.
I left home at 7:20, planning to get on bus 140 as far as Camden Street (10ish minutes) and then getting bus 68 from the South Circular Road (another 10ish minutes). I consulted the Dublin Bus app on my phone and the hostess of the party. Nothing could possibly go wrong. I’d surely be there by the time the party started at 8:00.
The bus didn’t leave until 7:40 but that was fine. I’d still be there by 8:10. Fine! I strolled to the other bus stop, only to find that bus 68 wasn’t listed on the electronic timetable. I checked my trusty iPhone app. The next bus wasn’t due to leave town until 21:21. That was very late. I decided to get one of the many buses from Camden Street to O’Connell Street, and then one from O’Connell Street to Inchicore.
The electronic real-time timetable told me that there’d be a 16 to O’Connell Street in two minutes. I gushily texted my friend, saying that I was on the 16, that I’d be late and that I hoped the dinner wasn’t ruined. Except I wasn’t on the 16. And the 16 didn’t come. It was, after all, New Year’s Eve. For the first time ever, Dublin City Council were organising an outdoor concert and countdown and so there were diversions all over town.
So I wasn’t too worried when the 16 didn’t come. A 65B was due in another three minutes. 8:30 came and went. But the 16 still hadn’t arrived. The 65B didn’t come either. Over the next 15 minutes the “real”-“time” “information” display, claimed that a 16, a 65B, a 16A and a 9 all came and went. They didn’t. I had to text my friend and redfacedly admit that when I had said earlier that I was on a bus, what I had meant was that the electronic timetable had assured me that I would be on a bus, but it was wrong and I wasn’t. At this stage, another friend of mine texted to say that I should just get a taxi and she would pay. I didn’t get her message for another hour. She was on a different network and it was New Year’s Eve.
I gave up on the bus stop I was at and went to the one around the corner from the Bleeding Horse. By 8:50, I was on a 122 into town. Apparently, if I’d got the 122 going the other way, I would have ended up near my destination, but I didn’t know that. I eventually got out on O’Connell Street. My friend had recommended that I get the 123, as it drops you off at the “regular stop”. What she didn’t remember was that the one and only time I ever got a bus to her “regular stop”, I got off eight stops too late and ended up trekking through dreary housing estates for 20 minutes. I would much rather get the 40 or the 13, the stop for which I was 99% sure I’d recognise. As I ambled up O’Connell Street, I was delighted to see a 13 just about to leave. I texted my friend joyfully.
The first thing to hit me when I got on the bus was the stench of beer. And then the pong of hairgel. The back two rows of seats were filled with a group of teenagers who were all wearing matching accessories. They all had a single square fake diamond earring, thick-rimmed glasses, plastic bracelet things and litres of hairgel. Girls and boys alike. They were all very well-dressed. And loud. And they were passing a large bottle of WKD around.
They stood up to go to the front of the bus to get out about 5 minutes before we got to their stop. As one of the boys stood up the most horrible fart-stench filled the entire bus. I don’t think I’ve ever smelled such a dinger. The boy threw his hands in the air and theatrically shrieked, “It was me! I do apologise!” A lady in a headscarf in front of me opened her window. The boy fanned the air around his bottom in giant windmill motions. An old woman sitting across from me started calling him names. This doesn’t happen on the bus to Rathgar.
After that group of teens had got off the bus, we had navigated around the site of the New Year’s Eve countdown and the bus sped up. But every time the bus came to a stop, it seemed to involve a bus stop argument. At one stop on Thomas Street a young man jumped on the bus. He shouted down the bus (to us, not to the driver): “IS THIS THE BUS TO BALLYER?” The old woman across from me and the driver both told him that it was the 13. He responded: “HA! YOUZ LOSERS ARE GOING TO CLONDAAAAWKIN”. He then got off the bus, got on again, tried to convince the driver to drive him to Ballyfermot, failed, and got off. People at nearly every stop complained to the bus driver that they’d been waiting for the number 40 for almost an hour.
We got to Inchicore. I got off one bus stop too late, which was quite good. I shouldn’t admit that I used to live on that street, should I?
I was less than two hours late. And I hated it.
But worse things have happened. The dinner wasn’t burned and everyone was still talking to me. I had a lovely evening.
And will never be late again.