The weekly train journey from Dublin to Limerick every Friday after 17:00 has become one of the challenges of attending college. It could be a study itself – the political climate including conflict vs peace negotiations.
Generally there are three types of passengers leaving Dublin on a Friday evening. 1: People (like me) who have booked seats. Politely informing people ‘That’s my seat.’ until eventually having to swear on the bible that that is your seat sometimes having to search for floor space instead or worse taking refuge at the carriage door praying that everyone gets off in Kildare. 2: The walk-ons. These people buy tickets right before the train time and have the cheek to sit down in any seat they want. 3: People who are pissed at other people sitting in their booked seat and so take someone else seat because obviously in Ireland the systems goes out the window as soon as names aren’t displayed above the seats. (They are secretly saying Hail Marys that the name display does start working halfway through the journey.)
The above graph shows reactions and moods over a 15 week period. How different events affected the commuting experience and tested patience levels. Key events are times when after cycling through the rain with no spare clothes left and someone takes your seat, refuses to move and I ended up sitting on the wet, cold floor. Another event causing patience to take a nose dive when on the train up to Dublin at lunch time one of the many many drunks that stereo-typically fill Irish trains, he stands beside me as I proof read a ten page essay I was proud of and spills half a can of linden village cider on it. “Oh sorry, my love, so sorry, can I buy you a drink?” Public transport with the addition of a bar seems to mean you should be drinking. Another time they ran of a vodka and a fight ensued between two brothers who must have drank it all in the first place. The other unbelievable incident which tested me was after losing my ticket during a Limerick junction stressed transfer I had to buy another ticket for the trip back meaning I had two seats and both bike racks booked for the journey home. Yet after much conflict and failed negotiations I found myself, soaking wet, freezing cold leaning against the wall in everyone way at every stop, bike illegally parked up. I couldn’t even get floor space to sit down. Luckily I have been enjoying a 6 week break from the journey to recover back to full patience for round two.
Then you have the cyclists. Those humans that are mental enough to be cycling around Dublin in the first place. For the Cork train they are pretty chill people, usually about 6 a week who know there is room for about ten bikes in the front storage carriage – although stress levels are tested when having to change at Limerick Junction (more on this mystical place later) and the full length of the platform has to be sprinted with bike in hand.
The cyclists for the Limerick train are another breed altogether. They can be observed glued to the departures board waiting for platform numbers to show. The ensuing sprint is viscous with the ticket ready for the barrier, nothing left to chance, they maneuver under major pressure through the mass of power walkers, eyes scanning the crowd for competition. Knowing they have booked one or even the two bike spots on this train does nothing to ease the mind but in fact leads to an aggressive sense of righteousness. After blasting through the ticket barrier, sacrificing their legs to the bangs of the pedals, the crowd thins out as the bike is steered toward the last carriage an extra stretch of the legs is needed to maintain the lead, the calves are burning. Desperate to see if the race has indeed been won. Sweat drips at the last hurdle of heaving the bike into the carriage. Relief or devastation follows. At this point the luggage can be moved off the bike racks (Irish people persist in putting their bags on what is a clearly labelled bike rack) or they can announce to the carriage that someone must move their bike out of the full rack because in fact one of those two bike spots were booked. Or the best scenario of all they can move the strangers bike to the empty inside rack and put theirs in hoping the other person won’t be getting off soon.
If they lost the race then polite assertions ensue of bookings secured and basic human rights. Eventually, sitting down the high of adrenaline of victory of both getting a bike rack and a seat!! A rarity! It soon wears off as the sweat becomes damp wet clothing as the guilt descends watching the conductor throwing someone else and their bike off the train. “It’s not your fault, it is the system.” their mantra to work through this guilt as they towel off the sweat, the heart rate comes back to normal and the leg bruises are the only visible reminders of battles fought and won……until the next Friday….