Smart transport can discombobulate those accustomed to less intelligent modes of travel. Dublin buses announce the name of the next stop, allowing time to press the buzzer and to reach the middle door before the bus draws up.
Of course, it is a smart system for those who know the name of their stop. Those used to staring out of the window to monitor progress had never needed to know the name of a particular stop, they just knew it when they got there.
It being just after four o’clock and the bus from Dame Street being quite full, I climbed to the upper deck and was delighted to find one of the front seats was vacant. There are few things more evocative of childhood excitement than being able to ride at the front of the top deck of a double decker bus.
Suddenly, the computer voice announced “Crumlin Road,” in English and in Irish.
I looked out of the window. It didn’t look like where I should be, but by the time the bus drew to a stop, perhaps I would be near the doctor’s clinic.
Stepping from the bus, I realised that I was probably at the wrong end of the Crumlin Road.
Three children stood on a piece of rough ground beside the road. Poorly dressed, they greeted me, smiling.
The tallest, a boy in a sweatshirt that was stretched and faded spoke. The local accent can be strong at times and I thought he asked if my name was “Behan.”
“Sorry, I said, “I didn’t catch what you said.”
“Are you Mr Bean?” he said.
(Dressed in brown jacket, brown trousers and brown shoes with a check shirt and maroon tie, I could have been).
“Sadly not,” I said, “although I would like to be if I could have a bright yellow Mini like he has.”
“Yeah, that’s a good car. Are you from England?”
“I am,” I said. “Where are you from?”
“We’re from here,” he said.
A girl who was visually impaired and who had a severe speech impediment tried to join the conversation.”
“Do you live here?” asked the boy.
“No,” I said. “I live in Drimnagh and I had better walk quickly to get to an appointment.”
I set off along the Crumlin Road and the three children resumed their watch of the world passing them by.
Getting off the bus at the wrong stop and having to walk half a mile would have almost seemed worthy for Mr Bean, were it not for the fact that he would more likely have been tailgating slow moving cars in his bright yellow Mini.