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That Awkward Bus Conversation
by Cian Manning

Those of us familiar with the joys of travel by bus will all have an ‘awkward’ bus conversation story. I for one have had many. A journey from Cork to Galway with a man I couldn’t understand. He omitting a noise which to him had some semblance of coherence, to me replying with what was a mantra in this conversation...’Sorry’.

Another journey from Limerick to Waterford would appear to have mirrored the hedonism of the 1960s. The man in front of me was viewing pornography for the whole two and a half hour trip while a newly married couple not only consummated their vows but also conceived their first child on the backseats. At least I think they were recently married, they always say attraction is greatest around then, that’s why you have sexual relations four times on a TWO HOUR AND THIRTY MINUTE bus trip with no air conditioning. But I didn’t complain; the bus driver had enough things to contend with.

However the most heinously awkward bus journey I ever had to contend with was when I started college. Going from Cork to Waterford and all the joys of starting first year from student discounts to being continually turned away from clubs for looking twelve years old (what those bouncers didn’t know was I was actually seventeen, so there) things were pretty good on the study front. While intently reading the Collins Dictionary of Sociology, as we all do in first year, this bright twenty-one year old with a slightly English tinged accent relays to me his sexual exploits. Now I wish I was on the Limerick bus, at least they don’t talk about this sort of thing.

He proceeds to list Mary, Joan, Sue and another Mary till he concludes ‘But I am bi of course’. Like a rabbit in headlights, my daydreaming of getting home has led me to a rather vulnerable position. Did he say bi or boy? If he said the latter it’s just a Waterford colloquialism for breaking a sentence like a pause of breath or a full stop. I thinking this, I proceed to change the subject before he comes back to saying ‘See with being bisexual I can...’

It’s the former with more questions arising, why is he telling me this and secondly is he propositioning me? Oh how to retrieve a bus journey that still has an hour and twenty minutes before we reach the terminus. His list of conquests now also includes Michael, James, Sean and Matthew and there’s still an hour of this journey to go. I try to direct the conversation to more studious related subjects like does he enjoy university and living in Cork, but he’s having none of it.

After now receiving his life story, his journey of discovery and enlightenment (His philosophy being you real don’t know anything till you kissed both a man and a woman in the space of an hour) I then realised my mistake. I should have never said hello in the first place. It always attracts talkers and sex addicts on a bus. It’s like pollen to a bee.

Now when I go on the bus I have a hood which covers my face bar my eyes. This at least allows me to look at the views outside. Once an elderly man with a stick got on the bus to Cahir but instead of sitting next to me with the only empty seat, he proceeded to stand for the rest of the journey. And then I thought...that’s what I should have done the first time.