It’s one of those days that doesn’t know whether it wants to freeze you or fry you. At the bus stop, a murderous black cloud tries to drown me and my fellow commuters. But on the way home, the evening sun, aided and abetted by the magnifying effect of the bus windows, is broiling us alive. I sit, steaming, on the clammy, packed top deck, in the standard Irish commuter position: head against the window, contemplating the misery of existence.

Suddenly, there’s a clenched cry of human anguish. I look up, and it is quickly apparent that a young guy four rows ahead of me is having serious convulsions. For a second, no-one seems to know what to do.

Then a woman two rows in front of the young guy wheels around, although I soon realise that this is no ordinary woman: she is, in fact, a sentient command-and-control centre.

She is Bus Mammy!

She dispatches someone down the stairs to have the bus stopped and an ambulance called. She stands by the young guy’s side, as sturdy as a sea captain, and uses a coat to cushion his head, lest he should injury himself. She says, ‘He has a bracelet, he’s epileptic,’ so that everyone else knows what’s going on.

After a couple of minutes, the seizure eases, and the young guy is practically unconscious. She asks two other commuters to help her get him into the recovery position on the floor of bus, using the coat as a pillow.

Bus Mammy has a handbag that would put Batman’s utility belt to shame, except this is a weapon of love. I suspect she has the tools in there to deal with everything from a cut finger to a crowning baby. The young guy has been sick on himself, and she takes out tissues and a bottle of water, and gently cleans him up.

As he comes around, she switches easily from command and control to comfort and care, gently reassuring him, letting him know what has happened. She speaks to him like a mother would to a beloved sick child. She is one of those women who is everyone’s Mammy. Grace under fire. Stern. Sensible. But also, empathy personified.

As she speaks, I hear that she she is also gathering pertinent information for the paramedics, like a pro. I’m not sure if she is a nurse, or a saint. I strongly suspect that she might be both.

What I am sure of is that every time I hear some mouth-breather say that women aren’t fit to lead, I think of Bus Mammy, and I laugh.

***

My book, ‘Corn Flakes for Dinner – a heartbreaking comedy about family life,’ is published by Gill Books and is available in all good Irish bookshops and online. 

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