The Case of the Missing Spectacles

A Dublin Bus Mystery

Charles Berkoff

© Copyright 2018 by Charles Berkoff


Photo of a Dublin bus.
It was meant to be an uncomplicated city bus tour covering a few square miles for an hour or two. It reached its surprising conclusion four thousand miles away.
I can't blame Dublin for the poor judgement I showed nearly fifty years ago. It just happened to be where and when my ex-wife and I spent our honeymoon. Right place. Wrong woman. Now it was time to share the city's charms with my new wife. Right place. Right woman. So far, anyway…but who knows?


As wonderful as Dublin is to visit, if you're going to spend much of your time in the city using leg power, as we like to do, be sure to take an umbrella. In fact, take two; you might just wear one out and need another. By our third day of walking in a steady drizzle we were ready for something else. Something dry. Anything dry. A Martini came to mind but, responsible tourists that we were, we instead opted for a bus tour of the city. 

The Dublin Bus Company, which, of course, every American knows is a subsidiary of Córas Iompair Éireann, offers a very appealing Hop On-Hop Off service that stops at most of Dublin's popular attractions. And while we could hop on and hop off, we could also hop in—to any number of inviting pubs. Surely they're among Dublin's most popular attractions anyway. All 752 of them! One in particular, The Brazen Head, located alongside the Liffey River, dates back to 1198. Perfect for a pint and a meal. As the oldest pub in Ireland, you might wonder what tales its walls could tell. Then again, if you're listening to walls, you've probably had too many pints. It happens. 
And now, dammit, I’ve lost my train of thought. Well, my bus of thought, anyway. As I was about to say, their open-topped, double-decker buses were clearly not made for rainy days, even though they were the only days they seemingly had. But, if we just had to be upstairs, and we did, there was a solution. The front few rows of the upper deck were under cover. Those seats would not only give our brolly a chance to rest and recuperate, but would also indulge me in a little childhood nostalgia. I grew up in London, where a front seat on the upper deck of a London double-decker was an essential part of every kid’s travel plan. 

"And a top o’ the mornin’ to yer," our driver, Liam, declared over the speaker system. And thanks to him, it was. Delivering an informative commentary, he even entertained us with a traditional Irish song or two. I'd never heard "Molly Malone" sung with so much feeling. And her busty statue on Grafton Street brought back to mind my abortive attempts to seduce another Molly back when I wore a taller man's clothes.  

Yes, shrinkage happens—in more ways than I care to admit. Sigh.   


Later that evening, back in the hotel, I realized that I’d mislaid my prescription reading glasses—alas a frequent event for me. I was reasonably sure that they'd slipped out of my coat pocket on the bus. Since I had my name, address, and telephone number in the glasses case, I thought that the bus company would at least be able to identify them—if anyone turned them in. I called the company the next day, our last in Dublin. But no glasses. They did tell me that there were plenty of glasses next door, but the pub needed them for their customers. Cheeky sod! I tried the bus company again that afternoon. Still nothing. 

I'll send them an e-mail when I'm back home, I thought. Who knows, perhaps they'd turn up later. 

Meanwhile, we decided to check out that pub next door. In Dublin, that's what one should be doing anyway, and surely there's nothing more full-filling in Dublin’s fair city than a freshly drawn pint of Guinness. And speaking of Guinness, and I know I often do, that reminds of an experience I had in Dublin many years earlier. I'd met an old business friend in a pub we both knew well, Grogans, on South William Street; I was looking forward to a glass of my favorite Irish beer.

I was curious and asked, "How much is Guinness these days?" 

"Three pints to the pound," he replied, as if it were an exchange rate.

That was then. What is it now? Three pounds to the pint! But the "now" was "then." Today? More like five pounds to the pint. Or six?

The day after we were back in Florida, we had a strange telephone call. Was our Dodge automobile still for sale? We had no Dodge—for sale or otherwise. Apparently, an ad for one in that morning's Sarasota Herald-Tribune had mistakenly listed our telephone number. Must have been an appealing ad, because we received eleven more calls that morning. One of them was particularly persistent. 

"Are you sure that it isn’t a Buick that you have for sale? That’s what I really want." I felt guilty when I had to tell him that it was a Dodge—until I remembered it wasn’t. 

I tried to push the Dodge out of my mind, but I clearly needed help. It was much too heavy for one person. Distraction did come, however, in the form of my missing spectacles, when I remembered that I still needed to write my email to Dublin. At the very moment when I sat down at my computer, events assumed a distinctively surreal quality. I happened to look out of the window and saw a stranger walking briskly up our driveway. He rang the doorbell.

Damn, I thought. It's that bloody car ad again! One of those "Artful Dodgers" must have done a reverse phone lookup, and found our street address.  

I opened the door, hesitantly.

"Is it Dr. Berkoff, then?" the young man asked in a soft, gentle, Irish brogue.

"Er...yes it is," I replied in my best ex-Cockney brogue, wondering why an Irishman was so determined to buy a Dodge.  

"With the compliments of the Dooblin Boos Coompany," he said with an impish smile, holding out my glasses case complete with missing spectacles. My total confusion must have been very apparent, and our visitor clearly savored the moment. In fact, he could scarcely contain his laughter.            

Patrick, a Dublin Bus driver, explained. He had just come off his run on the day we were there, and was chatting with a fellow bus driver. "Another pair of glasses left behind by an American," said his colleague. "Lives in Florida." 

"Oh, where in Florida?" Patrick asked. 

"Sarasota—wherever that is."

"Let me have them," said Patrick. "I'm going to be there next weekend." I later learned that Patrick had a second home in Sarasota on the west coast of Florida, where he and his family enjoyed frequent holiday visits. In between, they rented their house to others. We’ve arranged to meet them on their next trip over; I've just got to know more about the life of a Dublin bus driver. 

Yes, we too wondered how Patrick could afford such a life style. But who knows what tourists leave behind on Dublin buses. In any event, the Dublin Bus Company's spectacle service was, well, spectacular!

Erin Go Bragh!   

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