You really bond with a person when you share a life-and-death experience with them. You learn their history, their hopes and dreams, their favourite flavour of ice cream. Sometimes you even learn their name.
Yesterday morning, my companion was a woman a little younger than myself. Tall, fair, Amazonian. She’d had surgery on her back and had only recently started to walk without canes. I flashed to an image of a Michael under each arm helping her around.
“In my spare time, I help the disabled walk. Not a lot of people know that.”
Not that sort of Caine.
I go into silly mode when I’m trying not to panic. The reason: the beast known as the N3 loomed before us. This is the N3:
I know, EEK! right.
You see, the thing is, generally when you take the bus from Kells to Navan and tell the driver you’re going to the hospital, he’ll remind you there’s no bus stop there, then he’ll say, not to worry, take a thirty second detour, and he’ll drop you right outside the gates anyway. About 90% of the drivers are happy to accommodate their passengers, or at least they used to be up to a couple of months ago. Recently, however, they have, to a man — Bus Éireann drivers are predominantly male — refused to make the very slight detour (we’re talking a difference of one turn and no time delay) and insist on dropping the hobbled and infirm at the stop before the hospital which is on the N3 motorway. See EEK! picture above.
Pause for suitable gasp of horror.
Now, to be fair, the motorway doesn’t always look like that. At certain times of day it’s fairly tame. Still, it is a dual carriageway and there is traffic, and the people going to the hospital are not going to present any challenge to Mo Farah. It’s only a matter of time, you know what I mean?
In the meantime, the gang and I hold hands, hold our breath, and hold our bowels while we leap across the multi-lane motorway. Then, once we’ve crossed that hurdle and conquered the north-south onslaught, we get to do it again with the east-west. Oh, the fun we have! Mary, who I met last month, told me she’d just had surgery on her knee. I think that’s what she said. It was hard to tell over the sobbing.
Leonard, who was limping quite badly, said he’d been threatened with amputation, but he told them to feck off. If he could handle the N3 during rush hour, the doctors presented no challenge to him whatever.
We’re a fierce lot, most of us. We’re thinking of getting tee-shirts made with N3 WARRIORS in day-glo colours, because some of us will have appointments in December and we’re not sure we like our odds. At least bright colours improve our chances of survival by about 1%. Leonard’s a mathematician.
Some of the gang prefer to go it alone. They’d rather strut (I use the term very loosely. It’s hard to strut on crutches) without anyone’s help. They don’t want to bond. If anyone ever makes a movie of our adventures, the mavarick will be played by Viggo Mortensen. I’ll be played by Judi Dench. We’ll share an if-I-were-thirty-years-younger moment before he ends up with Emily Blunt. Sigh.
In the meantime, the life and death battle with the N3 continues, and soon the mornings will get darker and icier and the death part a lot less academic and far more terrifying.
Seriously, Bus Éireann, this is an easy fix.