stories worth a thousand words #38



Victor Meldrew (aka actor Richard Wilson)

Written : November 1st, 2004

Already late for a date with your partner, you reach the main road, which you must cross to get your bus into town.

One is sitting at your stop, but you catch a bit of luck in that not only is there a break in traffic coming from both directions, but also there are so many people getting on the bus that it is held up long enough for you to make a dash across the road.

So off you go, wishing you had fulfilled your New Year’s resolution to get fit but nonetheless safe in the knowledge that you will be rewarded by a seat upstairs where you can both catch your breath and get a message to your date that you will be only five minutes late instead of thirty.

As you round the back of the bus, almost there, you spot the driver as he clearly catches sight of your full sprint in his rear view mirror. With that, the door closes and off goes the 46A on its merry way into town, with the driver’s sadistic needs satisfied and you left gasping and lamenting the echoing through your brain of Nelson Muntz from the Simpsons shouting “HA-HA!!!”

Of course, another one will be along in a short while, and you will meet up with our date. But the odds of her believing your bus driver story are very slim, so much so that it is a non starter. Though you will probably get away with it, this does not console you in the seconds immediately following the incident.

Unfortunately the word “frustration”, even when preceded by the word “sheer”, does not go anywhere near far enough to describe the feelings when faced with such a scenario. Not only have you been wrongly done by, but there is absolutely no chance of justice. What, you expect me to call Dublin Bus and complain? “And which 46A was it exactly?” “Are you sure he saw you in the mirror?” “I’ll need to post you out an official complaint form, sir; can you please tell me where you live?” And so you are forced to just stand there and bite the bullet for as long as it takes.

I would like to recommend a term for such incidents. With reference to the excellent BBC sit-com “One Foot In The Grave”, I wish to refer to these as “Meldrew Moments”. Victor Meldrew was the principal character, a retired gentleman living out his days with his long suffering wife in a pleasant English suburb. Each episode would revolve around his being put into much more complex yet believable situations, (well when I say “believable” I suppose I mean “possible” as Meldrew’s most famous catchphrase is “I DON’T BEE-LIEVE IT!!!!!”) and would produce hilarious results. Each time no matter how innocent “our hero” may be or however justified he may be in complaining, the public at large would perceive him to be nothing but a “moany old codger”.

I could easily write ten thousand words about Meldrew Moments! Standing in line is often a source of them. You know, when you go into McDonalds and think you are very clever joining the line with one woman in it rather than the one with 6 teenagers, only to realize the woman has just put in an order for 17 individual Happy Meals for her flock of chattering angels, ten with no ketchup on the burgers, 4 with just a “tiny bit of ketchup” and 3 with “loads”. Of course, by the time you realize this, people have stacked up behind you and all the other lines have doubled. And also you can be sure that the woman will be standing there for the duration staring into space, as will the cashier, until the order is ready and only THEN will he tell her how much it all comes to and THEN she will realize she left her purse down at her table.

Driving your car presents you with examples every day. In fact, a journey of more than half an hour can lead to a snowball effect of “Meldrew-city” that may see you blaring your horn furiously at a poor old lady driving ahead of you who doesn’t jump the very second the light turns green, all because a moron on his mobile phone had cut into your lane as you were both turning right a few miles back. Horn-honking for me generally does little to relieve the tension brought on by Meldrew Moments.

The other thing that drives you crazy about these incidents is that you know that when you try to tell your friends and family about them, they are bound to laugh! In fact you will probably chuckle a bit yourself as you hear yourself going back through the story. One Foot In The Grave was a comedy after all!!! But you sure don’t see the funny side as the bus, proverbial or otherwise, gets smaller in the distance.

So the next time you are about to pull your hair out when a kid in a buggy tugs at your leg at the beach sending your waffle-cone ice-cream-first into the sand, or when an automated answering service of a phone company has you key in your home number and then sends you through a series of complicated menus only to finally connect you with an operator who asks for the same information again, or when you are tempted into a restaurant by a particular dish on their menu in the window only to find out, having made the decision to go in and wait patiently for a table and let your companions choose their order, that the desired dish is no longer available, or indeed when you are reading an article on extremely aggravating episodes and you come across a sentence that does not appear to be finishing, take heart.

It’s just a Meldrew Moment and if it helps, feel free to yell I DON’T BEE-LIEVE IT!!!!!!!

© JL Pagano 2004



Alan said…
I would suggest that if your date had ever travelled on a 46A she would all too readily believe the story. I think "sadistic bastard" is one of the qualifications for the job of Dublin Bus driver, particularly the 46A (which even if you had caught it would almost certainly have stopped inexplicably outside the Donnybrook depot and not moved for about ten minutes while three others went sailing past).

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