Thursday, July 3, 2014

The Bus Ride from Hell

After a busy morning in Dublin (thankfully punctuated with an Irish breakfast), we hopped back on the bus to head back to Galway. More accurately, we hopped on a bus, not the bus--when it pulled up and we got on, we found it was very different from the huge tour bus driven by Darren, a friendly Irishman with a penchant for doughnuts, that we had taken to get to Dublin. The new bus was about half the size and smelled strongly of sweat. When we got on, we found that the cramped seats were strewn with empty alcohol bottles, stained pillows, slivers of broken glass, and, inexplicably, a single potato chip.

We were hyper-aware that complaining about the bus would be the obvious, American thing to do: "why, I never! Look at the state of this spacious bus which has been commission especially for us by the College of William and Mary! And look at the short, smiling woman driving it--how dare she? I demand new quarters!" So we didn't. We quietly took our seats and waited until we were accustomed to the stench and the bits of glass in our backsides.

And we were all comfortable in that decision. We even grew to become a little fond of the bus, in the first half hour or so of riding in it. Things were good. We had just experienced Dublin, the windows were open and the fresh air of the Irish countryside was streaming in, and Tim's Irish music playlist was blasting from the front of the bus. But this happy state of affairs could not last.

After around 30 minutes had passed, the bus driver started fiddling with Tim's iPod. He leaned forward, and though I was too far back to make out what he was saying, he waved his hands anxiously and tugged at the iPod. I saw her shake her finger at him, smiling, and she pulled out of a secret compartment what looked like a blank CD--no markings, no case, no identification of any kind--and wiggled it in his face. This is it, she seemed to be saying. This is the stuff. She put it in.

After a few seconds of silence, a dreadful noise began to fill the air. It oozed out of the air ducts, from beneath the seat cushions, settled around our ears and dripped over our shoulders, nestled into every crevice and opening in that bus until the whole thing was swollen with it.

Accordion.

It was a solo accordion mix, with four (literally, FOUR) songs, each 2-3 minutes, of a determined Irishman wailing away on an accordion for all he was worth. And it was on repeat. Every time it reached the end, we had a few seconds of blissful silence, and then it started again.

For two and a half hours.

We tried everything. I blasted my music through my noise-canceling earphones, so loud Sarah could hear it. The buzzing of the accordion followed me. I placed my hands over my ears, humming to myself manically, and the accordion followed me. I sang, along with everyone in the bus, trying to drown out the hell-pipes. She just turned it up louder. I suggested, several times, that she turn it down, and Tim relayed the message--but curiously, after a few minutes of reduced volume, the music got steadily louder by tiny increments until it was the same volume as before, if not louder.

I don't know how long we sat there, really. How long we sat in that metal tube, sluggish with tiny brass notes, plodding across the Irish countryside while we sat trapped inside with our brains dribbling out our ears, IQ draining by the minute.

I do know that the ruins of Clommacnoise were a welcome sight.

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