Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Nuthin's gonna take my smile

Friday the 13th on University Drive. This would be my last eleven hour shift for the foreseeable future. As a bonus there was no school today, which generally promises lighter traffic. The streets were slicked by an intermittent drizzle, nothing heavy. The temperature was a welcome neutral, neither cold nor hot. The ridership going north out of West Terminal was a bit on the cold side, if only because it was lighter than usual.

Going south on the next trip was a continuation of the first, with light traffic and no delays to make us late. At Sunset Strip, an older woman who's a regular on this run boarded with a motherly smile and focused on the fare box.
   "Good morning," we both said simultaneously. She must not have heard my greeting or seen my lips move as she was looking at the box, since she repeated herself in a slightly sour tone. I gave her a few extra Good Mornings for good measure. She liked that and the smile returned.

In Davie, a man handed me some paper as he exited. It was a paycheck, uncashed and forgotten. It would be deposited with Lost & Found at the end of the day.

We got down to the layover in Miami Gardens with ample time to stretch the legs. A woman boarding there held up a French coin in my face, claiming it was worth $2 and asking if she could use it as bus fare. At that time we only accepted U.S. legal tender, so I politely declined her offer. After that, she found the proper currency.

We pulled out of the bus line heading west on 207th St. Vultures clustered in the middle, pecking at an unidentifiable red spot.

Traffic picked up around I-595, though it wasn't quite lunchtime. We rolled in to West Terminal with a few minutes to recover. Everyone could exit or board at their leisure, including a familiar regular.

An older gentleman with a Redd Foxx walk and a friend to everyone he met, for years he had been inseparable from an enormous flashy beach cruiser which was conspicuously missing today. To see him without it was like seeing an amputee.
   'No more bike?' I asked out of curiosity.
"No more bike. I fell down too much." He seemed wistful over his sporty wheels, contentedly resigned to keeping himself free from injury.

He settled into a seat near the front and struck up a conversation with a woman about his age. They immediately began comparing emotional battle wounds inflicted upon them by loved ones.
"My kids and grandkids went bad! My daughter hates my guts." He stated with the same resignation he showed for his beloved bike.
"My addict brother took advantage of my kindness." She responded. "Nuthin's gonna take my smile, not me, ha ha!"
The back and forth continued, all at loud volume so nothing would have to be repeated. When he exited up the road, I thanked him for bringing good vibes on the bus - and to stay safe out there.

Over time, we'd been up to the north layover at Westview Drive, and found ourselves all the way down in Davie on the last southbound of this shift. Still, I was only about two-thirds through the endless hours.

A red light caught us and held us at Griffin Road. A Honda SUV glided to a long stop in the lane next to us. The driver's window almost lined up with mine, which is always open regardless of the temperature. The woman driving gave me a kind, knowing smile which caught me a little off guard. Did she need to cut in front of the bus? No motions in that direction. Then the rear windows, tinted black as a limo, rolled down. Inside were a couple children very excited to see the bus.
"Hi, Mr. Bus Driver!" They called out in squeaky unison.
   'Hi guys!' I called back, with an added wave before the light turned green and the moment was gone.

There were still hours to go before I clocked out, and unexpected encounters were sure to meet us on the way. But the cheers from our youngest bus fans would help me keep my smile for the foreseeable future.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Making our case

My days of working the morning shift were coming to a close. Very soon my schedule would be flipping upside down and I'd be back on nights, where I hadn't been for a couple years. The people would be different, and the familiar old streets would become new terrain when the sun set. For now I was still a morning driver, and my focus was not on the future.

A chill Monday on the 10, cruising Federal Highway from Central Terminal to Boca Raton. The temp was 51°, so at least we were out of the arctic 40s from the day before. This was getting old and we needed the warmth to return or it would be time to head south.

The glitch-prone onboard announcer was again mute when it came to announcing stops. Instead it would randomly interject our journey with an especially maniacal Max Headroom cackle
"Formatics bootloader AHAHAHAH..."
No microphone available either, only a stump where it had once been, before years of stress had separated the connection. We'd be announcing stops old school style today. Hopefully with enough volume to reach the back seats.

The day of the week and the unpleasant freeze seemed to have paralyzed our tropical activity. We'd nearly completed a full round trip without incident. The load was light and the traffic was easy.

On Broward Boulevard, half a dozen news crews camped in front of First Baptist. A hundred SUVs covered the little lawn, the sidewalks, the courtyard. It was the airport shooter's first day in federal court across the street, and made for a natural media story of the day.

We did our time at Central Terminal and were back on our way. The previously wide open road was now blocked at 5th Street by a construction crew. Located a safe spot nearby to accommodate passengers.

The next stop brought us the two Greek Spice Grill waitresses, one with striking angular facial features on par with any catwalk model. Both were preparing to work for the lunch crowd.

More construction underway in Boca, this time at the Tower 155 site just past Palmetto Park Road. A backhoe was excavating an enormous pit in the sugar sand. A truck waited nearby with a load of steel piles to hold that sand back.

Heading back south after a ten minute layover, I picked up another bus operator. He was on light duty and was on his way to an afternoon shift at Central to work the information table.

A couple loaded their bikes on the rack, she commenting that it should hold more as they boarded. I agreed and could certainly sympathize with missing the bus myself when there wasn't an open slot. They were both sociable, but he remained quiet whereas she was immediately inquisitive. She wanted to become a bus operator and grilled me with a pleasant Trini accent. When she said there were no openings listed online, I could only recount to her the process I went through and encourage her to be patient. These inquiries come at me regularly, and I wonder how many see it through.

A beloved regular awaited south of Atlantic: the Penny Lady. An older woman who could be both curt and kind by turns, I asked her to wait so I could lower the bus just for her. She had been poised to grab the door handles and climb on, apparently forgetful of previous times when she all but demanded that I kneel the low floor. Her outsize smile was all the thanks I needed.

Down to Commercial Boulevard, where an older gentleman took his time loading his bike. He wasn't struggling with it, and didn't seem unfamiliar with the process; in those cases I am quick to jump out of the seat and offer assistance. No, he was just on his own time and in no particular hurry. Just as the green light was also on its own time and decided to turn red to teach us patience. With my internal patience knob turned up to maximum peace and calm, the man finally boarded, hands in prayer and supplication.
"Hey brother, can I just get a ride to Sunrise? Thanks, man!"

Our final trip, going north to be relieved at Copans Road. The bike rack was full again, but there were no time delays.

Commercial came up again and my friend the Outlaw got on. That became his name after someone had a dream of him as Jesse James. When the criminal is also a folk hero, the comparison is not an insult. As far as I know, the connection is only as solid as a stranger's dream. This 'outlaw' was on a different path.
"I gave the homeless guy 70¢ to buy beer."
That stop is a popular hangout, and at least one man had no need for the bus.
"Like when my dad gave me $10,000 and sent me over to Israel. I lived in a kibbutz for five months, working the land. Also worked in a banana chip factory."

On the bus we all get our preliminary hearing whether outlaw, server, cyclist, senior - even bus driver. We leave the ghosts of the day there to deliberate among themselves.

Friday, May 10, 2019

Gray world

The weather app told us it was in the high 40s that Sunday morning, perhaps our coldest day of the year and downright freezing. The sort of temperature drop that makes you layer up to keep the shoulders loose.

My assigned bus was a ghost, nowhere to be found in the yard. Got a replacement and pulled out late. This new unit had no announcer, so I'd be calling out stops along the line today. Again, it was Sunday, that notoriously slow day of the week, so other than running late this first trip the day promised to be a breeze. As we rolled ever northward out of Central Terminal, the schedule deficit grew ever larger. At these times, it's tempting to push the machine just a little harder to keep things from getting out of control. Then the world reminds us how very little indeed is in our control, mostly just our response to the situation at hand.

We'd serviced the Via Mizner stop past Camino Real in Boca Raton and approached the Mizner Boulevard curve which would lead us back south. Before we could close the gap between the turn lane and the other lanes continuing straight, dozens of motorcycle roared by, steel thunder to shake the sleepy dew off the overspread poincianas lining the idyllic side street. My response was to yield and let the tempest pass through. When the undeniably impressive mass had cleared, we could then cruise in peace. Around the curve, I slowed again for a lone biker. This one was on the leg-powered type. He was in the bike lane, technically going the wrong direction as he pedaled toward us. He only had one leg, so this may have been his way of keeping a wary eye on nearby vehicles.

My friend with the frozen hand boarded after the loop. He camps out at night and his single thin sheet had been useless in last night's chill. He was going to the thrift store to get a second sheet, since it would be easier to carry than a heavy blanket.

The ever-cheery Weatherman stood by the curb down at Sample. Of course I had to ask about the forecast - and await the clever response.
"It's Mexican weather: Chili today, hot tamale!"

Down a bit further, a familiar bleary face was waiting, already drunk. Originally from upstate New York, she'd been in Florida thirty years and she wore no socks inside those flip flops. She was cold.

The first round trip in the books, it was now late morning and we were settled in to our groove. We may have been a few minutes down, but that's preferable to a few minutes hot. Unless you're a time traveler, then the clock is irrelevant.
"Is today Sunday or Monday?" The older man with white goatee asked with sincerity.
When he discovered it was Sunday, he changed his plans and didn't care to go any further. Time may be irrelevant, but apparently the day of the week is important.

Back in Boca again, a woman near the front was talking to herself in a Jamaican patois. Her body odor was talking to the rest of us. She finally addressed someone outside her own head, asking about Pompano and then verbally upset to learn we'd already been there. Her anger was directed at me and unidentified people bothering her.
"It's not a black world. It's not a white world," she proclaimed. In an effort to calm her, I reminded her we'd be turning and go back south. We got to Atlantic and her vinegar had miraculously turned to honey. She called me Sweetie a couple times as she exited. A simple word like sunshine on a cold day. Just enough to keep the shoulders loose.

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

When the fog clears

The latest friction cycle appeared to be winding down and smoothing out. An eleven hour shift began when I reported for duty a little before five on a Friday morning. It looked to be a good day on the 2: end of the week, people heading to work but happy about the impending weekend. Still, it was going to be a long day.

A few things slowed me down on the way to my starting point at West Terminal: yielding to the gate arms at the CSX tracks for a train that never showed, red lights galore, and a cool, heavy fog that softened the sharp edges of the city but meant driving slower through the the reduced visibility.

I ran a little late the entire first trip, which still worked out since it was the less busy northern half of the route. We would be pretty much on time the rest of the day.

Soon into the southbound trip our friend Francois boarded. He's a bus fan and loves to keep up with his favorite drivers. It seemed unusual to bump into him this far west and this early, since up till now I'd picked him up on east side routes later in the day. We greeted each other with a friendly fist bump as usual and the where or when no longer mattered.

At Sunrise Boulevard, my old friend Mister boarded. In actuality he's probably young enough to be my son, however his signature professorial wardrobe of pressed khakis and sweater vest paired with a friendly formality compel me to call him by a respectful title. He was taking advantage of casual Friday by sporting a ballcap and sweatshirt.

These two classy young men are always welcome on the bus I'm driving. They inspire and encourage me as reminders of youthful vitality and timeless manners. Their tireless initiative and industry were a marked contrast to the gentleman who boarded down near the county line. Going extra casual today in slides and socks, he filled the cabin with residual fumes of an intoxicating herbal baking session. When we got to the end of the line, he was found sleeping across the back row. When we were in training, my class was told it's the highest compliment when a passenger falls asleep on your bus. Smooth driving and all that.

The next couple hours heading back north were uneventful, that golden time before lunch when work and business get done all around us.

Not long into the next southbound, a woman felt compelled to inform me that she's a foot model insured by Lloyd's of London.

A young father boarded with his young son and lugging a folded stroller.
   'Hey big guy!' I greeted the little one, nodding at Dad. They both had big grins.
"He's having a blast! It's like his second time on the bus." Dad explained as junior examined the innards of the cabin.
Another young bus fan in the making, who perhaps will drive us around town some day.

Before Atlantic, a man was walking scissor-legged across the street, making good time as the mass of traffic approached. We were the reason for his hastiness.
"It was a brisk walk!" was his description of the quick footwork which helped him catch the bus. He just as quickly disappeared into the back.
Near Nova Southeastern University, a couple female cyclists shared the road with us, their tight spandex uniforms proving the exercise a success. The hot-stepper walked up to the front to observe them.
"Thank you for the smooth ride and witty banter!" I'm not sure if he was talking to me or the ladies.

This day on University had been a textbook case of smoothness for a bus route as we began our final trip, going north. We'd been visited by several young men who gave us hope for the future as they shared part of their days before moving on to make their way in the city.

Over the radio, trouble came in by storm. Bus operators on the other side of town called in to report that Fort Lauderdale International was unexpectedly locked down, preventing them from servicing the airport. During a break in the chatter, as those in the control room scrambled to get information, another driver's single-word repetition rang out: "Shooting. Shooting. Shooting." The thought of his transmission being a cruel joke was short-lived, when soon afterward radio control issued instructions for all buses not to service the airport. My stomach sank as I continued on the route toward West Terminal, joined by heavy cloud overcast. At the terminal, I read reports of multiple people shot, dead, injured. No immediate details beyond that, though we would alter learn of another young man visiting our community and creating another inexplicable scene of chaos and waste. More drivers called over the radio with reports of road closures and major back-ups as that area was contained. The next buses in to the airport would be shuttles to evacuate traumatized and exhausted travelers and workers.

The long day got longer as I wrapped up my shift. The morning's fog had long since burned off and the sharp edges of the city were no longer obscured.



-----


The good folks at WLRN covered the story about our stories. You can hear/read it at their website. There's even an exciting interactive route map so you can ride along with us. Many thanks to Caitie Switalski and Katie Lepri for their patience, enthusiasm, determination, and creativity. And of course thanks to all our riders for everything, you're the best!

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Cashing in our chips


Life is a gamble and the house always wins. We play our best hand, bluff our way to an occasional jackpot, till we eventually end up with the same amount when we came in the door.

Sample Road in the north part of the county is pretty much like every other major thoroughfare around town: an endless line of commercial and residential properties interspersed with requisite amenities like hospitals and parks. Also like every other road, its flow of humanity gives it a flavor of its own.

Going west from US 1 on this morning shift, the sun was preparing to peek over the Atlantic. The bus glided under I-95 to service the stop at 5th Terrace. Across the street, day laborers awaited vans to deliver them to work sites. A regular loaded his yellow bike, the first color of the new day. Long, thin dreads and a dignified graying goatee. Always a formal greeting. Yes, Sir.

The world comes in the doors on its own time, to remind us that the magic space within is not isolated from the brutal machinations without. We passed the Coconut Creek casino and pulled to a stop at Turtle Creek.
"You been on this route long?" The middle-aged man asked as we resumed rolling.
   'Every Thursday.'
"Did you know Jay?"
   'Younger guy or older guy?' I prodded for a clue.
"Older guy. He was killed last night at the casino. Got run over in the parking lot."
Simple as that, everyone aboard was starting their day with the unthought of knowledge that Jay is dead. Yet the city was still waking up, steadily increasing its living vibrations, despite one member missing.

Many people look at each day as a chance to start fresh, to move beyond what came before. Bus drivers experience this multiple times per shift, just by changing the direction of travel. With a constant stream of sensory input coming at us, it helps to break it up into manageable pieces.

Heading back east toward the risen sun, we were in the middle of the trip when an older man boarded. Mature in years, he carried permanent marks of younger days on his arms: total coverage of green fish scales inked on.
   'How's it goin' today?' I asked, admiring the extensive body art.
"Pain. My back." He replied plainly, not expecting sympathy.
   'C'mon, man! Ya gotta take care of yourself. No fun.'
"I know..."
When he exited farther east, I wished him to feel better.
"It's been like this for 15 years." He commented with stark resignation.
   'That's depressing. It's gotta get better sometime!'
"Yeah, maybe when I'm six under!" He smiled over his shoulder as he gingerly stepped onto the sidewalk. Morose humor has its benefits too.

Traffic had calmed and the street had settled into a quiet lull. We caught the red light at Holiday Springs and watched the side streets take their turn. Through my open window a series of melodic metallic tones tickled my ears. A most unlikely spot to hear live music, on this stretch of road between McDonald's and a golf course. But music it undeniably was, and being played at an uptempo clip with great ability and versatility. I say ability because of the rapid pace of the notes without faltering, and versatility because while my ears told me I was hearing steel pans, my eyes discovered this virtuosic display emanated from a harmonica being played by the driver of a white Audi in the next lane. This was the complete rejoicing opposite of a dirge, as might be appropriate in memoriam of Jay. This was Life, making the most of a momentary pause, singing its song with every breath.

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Thanks for the floor show

Some days rate above average in a given friction cycle. Friction happens when things don't run smoothly. There is always friction to some degree, only the amount varies from moment to moment. No one said it would be easy, and by now we should know what we signed up for.

Morning pullouts from the bus yard are a flurry of activity until you pass through the gates, then it's a calm affair until you reach the starting point for the day. I was almost to the highway to head downtown when the telltale clanging bells and flashing red lights of the railroad crossing flared up. Fortunately it was the CSX RR and would most likely be a Tri-Rail commuter gone in a couple minutes. Something was amiss when a long, slow freighter appeared out of the windbreak, somewhat unusual for this time of day. The impenetrable moving obstacle was an early reminder to expect the unexpected and take each confrontation on its own terms.

Over the radio, another driver was reporting a man stalking a woman on the bus. It was happening in the north part of the county, but was eerily similar to a recent incident down south. Drivers are always looking out for the safety of our passengers, and request assistance as needed.

It was time to put this bus in service at Central Terminal. I'd already pushed the seats up to make room for my regular rider in the wheelchair, who prides himself in getting aboard as quickly as possible.

Only a few minutes into the trip northbound on Federal Highway, a quiet voice with an endearing Kreyol accent spoke up anxiously:
"I too short! I can't reach it!" It was as if her inner thought forced itself into an outer sound unexpectedly. She may have wanted the previous stop, but only realized in time to request the next stop.

A glitch in the bus tech caused the onboard announcer to go mute after Oakland Park Boulevard, except for occasional techno jabber: "Bootloader... Offset Zero... Formatics..." The headsign was blank all the way to Boca Raton. These technical issues are mildly irritating, but also provide an opportunity to interact more with passengers as the quirky announcements elicit curious responses and the blacked out headsign compels intending customers to get the driver's confirmation that this is indeed their bus.

We'd crossed the 14th Street Causeway in Pompano when we pulled up to a forlorn figure. A man in a hoodie, age indeterminate, with a loaded duffel.
"I'm sorry to ask, but... I was jumped last night and I've been walking..." Even the request was forlorn.
Tattoo ink spilled out onto his hands from under the hoodie sleeves, one holding up a cracked cell phone to verify the rough night. He didn't need EMS, just a chance to rest his weary feet on the way to Sample Road.

"Happy New Year, Boss!"A regular greeted me first up in Deerfield.
   'Bonn ane!' I well-wished him in return.
"Oh, pale Kreyol?" He grinned with delight.
'Piti piti. Et bon sante!' Why stop at one blessing?

The streets gleamed slick in Boca, but nothing was coming down.
Soon we were heading back down on the flip side of our orbit. The onboard announcer rediscovered its voice, but it was still intermittent, choosing to speak up when it felt like it. The morning rush was over, and all was quietly humming along at the north end. Apparently everyone was where they needed to be so it was just me and the temperamental announcer for a bit.

At times like this the bus may be moving slowly, but still running fast by the schedule. We had to burn off a few minutes at the Copans Road timepoint, where operators from connecting lines also waited.
   'Hej då!' I greeted one of them with bad Swedish, hoping it would process in his Norwegian vocabulary. It did, though we instantly went to English.

The friction cycle continued halfway through the shift when the farebox decided to join in. An error came up and it just stopped functioning. All attempts to resolve the issue were unsuccessful.

Maybe we were on Sunrise Boulevard, approaching Wagner Tire before easing north on the Gateway Curve. A man with old dreads was on the sidewalk, facing us. He held up his right hand, middle finger extended. It was paired with the biggest, sweetest smile of the day, an ecstatic display that may have captured the flavor of our journey through the city.

In Pompano again, a woman who may not live on the street but competently acts the part made her entrance onto our moving stage. Routinely spotted at various stops, but more or less along the same stretch, I welcomed her aboard. The familiar bleary smile found a seat and I returned my focus to the road ahead. The calm wore off with each passing block until her hidden fury had to erupt. She began cursing and yelling for no obvious reason. The trip was soon over and tempers abated, but it was an unexpected outburst and concerned me.
   'Why so angry?' I gently probed.
"Cuz I feel like it!" She blurted as she exited. It was as good a reason as any, and not to be argued with.
Another passenger who waited for her to exit stage left put the episode in a lighter perspective.
"Thanks for the floor show!" He commented as he made his way past my seat.

Friction cycles are always in play, some more severe than others. External forces pull at our inner tides, roiling otherwise placid waters. The grease that lubricates the chain also attracts the dirt that makes it squeak. A clam accepts whatever is irritating it and transforms it into a pearl.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Licking our wounds

The beautiful mess that is Broward County will leave a mark on you. It's a hungry town so unless you become an urban hermit, be prepared to leave some blood on its streets - or at least some sweat. Bus drivers thread their vehicles through the fabric of the city, passengers contribute their own energetic lines in the tapestry, creating improvised works of art daily. Like any fabric, it can leave a burn when you stumble.

We got a reprieve from the northern cold fronts that drifted too far south, the thermometer had risen back to the 70s, a nice warmth all over. I got to roll on the 10 this morning, one of my Top 5 routes. North and south on Federal Highway amidst all that it contains - and no train tracks to cross.

The bus was full from the start heading north out of Central Terminal. Looking at the standing load behind me, it was a welcome return to normal after the holiday lull. No traffic of consequence, so if anything was going to slow us down it was going to be the constant stopping. But that's what buses do: Go slow and stop a lot. I was thinking the route could use an earlier bus, but where's the fun in that? Perhaps an earlier bus would have prevented me from picking up the nice lady in Deerfield, hair both wild and straight.

A senior gentleman got on at Palmetto Park in Boca, his plastic bag bulging like an overgrown cantaloupe.
   "It's a ball from the Heat's winning season, maybe 1989," He explained when he saw my interest in the unusual package. At least that's what it sounded like he said. Considering how new the Heat as a team were three decades ago, maybe the number he told me was actually the collectible's value.
"LeBron spends $300 to $400 on coffee," he continued with curious trivia. "Cheer up, in 15 years you can retire. I did my 30." His encouragement as he exited was welcome after the busy trip.

Fortunately it would be the only busy trip of the day, which I couldn't have known so early in the shift as I pulled in to the north layover. Trying to predict such things is tricky, however I already knew that what we may have lacked in quantity would be made up for in quality.

Who should be waiting on Camino Real but our friend with the distinctive shuffle and omnipresent cooler, wandering over to my front door.
   "You're a saint and a half. Happy New Year!" He cheerily greeted me. A fresh injury on his elbow had exposed some blood. He was surprised to see it when I brought it to his attention and told him we couldn't move the bus unless he covered it up. He rubbed it with a finger, deftly applied a bandage to it, and tossed the wrapper on the sidewalk.
Our wounds now nursed, we were good to go. He pulled the cord once we crossed the Hillsboro Inlet, an unnecessary move since he always requested this stop and he was the only one aboard. Sometimes there's a comfort in going through the motions.
   "Stoooop requeeeested." He mimicked the bus announcer in slow motion and with a higher pitch. "That's what it should say. Did you see me put on that bandage so quick and clean? I missed my calling. I should have been a paramedic!"

BCT's joking Weatherman waited for us at Sample. In a cheery mood as usual, jovial under a silvery crown when I asked about the forecast.

We flew by Pompano Citi Centre, an enormous flock of starlings peering at us from the powerlines above, their hollow bones unable to make the massive cable sag.

A few minutes later we were idling at Atlantic, directly behind a silver Prius with the most relaxed beagle in east Broward reclining in the rear window.

We made our trip downtown, flipped it around, and came back up this way. The ball collector from the first trip boarded again.
   "You must be getting tired by now," he opined, though it had only been a couple hours.
'I'm just getting started!' I replied with joyful rebellion. He was a treasure trove of BCT history, telling me about old route alignments. Also of a time before Central Terminal when County buses parked on the east side of Stranahan Park, city buses on the west - before the Main Library was built there.

Ben, a regular on the 50, was down at Central Terminal for our next visit. With his trademark scarecrow hat and skateboard, I blurted out a couple taps on the horn for him.

Pulling out of safe harbor at Central Terminal to service my appointed rounds, I had to share a couple more love taps when we crossed paths with a ghost crossing Andrews Avenue. It was Ciccio, the prodigal son returned to town and active in the local art scene after a prolonged absence. Wearing blue shirt and shorts, his salt and pepper beard trimmed neatly like the last time I saw him on the 72. The beeps interrupted his distracted jaywalking as he looked up, a little preoccupied going the opposite way toward FAT Village.

The day was calm and we paid our fares. The shuttle pushed through the loom and the threads pulled snug, making way for the next line.