Vinny nearly takes Foley’s crew out on farewell spin
Retiring bus driver’s Skylark trip with his pals ends with an unexpected bump
At Howth Summit, Vinny Fitzpatrick pulled in at the car park, where they all admired the grandeur of Dublin harbour and mountain. Photograph: Bord Fáilte
THE coastal tour to Howth Head and back had been arranged at short notice. It explained the dozen or so middle-aged men assembled in the forecourt of Clontarf Bus Garage at seven o’clock on Sunday evening.
From his perch by the canteen window, where he had just finished a fine cuppa doused with Fig Rolls, a smiling Vinny Fitzpatrick could see the gathering of regulars from Foley’s hostelry below. His passengers had arrived for a special one-hour excursion.
For Vinny, the trip would be poignant, a chance to provide a service to those lads who’d put up with his work grumbles for more years than he cared to remember.
They were all there: Fran, Macker, Brennie, Kojak, Charlie Vernon, Two-Mile Boris, Spider, even Dial-A-Smile, who’d bunked off on his break from Foley’s to be part of Vinny’s last hurrah before everyone headed for a more predictable send-off in their favoured hostelry.
While the corpulent driver still had two weeks to work out his notice, having successfully applied for redundancy, this Sunday jaunt was his first, and only, chance at giving the lads a free spin on the buses.
He’d asked Socket Twomey, the garage chief, for dispensation to borrow a steed for an hour, citing his 34 years of unstinting, incident-free, service. At first, Socket had stalled the ball but Vinny had been persistent.
“Look, I’m doing you a favour by calling it a day. In return, do me a turn and give us an hour on the road with me mates. Sunday evening is always quiet and I’ll be back on time, as usual,” he pleaded.
While Socket was a stickler for protocol, he had relented. “On the following conditions: no drinking, no smoking and no messing on the bus. You leave here at seven and you’re back at eight, all in one piece. Is that clear?”
Vinny’s shift had ended a couple of hours earlier, allowing him to pop home and cheer one of sport’s good guys, Phil Mickelson, to Open glory. He felt no one deserved to the title of “Champion Golfer” more than ‘Mr Colgate’ himself.
Things had been rather subdued in Mount Prospect Avenue. While the twins climbed on to their Daddy’s large lap, Angie had served a chicken dinner in silence – she even halved her husband’s roast spud allowance.
Angie was still vexed at Vinny’s decision to pull in off the road, having questioned his sanity, stressing he had no job to go to and was most unlikely to get one, at his age, in these times.
Angie had also played the emotive card, pointing out she was working flat out in Boru Betting, where turnover was down and warned of no “bread on the table for the bairns” when the money ran out. Vinny had refused to change gear.
“This is my chance to break free from the chains of uniformity, armed with a few bob in the back pocket. Don’t worry, love, something will turn up. I’m like a cat; I always land on my feet,” he said.
Deep down, Vinny was not so cocksure but he’d followed through on his shock decision to volunteer for redundancy and was not for turning.