Thursday, March 6, 2008

Painting the Town Yellow

It has never happened in the past and it will probably never happen again but I am going to use this column to formally congratulate Dublin Bus. Now, please excuse me while I go and sit in a darkened room with a wet towel pressed against my head.
That’s better. You may be wondering which of Dublin Bus’s many marvellous attributes has earned this eulogy. Is it the far-sightedness of the route planners giving commuters on the 39 route a complete and inclusive tour of every housing estate in Dublin 15 before arriving at Ongar? Or maybe it is the legendary punctuality of the buses which always come when they say they will and never leave passengers stranded? Or perhaps it is the professionalism of the drivers who take roundabouts and sharp bends at such a gentle speed to avoid discommoding the many standing passengers that delight in using the service?
The answer is – and here I’m paraphrasing the great Lionel Ritchie - none of the above, though all are worthy of mention in helping to keep Dublin Bus at the cutting edge of suburban transportation. No, I have been enraptured by the poles.
Not, I hasten to add, those East European bus drivers whose quick, witty banter help dispel the traveller’s winter blues – I mean the poles at the bus stops.
You must be severely snow blind not to have spotted them. Where once they were navy blue, in keeping with the circular DB logo on top, they have now been painted a glorious yellow that brightens up even the dullest thoroughfare. Even Picasso, during his little known and ultimately ill-fated yellow period, never had the temerity to produce a yellow so vivid. Canary yellow is probably the nearest I can come to describing it, though any small songbird coloured so vividly would undoubtedly attract the attentions of every sparrow hawk in a twenty mile radius. It is like radioactive custard, a bold sweeping corporate statement of intent from one of the biggest movers and shakers in Ireland today.
Frankly, this country is now light years ahead of our European neighbours in terms of bus stop colouring. The Germans are still experimenting with a rather mundane emerald green, while the Belgians are firmly rooted in the past with their robust but sombre black poles. Even the Spanish, normally renowned for their love of all things florid, have not progressed much past the terracotta so favoured by Franco.
Purcan Daul, probably Ireland’s most earnest poet of the last thirty years, has been quick to put pen to paper in praise of the new poles. “So come, yellow crane legs / And shine your bounteous gait / ‘Pon those who patiently wait,” he wrote in his epic poem “Bus,” which was premiered at the Coolmine Poetry Slam recently to rapturous applause.
The question of course is – what is the reason for this sudden eruption of colour from Dublin Bus?
Busologists are naturally split on this and the forum message boards on the internet have been hopping with theories. “The Travelling Wilbury” from Hartstown maintains that this is Dublin Bus’s response to the advent of spring, echoing the annual explosion of daffodils on the centre lane of the N3. “Regina the 39er” suggests that at last the company have got a female marketing manager whose keen eye has insisted that the bus stops blend in with the new buses in an attractive and easygoing way, rather like the way that women seem to think that curtains and cushions should match, (although that is somewhat of a sexist viewpoint not at all shared by this observer.)
A certain cynical section of the bus-hopping public have now been wondering if the luminous bus stops might be an ingenious device to even more fully attract the driver’s attention and thus prevent him or her from sailing past crowds of frozen commuters when the bus is only half full. As if that ever happens!
Others have caustically remarked that it is a Government ploy to divert the public’s attention from the recent revelations at the tribunals and the parlous state of the health service, though as everybody knows this Government has much to be proud of and does not deserve such scandalous vilification.
Whatever the reason, Dublin 15, like the rest of the city, has now exploded into a riot of colour that makes the Dutch tulip fields look positively drab by comparison. Distributor roads shine when you turn onto them and passengers have taken to wearing dark glasses for fear of too much exposure to the brightness. Approaching pilots have been warned not to confuse the rows of brightly painted bus stops with the landing lights at Dublin airport after a Ryanair flight from Carcassonne recently discharged a plane load of puzzled tourists onto the tarmac at Diswellstown.
Critics have pointed out that the vividness of the new colouring will attract the black marker in much the same way that a Wet Paint sign attracts a curious finger. “Macker loves Natalie” will now stand out much more against a yellow background than it ever did on the navy, when people had to squint fiercely to decipher the enigmatic messages contained thereon.
I’m not sure this is true. In fact, I have every confidence that our much maligned disaffected youth will view the aesthetic values of the new posts with pleasure and reverence and will not seek to adorn or indeed deface them in any way.
Sadly the name of the man or woman who came up with the idea to paint all the bus stops a lurid shade of yellow will probably never be known. It is possible he or she is merely a disgruntled employee who utilised the company’s suggestion box in a moment of merriment, little realising that his or her facetious suggestion would be pounced upon by the company’s marketing department with such rapturous enthusiasm.
Maybe they’re sitting in the Clonsilla Inn or the Bell now telling a doubtful audience that it was their idea to paint all the bus stops and how much money they have made out of it. It is a tale they can tell their grandchildren when they grow up happy and content in the wonderfully colourful new neighbourhoods of Dublin 15.
Whoever you are, sir or madam, I salute you.

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