Thursday, October 18, 2018

What's in a name

In reviewing the names I've been called over the last few months, it's clear that we're running out of options. It's only a handful of new ones, and the list is dwindling. Despite the shortness, it's still a mix of sweet nothings and zingers. Browardians have no problem calling their bus drivers by all manner of descriptions. Here are some new ones to add to the archive.

-Leonardo DiCaprio
-White Boy


List One

Bus Driver
Young Man
Michael J. Fox
My Favorite
My Friend
Big Dog
My Man


List Two
Good boy
Bus man
My baby
My boy
Boss man
My brotha
Big man
Big fella
Young brotha
My main man
Doogie Howser
Johnny Depp
My son
Mr. Bus Man


List Three
-Billy Bob Thornton
-Dumb Ass Cracka
-My Potna
-Bubble Burster
-Clark Kent
-Big Bo
-Mr. Driver
-The Man

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Open door policy

"You're late, Papa, late!" The middle-aged man chided me with a relaxed Jamaican accent as he paid his fare one clinking quarter at a time. He was right - we were two minutes behind schedule. The predawn darkness at 41st St may have altered his sense of time, or maybe he'd just missed the previous bus twenty minutes earlier. Either way, to him we were late and most likely everyone else on board were equally anxious to get where they needed to be. The cabin of the sixty-foot 441 Breeze filled steadily with the faces of the waking city.

The Miami Subs just south of Griffin Road was a conspicuous beacon on our dim journey. A crew was applying stucco in the harsh wash of flood lights. Traffic is still friendly at this hour so we were never more than five minutes down, even though we had to take it easy on the Swiss cheese stretch of road under construction in Hollywood.

We were on time when we got to County Line Road, with only two more stops between us and the layover at Golden Glades Interchange. I serviced the stop and clicked the door lever closed, but the rear doors remained open. An interlock prevents a bus from moving when these doors are open, so I parked it and got up to investigate. Nervous eyes looking on became nervous voices wondering what the problem was.
"What happened? Are you going to get me to the Glades before 7?" I recognized her as a long time regular from when I drove her home in the evenings on this route. She had to make her connection for her job in downtown Miami. The doors were able to be coaxed shut and we booked it south. When we arrived at Golden Glades with ample time for her to transfer, she made it a point to thank me on her way out.
"You did well. I commend you." These are the commendations that encourage me daily. They come by the busload, each one cherished, knowing they will never collect dust like the paper kind.

Sticky stops

Early morning buses are extremely critical for the riding public. Oftentimes, connections must be made where jobs and livelihoods are on the line. As a bus operator, it is up to me to make sure my bus is where it needs to be, when it's scheduled to be there. While pre-tripping the bus one morning I discovered sticky residue all over the driver's console, where commonly used controls are located. The good men in the service line took care of it and soon I was through the gates - eight minutes late. Fortunately the start point at Central Terminal is some miles from the garage, giving me a chance to make up some of that time. The minutes were dropping off like magic, I pulled off 95 to Broward eastbound, confident about starting service close to on time. A turn on 7th Ave, then another on 4th St and the terminal was in sight when red lights started flashing in the darkness. The ear-pounding bells of the railroad crossing began their clanging and I could only sit, wait, and watch as the time gains disappeared. The first inclination is frustration, but when you actually pay attention and look at the train you have to marvel at its strident persistence. It's been rolling on the same path through Broward County since 1896. We finally pulled out of Central Terminal, but the damage was done and we would never be on time this trip.

A 'ghost in the machine' was creating a peripheral distraction: The headsign would randomly go blank, the annunciator would occasionally stream out its usual technobabble ("Offset" this and "Bootloader" that) at a loud volume that couldn't be muted. Strangely the fare box was mute, confusing people when they swiped their passes and no affirmative tone beeped back at them. Those problems were minor and probably the types of things only an operator dwells on. Once we're in service, they take second place and our customers are the top priority.

About halfway in to the shift, we pulled up to a stop by a grocery store. A sometime-regular with beard and beret boarded almost backwards as he was looking back at something in the parking lot. "A fight," he explained. I wanted no part of that and was ready to leave when a young man in his 20s appeared from the rows of cars. In orange t-shirt and khaki shorts, arms hanging with grocery bags, we couldn't very well leave him in a parking lot brawl so I kept the doors open for one more passenger before we got out of there. With both feet aboard, he turned and yelled with fiery anger back from where he'd come, "If I had a gun I'd shoot you, bitch!" Now it was definitely time to roll. He slid his fare in the box and with the flick of an internal switch became a different person. In calm and gentle voice he spoke: "Hey, did you see that guy? He's a KKK."
I never did see that guy, we were already gone.

The bus is a moving ecosystem, however just like a stationary environment, the weather changes. The storm of that previous trip moved through and sunshine took its place. At Holy Cross Hospital, Minnie Rose and her owner boarded. Candace's senior dogs provide pet therapy for senior humans, and Minnie Rose is a sort of resident therapy dog on Broward Transit. Her social media is covered with the smiles of all those who happen to ride with her - including myself. The animals were well-behaved, sharing their instant friendship and reminding us how simple it is to be kind to one another regardless of obvious physical differences.

Life gets sticky at inopportune times. We clean it up as best we can and ride on to the next stop...