By Anna Kronborg Haar
When our bus arrives at the Aldi parking lot people rush out of the bus, presumably to be the first inside the supermarket and have more time to do their shopping. A long line of students forms towards the entrance, almost like an army marching in line. Except this army is equipped with big, empty backpacks and reusable plastic shopping bags.
Just a little earlier this evening I was looking out the window of my kitchen in Cappavilla Village in Castletroy, seeing a group of young, tired-looking people walking up the small hill that is the car park with big shopping bags in their hands. It was quarter past six, and the first bus of the evening had just returned from Aldi.
Not much later, I found myself walking down towards the same white coach with “Mannigans” written on the side of it. The bus does not look impressive, however the sky tonight is beautiful – a mix of bright blue and lumps of orange in different shapes as the sun is setting. As the minutes pass, the orange parts become bigger and darker in colour. The evening is quiet and a bit chilly with just a hint of newly cut grass.
The passengers of this bus – the free bus running to Aldi every Monday evening – start to arrive ten minutes before the scheduled departure at seven o’clock. With increasingly more people on the bus, the vehicle fills with conversations in different languages – Chinese, English, but mainly Portuguese. Almost all of the people who use the Aldi bus are international exchange students.
“My job is to take attendance to see if people who booked the bus are here. I got the job because I am currently on co-op (cooperative education) in the Students’ Union. They asked if anyone would do it and earn a bit of money. As a student, all money is welcome,” 20 year-old New Media & English student Eilís Walsh explains. She always sits in the front left seat ready to check people off on a piece of paper as they enter the bus.
“I have to report back to Aldi how many people actually used the bus and sometimes I ask a few people how much they spent,” she says.
And from the long lines inside the supermarket it seems Aldi is making a profit. After half an hour of navigating the narrow aisles while picking up your groceries, most students are now ready to pay and return to the bus, which is leaving soon.
Even though 45 minutes in Aldi seems like a long time, it is not. If you have to do a lot of shopping, you almost have to have a strategy, like not taking the first aisle as you enter, but one of the others, because these would not be as busy.
The shopping baskets of the students reflect a partially healthy lifestyle as they are filled with white bread, cereal, eggs and milk, but also the occasional frozen pizza, multi-bag crisps and beers.
Exiting Aldi and heading for the bus, it is now completely dark outside and even chillier than before. There are two buses in the corner of the parking lot, as they serve the North and South parts of the campus villages respectively. If in doubt of which bus you came with, you just have to choose the one that looks oldest – this is the one serving Cappavilla.
Now it is almost time to drive the 3.5 kilometres back to Cappavilla. But first we need to wait for everyone to finish – no one is left behind. Walking down the aisle of the bus is difficult as you have to manage multiple shopping bags, maybe a backpack and, if necessary, spare items you could not fit into bags, such as egg trays, a bag of bread or toilet paper.
Finally we leave Aldi and arrive back in the Cappavilla car park at eight o’clock, an hour after our departure. Now all there is left is to climb the small hill to get back to the nice, warm room waiting for you.