Imagine a bus journey to a suburban office park in the morning.
Imagine the passengers being transported to their dreary workplaces.
Imagine seeing the same faces day after day, wondering who they are. And what motivates them.
Then imagine that the portly gentleman with the tattooed lower leg , whom you have never acknowledged, is sitting right behind you chatting to one of his colleagues.
Imagine the conversation they have.
Actually don’t imagine that conversation – I’m going to tell you about it.
The aforementioned gentleman has been one of my recognisable, but anonymous travel companions since I started taking this route back in January. He seems like an affable sort – often having a word with the driver. This is a skill I have never mastered. Bus drivers tend to be as surly as I am. His leg tattoo is brightly coloured – not the rancid sludge green of most tattoos.
He sat next to the woman, who is another frequent bus mate. I had always assumed that she was Polish. I knew that she wasn’t Irish – why I was certain of this, I have no clue. She was not Polish however. She was American.The crowded nature of this morning journey had prevented me from eavesdropping on previous conversations between them. This morning I had a front row seat – literally as they were seated directly behind me.
Some pertinent background facts that I gleaned from early in the chat. Firstly they don’t know each other that well – at least judging by some of the basic information they were exchanging.
She is 31, from California and is single. Her divorced mother will be travelling to Ireland this Christmas to celebrate with her offspring (is she mad? Ireland versus California in December is not an even match).
He is 32, from North Dublin originally but now lives with his girlfriend of six years in a city centre flat.
She has been dating an Irish guy for about a month, and he is already talking about having a family. She’s like ”Whooooaaaa’ (her words) as that is ‘waaaaaay’ too fast for her. She met him on Tinder, and he clearly didn’t read her updated profile. She is just looking for fun times and dates at the moment. She’s not ready for kids. She’s not sure if she’ll ever be ready for kids. Her friends who have kids have no freedom or money; and their relationships are suffering because of that snotty toddler screaming in the corner.
‘Never?’ I thought to myself
She spoke as if her observations made her the instigator of a new fight against the patriarchal system of female oppression.
By vocalising that she didn’t want children – yet.
She chooses to ignore her mother’s advice to have children before the age of thirty five. She doesn’t work towards arbitrary deadlines.
Now, while she doesn’t want children – yet – she has agreed to go to her new beau’s sister’s wedding in December. As his ‘plus one’.
I felt like turning around and saying ‘Ooooh, meeting the family? That’s a sure-fire way of inviting pressure to spawn, on the both of you. Run. Run for your life’.
I didn’t. I pretended to be engrossed by my telephone. I didn’t want them to know that i was listening in in them, and to stop talking. This was fun.
He, on the other hand, has an allegedly much more evolved relationship with his girlfriend of six years (in November). They both have busy jobs, and live in a one bedroom apartment in town, and like to go out. They both like children – and often babysit for her sister’s children. They love the kids but also love handing them back.
Again he sounded like he was speaking revolutionary words, by declaiming how modern and with it, they were.
Then he started talking about ‘Ireland’ as a homogenous, catholic, single entity. This irritated me somewhat. People who engage in stereotypes about an entire country for the sake of an amusing stories, are lazy thinkers. When he described his youth, fourteen years ago – by which point I’d been in Amsterdam for a couple of years already – he mentioned that people used to actually mention that there was a ‘A Gay’ down in the village. And that he ‘wasn’t a hairdresser.’
My hackles rose. I felt like turning to him and saying ‘Really? REALLY? Come on now, that never happened and you know it. Stop trying to pretend to this American woman that a leprechaun lived at the back of your garden. Ireland wasn’t like the 1950s in the year 2002.’
I kept silent.
He potentially had the hots for her, and was attempting to be witty and amusing and urbane and sophisticated, with his suave anecdotes. When he started the tale of how unevolved Ireland was, by describing an encounter that he had personally witnessed at the chipper, one evening after a soiree, I just shrugged my shoulders.
Allegedly, ahead of him in the queue at the chipper was a gentleman who informed his girlfriend, that the proof of his love for her lay in the fact that he ‘rode her and bought her chips’.
I wanted to stand. To turn and point at him and shout ‘J’ACCUSE, That NEVER happened!!!’
I kept schtum.
They got off the bus.
I will keep my ears peeled for updates.
I suspect that both will be parents (perhaps not of the same child), living in suburbia, by the age of thirty five.
If either of them, is to escape this monochrome future, then it will be her. She’s already shown that she can think on her own two feet, by moving abroad, alone.
That takes bottle.