Vinny nearly takes Foley’s crew out on farewell spin
Retiring bus driver’s Skylark trip with his pals ends with an unexpected bump
Socket had run through the severance terms which, based on Vinny’s length of employment, came to €96,000 – tax-free. For Vinny, this was an extraordinary sum; one he felt he couldn’t pass up.
Yes, he’d miss his regulars, such as Mrs Cadwalder of the Clontarf Warblers, who slipped him a slice of homemade pecan pie on Tuesdays and Fridays, in return for a hairy peck on his cheek.
And a part of him would yearn for the responsibility of getting customers from A to B on schedule, always with a cheery smile. But there came a time, he felt, where you had to either choose the road with wear or the one less travelled.
As he knew every blob of tarmac on the northside, this redundancy package would provide a chance to spread his wings and do a thousand things. At 55, he knew it wouldn’t come around again.
As Vinny crossed the forecourt, he hailed the lads and pointed them towards a gleaming blue and yellow double-decker Volvo bus, whose engine was running. It was an AV137, one of the last in the garage, and the old girl had served Vinny well.
“All aboard the Skylark,” he cried, as he opened the doors. “Twice around the lighthouse, and back in time for tea.”
The lads trooped on board, most of them staying on the lower deck, although Brennie, typically, skipped upstairs. “Baggsie the front seats,” he chirped.
Vinny carefully nosed the bus out on to the Clontarf Road, indicated left, and was soon heading east towards Black Banks.
At a steady 40 kilometres per hour, the bus shuffled along past Kilbarrack, where Vinny blessed himself at the graveyard, and continued on to Sutton Cross, where Vinny signalled right and headed up Carrickbrack Road.
At Howth Summit, Vinny pulled in at the car park, where they all admired the grandeur of Dublin harbour and mountains – Charlie Vernon likened the view to the Bay of Naples – before descending to towards Howth Village for an ice cream halt.
Over Icebergers and Brunches, the lads saluted Vinny’s unstinting service behind the wheel. “To Dublin’s very own Reg Varney,” cried Macker, while Fran gave a blast of The Wheels On The Bus, which went down a bomb.
Vinny checked his watch. It was almost twenty to eight. “Right lads, time to be moving, lest Socket gets twitchy. Take your seats and don’t leave any wrappers behind. I want to leave a clean bus.”
The trip back was a little sluggish due to the “Dollyer” beach brigade and it was a minute to eight when the bus was parallel to the garage. Vinny indicated he was turning right and waited for a gap in the traffic heading from town.
He could see Socket in the forecourt, checking his watch and beckoning at Vinny. “Relax, Socket, relax,” thought Vinny. There was a break in the flow and Vinny carefully nudged the bus towards the garage precincts.
Out of the blue, on Vinny’s starboard side, there was a sudden shout, followed immediately by a sickening thump. Vinny jammed on the brakes, his face white with shock. “Jaypurs tonight, what was that?”