Once upon a long ago, I used to get the Dart into work every now and then – back in the pre-kid, pre-crèche, pre-car-space days. It was not so much an adventure as a trial by fire back then, and as I wait now (12 minutes!) for my rush hour Dart to arrive, I wonder if things will be just as manic.
Indeed, they are. Or perhaps even more crowded. And Twitter isn’t loading on my phone, the train doors having seemingly strangled my 4G. So instead I stand, swaying, gripping the yellow pole, and listening to what’s going on with the lives of my fellow passengers.
Like Anna, who bravely manoeuvres her buggy and two small children on to the Dart at Blackrock. I don’t know if her name is Anna – in all likelihood it isn’t, but she looks like an Anna. And her two gorgeous kids look like they might be Evie and Alex. Both children wear glasses. I have an instinctive affinity with any kid who does, as all three of mine do. I imagine Anna’s car wouldn’t start this morning and the only way to get Evie to school was braving a rush hour Dart with a buggy. She looks like she wasn’t mad about the idea, but is determined to see it through without getting stressed. Alex kicks me a few times, in a nice way. The old me who used to get the Dart pre-kids would have been unsure about how to handle this, but I stand here today as someone who is well used to being kicked (in a nice way). So some things have changed, if only for me.
When Anna needs to get off the train, six or seven people get out to let her through and one helps her with the buggy. When they get back on, there are lots of looks exchanged – not so much “What was she thinking bringing a buggy on a rush hour Dart” as “Fair play to her.”
Meanwhile, right behind me, Cillian and Niall are having post-weekend chats on the way in to work. I don’t know if their names are Cillian and Niall, but let’s go with that. They talk about football (who’s going to win tonight?) and how they’ll watch it. Cillian no longer has Sky Sports but he doesn’t miss it as much as he thought he would, and it got him away from betting on the football. Himself and Ian (another friend, not his real name) were losing a ton a week on the football he reckons. I make a note to myself to Google how much a “ton” is. (It’s €100 it seems.)
Then Ian’s dole got cut to a tenner a week, because they came out to his house and means tested him – he was going mad about it apparently, but Cillian reckons it was about time, and now maybe he’ll get a job. He tells Niall that he’ll give him a shout next time he’s meeting up with Ian for pints, because he’s great craic and totally wild – you never know what he’s going to do. Niall seems on board with that. I don’t know if I would be, and that’s not just because you’d have to pay for everything with Ian only on a tenner a week now. But maybe that’s why mums of three don’t hang out with “totally wild” twenty-year-olds.
Ronan and Jasmine are on my other side, and Ronan is talking about a guy he’s just met. He’s really sweet (the guy, not Ronan, though I’m sure Ronan is too) and he wants to see him again. Jasmine is delighted for Ronan. So am I. I can’t help thinking this is a conversation I didn’t hear ten years ago on my rush hour Dart trips – maybe I just wasn’t listening, or maybe Ireland is a different place.
At Sandymount, there’s a bit of stirring and elbowing – Ravi, who is just behind Cillian and Niall, needs to get off the Dart. That’s fine, except he has a bicycle with him, and needs to get all the way from one side of the Dart to the other. Not a huge journey, but challenging when there are six thousand people to get through. With a bike. I step aside as best I can, and Ravi says no, it’s not till the next stop. Cillian tells him that maybe he’d be better to wait until then. He says it nicely, but Ravi is getting the silent head-shaking that Anna didn’t get. And Jasmine has a handlebar poking her in the stomach.
Finally it’s my stop. How am I going to get through all the people? And I have neither a buggy nor a bike. But everyone else is getting off at Pearse too. We expel ourselves out into the cool welcome air and go our separate ways. Anna is at home now having a well-earned coffee. Ronan and Jasmine are on their way into their first lecture. Cillian and Niall are only a tiny bit late for work in the bank. Ravi is whizzing through traffic, glad he has his bike. And I’m on my way to a grown-up place with other grown-up people – something I took for granted back in the pre-kid days, and I’m thinking about things that have changed and things that haven’t changed at all.