Ah Sweet Mysteries of Life…

I love it when life throws up a little mystery or two for me to mull over.

Margaret at Eyespi20 mentioned one the other day. A guy pulls into her car park at 7.00am every morning then naps for 45 minutes before going off again. Why does he do it? Why doesn’t he nap at home?

I suggested a rather mundane answer to this but I really hope and pray that Margaret will shoot my theory down. I want there to be some ‘back-story’, some odd-and-intriguing reason why he does it.

I tend to nurture there little 'mystery obsessions' of mine because I sometimes find that they are an acorn from which a story might grow. For me, stories often start with some innocuous little detail noted in the back of my head. I’ve learned to encourage that pricking feeling I get which is sometimes the harbinger of a story idea. I think Margaret’s napping man has a story in him. I don’t need to know the truth of his existence or even why he really does it… I just need to wait and see where my interest in him might take me.

I’ll keep you posted.

Some mysteries in my life don’t lead to stories. Sometimes they just amuse me to think back on them.

Like why that bus driver acted as he did, in Dublin a few years back?

Let me tell you about it, perhaps you’ll have a theory.

Trish and I went to see the very first International Soccer match in Dublin’s Croke Park between Ireland and Wales. (So that puts the events of this ‘mystery’ on 24th March 2007, perhaps that’s a clue?) Afterwards we had a drink in 'The Shelbourne Hotel' – much posher than I’m used to – and then we decided to get a bus to Ballsbridge – which is exactly as posh as I’m used to, the bus not the location.

We waited, alone, at the bus stop and, soon enough, a big yellow-and-blue double decker rolled up the road. It stopped, the doors hissed open… and some people got off – that’s relevant, I think... some people got off.

Despite those people getting off, the bus was still packed. Passengers were standing almost right up to the side of the driver’s little cabin.

I stood at the entrance to the bus and shouted up to the driver.

“Sorry,” I said, “can I just check that you’re going through Ballsbridge?”

What happened next has never happened to me before. I would guess it has never happened to anyone before but you might be able to tell me different.

The bus driver broke into a huge smile, threw his gears into neutral, opened his little cabin, jumped out, bounded down the steps of his bus, grabbed my hand and started shaking it furiously.

He said, “I heard you got hitched, congratulations.”

“Thanks.” I had indeed got ‘hitched’ - about fifteen years before.

“Are you in town for long?”

“No… just tonight.”

“Right, right. This bus doesn’t go to Ballsbridge, sorry, you’ll need the next one.”


“I’ll go so…”


And then off he went, with a bus full of people smiling back at me through his windows.

It’s an odd little mystery, completely true. What was he doing? Dublin bus drivers, in my experience, are businesslike, friendly – yes – but I’ve never heard of one bounding out of their seat to greet a stranger.

Perhaps someone in Dublin is familiar with this type of behavior and can help solve the mystery for me. Here are some of my theories:

1) He mistook me for somebody else.
2) He was mad.
3) This is a new Dublin tradition that wasn’t around when I lived there in the Eighties.
4) (And this is the most likely one by far) He was giving me a sarcastic ‘friendly-greeting’ for the entertainment of his sizable Saturday night payload.

I think this last is the truth of the matter but there a few reasons why it doesn’t fully stand up. For instance, I may be a country-boy now, but I’ve lived in cities most of my life and I don’t really stand out as a blow-in to be mocked. Also, importantly, I didn’t wave down the bus to ask if it was the right bus, people were already getting off it at my stop.

When I tell people about this, they tend to shake their heads and say, “This stuff is always happening to you.”

They’re right.

In closing: All this talk about mysteries reminds me of the conundrum of the man who came home from work every day, got the lift to the fifth floor, then walked up the last three flights to his apartment on the eight floor. He always got the lift all the way down when he was going to work but only ever went to the fifth floor when he came home… except, that is, when somebody was with him – then he went all the way to the eighth.

If by any chance, you haven’t heard this before (unlikely, I know) and you become tortured for an answer, look to the housemates in the new British Celebrity Big Brother TV show for a little clue.

A little clue...


tata said...

My, that *is* an interesting story! Things like that are always happening to you, too? Amazing!

And you already are a story teller, Ken. Quite a good one, too. And I'm not, so I'll leave the story as it is (besides, I like a little mystery, too).

Susan at Stony River said...

Oh I love what-ifs and mysteries. I'd be wondering about the parking-lot man too.

It probably is something mundane, like he has to drop off the kids to school and be to work at different times that don't quite allow him to go home betweentimes...but hmmmm....it would be much better if he were a spy of some sort, and some wild sort of extraterrestrial intrigue were going on right there in the parking lot. YEAH!

Who knows?

Anonymous said...

You're right, all those little mysteries in life can be great fuel for "backstories". Now, I've never really had something as odd as your bus driver story, but I've had a few car nap guys (or the equivilent). I'll start watching, thanks for the heads up!

Catherine @ Sharp Words said...

I think the first explanation is the most likely for your bus driver, Ken. Sadly. It seems to happen a lot in Ireland though, perhaps because everyone has so many acquaintances (and a lot of people look alike due to a small population).

It does all happen to you though, doesn't it?

Anonymous said...

Maybe he was fed up with driving unpolitie hooligans and suddenly a man address him in a polite way to ask him about something. Did you smile while asking? :)

I love the story. I bet he would invite you for a beer if you said you were staying a couple of days. :D

Anonymous said...

Ok maybe I'm a bit naive. :)

Ken Armstrong said...

tata: Thanks. :) After I introduced it as an event that had not *prompted* a story, it then promptly turned into one. :)

Susan: Margaret *did* say it happened on non school days too! My theory is similar to yours - that he drives in early to beat the traffic then has a kip before work but I don't want it to be true... surely there's a murder-plot somewhere or at least a stealing of the Crown Jewels? :)

Hi Terry, yes, they are great... because they are real, I think. 'Real' is invaluable in a story.

Catherine you're probably right but it didn't seem that way at the time. For some reason, I wasn't driven to correct him by saying something along the lines of, "Sorry, I don't know you mate." There was a strong feeling that something was going on which I was not a party to, so I just went with the flow. It *was* odd. :)

Oyvind: Not naive at all! You have put your finger right on the one element of this story that I deliberately left out of the post because it seemed to spoil the flow. It was simply this: I had just been to a great sporting event and moved on to drinks in a wonderful location... I was in an *amazingly* bright and happy mood (not drunk... never drunk) and I believe I asked the question of the driver with an enormous happy grin on my face.

*This* may be part of the reason he might have decided he would break up his routine and come out and have a laugh with me.

So, no, my friend, not naive but astute as always. :)

Rachel Fox said...

I'm not sure I've ever seen a bus driver get out of their seat for anything other than the end of their shift!

Anonymous said...

Its beautiful, I love such moments. When people in often stressful situations suddenly puts all aside and feel a joy by giving a person extra attention/help or just sharing the joyful feeling the person got.

Like when a worker at a chaotic supermarket suddenly close the queue to help a mother with 3 screaming kids to pack groceries into bags. Or when a driver see a person miss a bus and stop to offer him or her lift to the next stop ahead of the bus.

If that was it. :) When I was younger I described these moments as when someone invisible were playing with a flashlight where the lightray hit random people.

Anonymous said...

nice blog!. care to exchange links?

Roy said...

hmmm... I have some theories about the sleeping-man-in-the-parking-lot...

as for the bus drivers, he might have mistaken you for someone would be the safest bet.

and the elevator man, maybe he thinks he needs a little exercise after work ;)

Jena Isle said...

Hi Ken,

I agree with Roy, just a little bit, but I can't help but take a shot, what about, you were dressed to the nines and the bus driver thought you were eloping for some honeymoon somewhere...lol...

It is a conundrum Ken, I wish you'll give the answer to all of the "puzzles."

That relaxed me and exercised my brain. Thanks.

Fiendish said...

Now, part of me wants to think he was just laughing (with you rather than at you) about your obviously happy mood.

But then why would he mention you getting married? That seems to throw a rather random spanner in the just-being-friendly works.

I am fascinated.

Funny that you mention the "Things like this are always happening to you" line - I seem to get that a lot too. God knows why.

Matthew S. Urdan said...

hmmm...bus passengers getting off, you going to ballsbridge....my theory is the bus driver mistook you as some local gay porn star.

I could be wrong though. It's happened before.

BTW, in 2009 you can go to Disney for free on your birthday. Which means that's a great way for me to book a stay of two nights in a disney hotel, eat at disney for at least two days and part of a third, and buy overpriced merchandise in the park while anyone that wants to celebrate with me pays full price. Brilliant marketing. I've got my reservation at the Contemporary Hotel for Dec 2-4 and I'll be enjoying my "free" day at the Magic Kingdom on my birthday, December 3, 2009.

Anonymous said...

Ken, you really do have the strangest stories. Most of my stories involving strangers speaking unexpectedly start with someone coming up and saying "You have really pretty eyes."

That's happened more than once, but really, they're not so special.

McGuire said...

Interesting post ken.

These mysteries are common to all of us yet always remain distinctly uncommon in our mind. But, odd coincodence like these happen to all of us at different stages in our lives. Some call it divine mystery, somewhat providential, but for most they think it is pure chance, luck and whim.

As for the snoozing driver, perhaps he drives a private hire taxi and goes for a wee sleep before the day shift takes over. Perhaps he has insomnia and must catch the little Zzzz's whereever and whenever he can. Interesting behaviour nonetheless.

As for the Dublin driver...did you live in Dublin? Did he not recognise you from when you were younger and remembered your face but you didn't recall his? Could it perhaps be he is Dublin's Derren Brown, using a cunning display of Cold Reading to discern your situation? Either that or perhaps you are remebering it with more nostalgia than was there at the time.

I have lots of these situation too. I was travelling in Italy and noticed a guy, about my age on the same train, we made eye contact now and then, a bit odd but nothing to worry about. But, then once getting off the train, and getting a quick connection, sitting on this new train, perhaps an hour later, who walks past and catch my eye again, the same guy. Again, pure coincedence but I can't help but feel the secret pleasure of such synchronistic experiences.

always interesting

Jim Murdoch said...

I did have a driver stop his bus slap bang in the middle of the junction of Sauchiehall Street and Renfield Street I think (a dead busy bit put it that way), he held up all the traffic as he leaned out of his window and hollered, "Jim!" till I realised it was my attention he was trying to attract. (Bear in mind everyone in Glasgow is called 'Jimmy' - even the women). Turned out it was one of my old trainees. Kinda embarrassing but also kinda nice too I have to say.

Laura Brown said...

I've pulled into a parking lot and slept in the car awhile when I go to work. I leave the house extra early to have some time to myself before I have to start the work day. Usually I ended up falling asleep, enjoying the peace of how quiet the world is at that really early time before the breakfast and coffee places are open and long before the shopping malls are open for business. It gave me just enough peace of mind to be able to get through the day of being a cashier in one of those stores. Expecially at busy seasons like Christmas and back to school when things were pretty insane and they would make us start an hour early when they had those door crasher specials and some people just had to show up and line up at the door early in case they missed it. (This was not in a city, just a town, so they always seemed ridiculous to me). Anyway, that hour or two of peace was a time to be treasured.

I'm sure the bus driver thought you were someone famous Ken. I don't know who would have just been married around March 2007 but you could look into it. Must be someone who looks like you. Also, if you were feeling good you must have had miles of that Irish twinkle in your eyes. You probably looked like someone who should be famous.

I don't get odd things happening I just get a lot of odd people attracted to me. When I'm out in a group it's always the weird ones who end up stuck to me like glue. I'm too nice to try hard to get rid of them so parties are usually spoiled for me until I can get away from the desperately lonely types who always seem to have something really weird to downright creepy about them. The last one did buy me a latte at least but he wouldn't let go of my hands enough for me to really enjoy it.

Cleveland Real Estate said...

...At last I found thee.

I sing that all the time while doing dishes.

The driver got off the bus because he could. He's a vet.

The 5th floor is either a stalking check point or exercise. I'm not clicking on your clue.

Ken Armstrong said...

These comments are a treasure trove, thanks guys!

Rachel: I've never seen a driver move either - I was trying to be polite.

(My, you look pointy today.)

A poem from from a favorite movie:

"O pointy birds, o pointy pointy
Anoint my head, anointy-nointy" :)

How nicely put Oyvind! Thanks.

Shizoshrink: thanks, I'm not 'big' on link exchanges, I'm afraid, but do keep in touch. :)

Roy: your the first to engage with my elevator-man - do you all know the answer? It's good! Did I mention that he *couldn't* go to the floor he wanted? (Why not Ken?) Ah...

Jena: no I wasn't dressed to the nines. Me, dressed to the nines, is an extremely rare sight indeed!

Fiendish: We are Fiendish Thingie Happening Peeps for sure! Thanks for the compliment today. :)

Matthew!! Lowering the tone is my job, please! :) Imagine my birthday at Disney - what a cavalcade that would be... :)

McGuire: Interesting comments! I used to love in Dublin, I hadn't actually considered that he might have known me then? No, wait, nobody knew me then. :)

Jim, Welcome back Big Fella! I would stop my bus and greet you too - who the hell wouldn't?

Laura: Your comments here are *so* often superior to many posts I see. You have put your finger on my 'secret theory' the one I feared saying out loud. I too have a sneaking suspicion that he was mistaking me for someone 'famous' but I have *no* idea who. His manner - something about it - instilled that feeling in me at the time and I've rejected the idea ever since as being that silly buried ego of mine. I'm off to look up dates, 'will report back on it.

Dear Ohio Real Estate: I can picture it: multi-coloured bubbles flying, high notes achieved effortlessly... and that whistling bit in the middle, inspirational. :)

I expected you to solve the elevator conundrum in a flash! I reckon you did...

Cleveland Real Estate said...

Okay...Nobody else got it...

He never goes all the way to 8 because he doesn't wear his high heels in public... He's quite closeted. When he brings company home, they press it for him... because he's a big chicken baby.

He's a little, little man. I know a few of those...

Bubbles. In my own, sure.

Cleveland Real Estate said...

Oh and if anyone else answered it before me and you haven't put us through the whole approval thing yet... delete mine, don't make me look asinine!

Ken Armstrong said...

Ha. I *knew* you knew it!

Ohio Real Estate (God, I hate calling you that) is quite correct, as with everything in life.

Our hero in the lift is a small person... em, vertically-challenged. Political-correctness suggests I can't say it but, hell, I can sing it: 'Heigh ho, Heigh ho, it's off up the stairs I go (cos I couldn't get my date to come up with me).

Geddit? He couldn't reach up to the button for the floor he wanted so he pushed the highest one he could reach and walked the rest.

And *nobody* puts baby in the asinine corner - not around here. :)

Roy said...

oh! I see!

that's why he couldn't go his floor. clever story...

which makes me want to ask, is he always alone in the elevator? if so,why? if not, can't he ask somebody with him to kindly press his floor so he can go directly?

hmmm.... sounds like another mystery ;)

honestly, I'm afraid I even asked those

Anonymous said...

Ha! Ha! Ken that's so funny! I can't fathom why he congratulated you on getting married, but maybe he went to school with you :P


fragileheart said...

OMG, I used to ride that bus into work (actually, I rode it into town and got the 7 into Ballsbridge into work hehe. I could've ridden my bike to work but on those colder days or wetter days I took the bus).

I think he possibly mistook you for someone else and the reason this happens to you is you have that face. You know... that face that makes you always look like someone else we all know (I'm not alluding to anyone in particular though).

I've always found Dublin bus drivers to be very friendly, but of course I'm a cute little asian girl from out of town - why wouldn't they be nice to me? =P

Laura Brown said...

My best bus driver story was in Miami, in the US. I landed in after living in the Dominican Republic for several months and I was just overnight or the weekend as it turned out, before catching the train to go home in Ontario.

I was in kind of an industrial/ business building area. Not a lot of people and not much in the way of places you could go in for a coffee. I needed a bank machine. If you are from the US you don't likely know what a fricking pain the bank machines are when you have a Canadian account. Though they all have the sticker saying they use the same stuff (can't think of he initials right now) they almost never work. I had tried several machines, walking around the area for half an hour at least.

I noticed a guy starting to follow me. There was no one else around to scream for help or anything and he definitely was not just trying to be friendly. I was getting really scared, going back to my motel was not an option cause it was back the way he was.

A bus driver pulled over, drove into the parking lot actually!, and suggested he could drive me somewhere away. How did he even notice that I was in danger when so many people just look at whatever is right in front of their face and not even notice anything else? It was amazing and of course I got on and go away.

He dropped me off at an area farther along where I did eventually find a machine that would let me use my bank account. He was the same driver to pick me up again (it was a Sunday and routes were slow) and he dropped me off close to my motel so I wouldn't have to wander around that area any more. Later I found out it wasn't a good part of town. But, I'd never been to Miami before and only picked that motel cause it was cheap and I was nearly out of cash.

So that's my bus man story and, yet another long comment. :D

Anonymous said...

Just checking in so that you know that it does pay to post your articles on CMF’s post of the week. Boy, your article has not made the decision any easier this week.

Grannymar said...

I heard the elevator story before.

Sleepy head might have driven a partner to work for an early shift and had time to kill before his own work start.

Dublin Bus - The drivers are a class of their own. I knew one who used to tickle my knees! I was 9 years old at the time.

This guy thought he knew you and realising too late made a joke of it to cover his mistake.

Jacqui said...

I was once waiting in a car in a supermarket carpark quite late in the evening - the kids were asleep in the back so husband my had nipped in for whatever we needed. We'd parked a fair distance from the shop, where it wasn't so busy.

While I was waiting a van parked near us, with a man and a woman inside. No-one got out of the van. No-one got in. The pair didn't talk at all, or even look at each other as far as I could see. They smoked 3 or 4 cigarettes each then started up and drove out of the car park.

Why? If it'd been one person I'd have assumed they were a secret smoker who'd sneaked out on some pretext. If they'd interacted at all I'd have thought some kind of assignation. All I can think is that they were waiting for someone who didn't show (in Tesco's carpark!?) but even then you'd have expected some conversation.