An Irishman's Diary

 

I couldn't believe my luck: there was my DART train sitting in Tara Street station, waiting for me to arrive. I jumped in and got a nice comfortable seat beside the window. It's not often this happens. I would be home early. But . . .

We waited, and waited, and waited . . . Five minutes, 10 minutes, 15 minutes. The carriages were filling up at an alarming rate. Everyone arriving at the station, like myself, thought it was their birthday. A real, live DART just sitting there. Wonderful. Soon it was crowded. Then it became uncomfortable. Soon there was a smell of stale sweat and people were beginning to get impatient and fidgety. We had been there for 20 minutes at this stage without any explanation. Bodies were melting into bodies. Tempers were becoming dangerously short. I saw two bluebottles trying to get out the window. It wasn't nice. Usually, when there is a problem on the DART there is a quick explanation over the tannoy. Not this time.

`Held to ransom'

Then the mystery was explained. A woman a few seats away announced in a loud voice: "I believe some man has exposed himself and we are waiting for the police." Faces dropped. People looked at each other in amazement. So that was what this was all about.

A middle-aged woman with a New York accent threw in her tuppence worth: "Do you mean to tell me that a hundred people are being held to ransom here because some goon exposed himself?"

Nobody replied. A few embarrassed looks, a shuffling of feet. What had happened to this great Island of Saints and Scholars? But the woman was right. Why should a "goon" hold up the Dublin railway system just because he got an urge to show off?

The Yank now had the floor: "We have that in Noo York every day and nobody gives a damn. Why don't they throw the bum off? Are they serious about this?" We were now 25 minutes in situ.

Suddenly, there was a ripple of excitement. Three gardai came running down the platform accompanied by a porter. This was a real Cecil B. de Mille production. I mean, when did you last see three Dublin gardai together investigating such a crime? Still, things were beginning to happen.

The gardai and the porter diligently went through the train, carriage by carriage, looking for the culprit (I think he had exposed himself down at the ticket office and smuggled himself on to the train). Eventually, they found him. He was a middle-aged drunk, who, while being frog-marched to the door, shouted at the custodians of the law: "Would youse ever feck off, have yiz no sense of humour?"

He was bundled out on to the platform, his hands pinned behind his back, and handcuffed.

We thought this was the end of the drama. But no, life is never that simple. The driver announced on the tannoy that this train was now going nonstop to Dun Laoghaire and anyone wishing to travel to any of the intervening stations would have to get off and wait for the next train.

Tearing rage

This caused a howl of protest. I was one of the howlers. We got out in a tearing rage, telling the Yank she was right and that the whole business was ridiculous. What a night! There we were, supporting public transport and leaving our cars at home, sacrificing road rage for rail rage. We thought we had the script right, but life has a funny way of putting a spoke in smooth operations.

When we got off, some of the furious travellers saw our man in handcuffs and made a beeline for him, calling him every name under the sun except the one on his birth certificate. A large number of law-abiding Dubliners had been inconvenienced while going about their lawful business by a guy who thought it all a big joke. The insults got stronger and louder. The gardai quickly swept the deeply shocked man out of the station.

Car stolen

The lynch mob then turned their attention to the porter and screamed at him that he should have ignored the ------. What difference would it have made if he had travelled? He wasn't doing anyone any harm. He was only a bloody Irish drunk. He was harmless, they told him. They complained that they would now have to wait all night for another DART to come. The porter muttered a few words in his defence and said there would be another one along in two minutes.

He was right. There was.

Three years ago I had my car stolen from the DART car park at Booterstown station. It turned up three days later, full of empty handbags. The door lock and the ignition unit were broken and the steering wheel had been badly bent to get the crooklock off. I'm now afraid to park there any more and have found a safer place.

I know I'm helping the traffic flow in Dublin by taking the DART. I'm not one of those people who would bring my car into the city and have the nerve to park it on a side street near my office. I'm a law-abiding, conscientious citizen. I'm no trouble to the clampers or the traffic wardens or the successful running of the capital's commercial life. But I've been squeezed off the roads and now, the final humiliation, I've been thrown off public transport because of a drunk. Where do I go from here? I'm a man not wanted in his own town.