We spent yesterday riding across the country and back as we went to Dublin Airport to meet our daughter, who is here for a short visit. It still amazes me that we can live in this very small town and still do something like this using public transport.
We were up early and got the first bus to Donegal Town, where we had just enough time to nip into the Abbey Hotel to use the bathroom before catching the bus to the airport. Had we missed that bus, another one would be leaving an hour and a half later, which still would have gotten us there on time.
It was a pleasant ride and we went through a part of the country we had never seen in the daylight hours, so that was enjoyable. We got to the airport, ate the lunch we'd brought, and waited for her plane to land and for her to emerge. When she did, she ate the lunch I'd brought for her and we hung out for 45 minutes or so before going to get the first bus of the homeward journey. While it was better to go through Donegal Town on the way to the airport, on the way home, our options were better going through Letterkenny, so we boarded the Route 32 Bus Eireann, took our seats, and settled in. Because the bus picks up people at the airport after it picks up people at a stop in Dublin itself, there were already people on the bus when we got on. We could not all sit together, so Bill chose seats near the back where there were two empty rows, one in front of the other. He sat behind myself and our daughter.
We don't often sit in the back if we have a choice. Often young school kids will be sitting in the back being a bit loud and thinking they're cool as tweens and teens do. They're not obnoxious, but we just don't care to be in the middle of it. It did not take long yesterday to think that this is what we would be dealing with, but we quickly learned that it was going to be worse than that. There was a group of young people--later I saw them and figured they were in their 20s--conversing and one in particular was mouthing off. At first we thought they all knew each other, but it soon became apparent that this was not the case and that one guy was going to be a jerk and the others were going to try to deal with him as best they could.
Before we had been underway for long, we realised he was drunk. He was constantly talking, often about nothing much, using 'like' and 'man' every other word. 'Like, man, I like, like you. I like you like, man.' Then he would intersperse comments like this with 'Huh? What?' in a loud voice. Then he moved on to talking about other people, always in a derogatory way, calling them foul names and talking about slicing them up. Charming. A couple of times he mentioned going to Dungloe to stay with friends and my heart sank. I did not want to have to deal with him on the next bus, too. Then he was on the phone with someone and said that he would stay in a hotel in Letterkenny, because he was drunk. I hoped he would.
Just under two hours in, the break stop at Monaghan Bus Station was scheduled. He began to talk to the guy next to him about how he really had to piss and could he wake him up when we were almost there. We got there pretty much on time and the guy had nudged drunk guy (hereafter known as DG) awake. Before the bus had come to a complete stop, DG was stumbling up the aisle, bumping into people as he went, me included. He got off the bus and disappeared for a while. Just before we left again 10 minutes later, he rushed back on with a bag from the neighbouring Lidl store. We proceeded. So did he.
Turns out he went to the store to buy beer and he started drinking these at a rapid clip. Lidl doesn't even sell cold beer, so he was drinking all of these warm. He didn't care. He downed one and opened another. He got louder, more obnoxious, and even nastier. He called some people and left vile messages on their voicemail. When the neighbouring people opted not to join him in his drinking, he turned on them, too and threatened them. We figured the driver couldn't hear him at first, but as he got louder and louder, people in the front of the bus started turning around to look. He dropped a can of beer and it sprayed on someone sitting near him. He dropped cans and they rolled into the aisle, spilling beer. He was crushing the empty cans loudly. As all this was going on, we were getting stuck in a traffic jam at a roundabout somewhere in Northern Ireland and time was ticking away. I started to wonder whether we'd get to Letterkenny in time for the next bus, which left an hour after we were due to arrive there. Most of all, I wished this idiot was getting off somewhere soon.
I wondered what to do and what would happen. As we got later and later, people were calling the people who were supposed to meet them at various stops and giving them an estimated time of arrival and telling them where we were. I suspect none of us wanted to be slowed down by waiting for the police and not sure what the protocol is in Northern Ireland for that sort of thing. We rode on and DG kept shouting obscenities and making threats. People were getting more and more uncomfortable. He yelled that the gardaí would arrest him when he got off the bus because he was drunk. I'm sure I was not the only person to hope this would be so. In the end, he never got that far.
We stopped at Strabane and I knew Lifford, the next town and part of the Republic of Ireland, was coming up. Lifford is also the last stop before Letterkenny. Many people got off the bus at Lifford. A few people from the back moved forward. One guy looked at me and kind of rolled his eyes and shook his head. DG was announcing loudly that he had not had a drink in 4 years until yesterday. One poor unsuspecting guy got on at Lifford and walked to the back of the bus. DG tried to engage Bill in conversation and then me, but we were not engaging, which he didn't like. The next time he began to scream obscenities, the bus driver pulled over, walked to the back of the bus and told DG, 'You stop yelling or I'll call the guards!' Then DG pushed the driver, who told him to get off the bus immediately. When he spoke, it was with an accent which indicated that English was not his first language. DG seized on this and started calling him a Polski fag, demanding that the driver take him to Letterkenny. The driver stood his ground and said, 'No. Get off the bus right now or I'll call the guards!' DG kept repeating his insults and demanding that he be taken to Letterkenny. I wondered how long it would take until the gardaí arrived, if it came to that, and wondered if we would be waiting for the next bus home, which left Letterkenny at almost midnight, instead of getting the one at 7:50 as we'd planned. Finally, DG stumbled off the bus. I think we were all relieved, but I did wonder what would become of him. He was in the middle of nowhere in the dark wearing black pants and a black coat with a black hood. He was very drunk.
The final half hour of our journey was quiet and when we pulled into the bus station, the driver apologised for 'that guy.' We had 20 minutes to spare before catching the last bus of the day. We walked over to the bus stop and waited. And waited, waited, and waited some more as 7:50 came and went. A couple of other buses pulled up, but not that one. We were waiting for a Local Link bus. This was the first time we had taken that bus, since we haven't lived here for long, so we started to get a bit anxious. No one else was waiting for that bus. It was hard to see what vehicles were coming, because it was dark and all I could see was a line of headlights. Finally, at about 8:05, I said to Bill, 'It looks like there might be a small bus coming this way, but it's hard to tell.' After the light chnged, a small bus did indeed pull up. It said Feda O'Donnell on it with no Local Link logo at all, but because we knew Bus Feda operates the Local Link run between here and Letterkenny, I decided to give it a try. I opened the door and asked if he was the Local Link. 'Where are ye going?' he asked. 'Dungloe,' I replied. 'This is the one. Come on in.' And relieved, we did. There was one other woman who got on the bus after us and she got off at the first stop. Then it was just us for an hour until we got home. I was so grateful that DG did not get on that bus to go stay with friends. It would have been horrible. I also thought that, had we not known that Bus Feda does the Local Link route between here and Letterkenny, we would not have known to ask if that was the right bus. Had we been tourists, we might have just stood there. It would be good for them to at least put a placard with the Local Link logo in the windscreen in the summer, so people know.
I'm sure it is a beautiful ride in the daytime. For much of it, there weren't even any streetlights. I look forward to seeing the countryside some other time. We were all grateful to get home!