Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Apology to a Stranger

I had this letter printed in The Irish Times today:

Sir, – I think it’s a good thing that Grace Egan is going to give up public transport and take her bicycle out of storage (January 28th), since she seems to dislike her fellow human beings, with their annoying propensity to cough, sleep, eat, have babies and otherwise make nuisances of themselves.

Seriously, isn’t our society privatised enough? Why do we seem to resent every intrusion of a common life, from political posters to the broadcasting of the Angelus bells to the agony of hearing somebody talk on the mobile phone, or even having to listen to a taxi-driver’s or a barber’s conversation?

I have been travelling on public transport all my life, and personally I love the daily drama and spectacle that it affords me. I like seeing what people are reading, hearing what people are talking about, and savouring the eccentricities and oddities that are often on show. Where Ms Egan seems to find the sight of a woman applying make-up on the bus “embarrassing”, I think it’s about the sweetest and most endearing thing imaginable.

And the conversations you hear on the bus are priceless. I remember hearing one couple speculating about a lurid-sounding movie called “Adopted to Die”, a poster for which they had spotted out the bus window, and which they assumed was a thriller about a child adopted by murderous parents – until they realised that the title was actually Addicted to Love, and that they had brainstormed a blockbuster together in a matter of seconds. Only on the bus. – Yours, etc,


Sillogue Gardens,


Dublin 11.

Now I read over it again, I feel bad for having accused the previous correspondent of disliking her fellow human beings. Her letter was written in a light vein and didn't deserve such an accusation, which I didn't seriously mean (as I, too, meant my response to be rather lighthearted, though I was also trying to make a fairly serious point).

In the unlikely event that you are reading this, Grace Egan, I am sorry for my harsh words. I meant nothing personal.


  1. I dunno, MO'C,
    having read Ms Egan's letter, I think she needs to develop a thicker skin. Maybe your letter will help!

  2. We are obviously both avid followers of the Irish Times letters page, Father! To be honest, it's pretty much the only part of the newpaper that I regularly read!

  3. first thing I look at every morning (& sometimes the only thing!). I'm also something of an inveterate letter writer myself. Maybe you've seen some of them - Rev Fr Patrick G Burke, Castlecomer?

  4. I am not always great at remembering names but I'm sure I've read them and nodded in approval! I'm a first-thing-in-the-morning man too, when it comes to the correpondence columns.

  5. Ah, well ... now you know what to look out for in the future!

  6. I empathize. A handful of times I've commented on blogs imagining I was making a salient point with admirable wit and clarity, and fighting some good fight or other, and then looked back and realised I was mainly trying to put someone back in their box and vaunt myself.

    Still the gist of your letter is spot on. Although where do you stand on people on buses wearing headphones forcing us all to a listen to a tinny version of their shocking taste in music?

  7. It doesn't bother me in the least-- although when they are playing it loud (as happens) I feel less tolerant!