Saturday, September 19, 2015

Cold 40

After gushing about my affinity for the 50 in a previous post, perhaps it's time to balance that a little with an ode to another route I drive this pick: the 40. Sometimes drivers have preferred routes for various reasons, just as I do for the 50; likewise sometimes drivers have routes they prefer less than others. More and more, the distinction means less to me - I've come to appreciate each route for what it is. And this pick I have come to appreciate the split personality of the 40, a sort of Jekyll and Hyde route depending on the time of day. Virtually all routes change through the course of a day, but the 40 is like a sea change. On Monday mornings I drive the 40 as the first half of a split shift, and the entire piece is like honey - smooth and sweet. Then the Friday afternoon 40 rolls around; that's when I relieve another operator for the second half of a split shift, and the entire piece is a relentless grind against the laws of time and space. The differences are so stark as to make the same route appear to be two completely different routes, and this happens with predictable regularity. Let's see what happens this day...

The Friday piece starts at Central Terminal eastbound, and immediately the specter of the Andrews Avenue bridge looms ahead, just beginning its time-consuming lift. So now we're down ten minutes at the start; we're supposed to be at US 1 & 17th St, but we're still only a couple blocks from the terminal. No problem, we'll pick up some Nova/FAU/BC students opposite the art museum, glide over New River, then past County jail and service the Courthouse. A girl with a dozen mylar Happy Birthday balloons jaywalks as we approach the light.

A regular rider, an older British gentleman boards; he's in a good mood with a faint scent of wine on the breath. I greet him with a hello.
"Are you my brother?" are his first words to me.
"I suppose so, somewhere down the line."
"Everyone's calling me their brother today."
"Well, it's Friday, maybe everyone got paid and is feeling good."
He then makes some inappropriate comments, hopefully not so loud as to offend the other passengers. I focus on driving.

Three women board, all holding flowers and balloons.
"Oh, happy birthday!" I say, perhaps prompted by the earlier pedestrian (who didn't board).
"No, our Mom's in the hospital."
My levity switch shuts off with the heaviness of their situation, and I respond with well wishes for mom.

At the next stop I pick up a familiar face, an older Haitian man who is also a neighbor. It's always interesting to see the familiar in an unfamiliar context.

A few smooth blocks past Davie Rd and we're at Broward General (yes, it will always be Broward General to me). The hospital is our last stop before turning east on 17th St, and a short S curve before US 1.

The Brit gets off, first sidling up to me and with much ado bids goodbye with "Enjoy the rest of your poets day."
"What kind of day?"
"Piss off early tomorrow's Saturday."
Now I get it, and thank him for the sentiment.

However, there's no early exit when you're in the driver's seat so on we go. Eastbound 17th St means servicing hotels and shops catering to visitors who wonder if this bus goes to the beach. That's where we're going, I inform them. These moments tend to slow us down simply due to educating visitors about the fare, then giving them time to get it together. We work together and keep the bus moving. There's a steel pan band playing at A1A and Las Olas. The Strip is jumping and we're making regular drop-offs and pick-ups. A young man who boarded at Central Terminal wants the stop closest to Covenant House, a nonprofit helping homeless youth. I wondered aloud when they moved over here; I remember them being downtown years ago. It's at Vistamar, the last stop before turning left on Sunrise to end at the Galleria where we loop around and head back west.

Now the fun begins. Fortunately we make it over the Sunrise bridge without delay this time, turn south on A1A and start picking up the hotel workers heading home. This goes on all the way to Cordova on 17th St. Before we get to that point we need to service the Points of America. A regular rider notices we're getting in the turn lane and asks if we're going to Central Terminal. I assure him we are, after this side trip which not every 40 makes. We pick up a couple home health aides and exit the enclave. At this time of day the stretch of 17th St from Port Everglades to US 1 is essentially a lurching parking lot. If we had any notion of getting back on time before now, that's now wishful thinking and we just do our best to keep moving and keep everyone safe. Finally we squeeze past US 1 and traffic smooths out. By now we might be 20 minutes down, but our follower is also delayed and hasn't caught us yet. The bus is loaded, standing room only.

We approach the hospital, a couple nurses exit. Among the group waiting to board are a mother and her young daughter. The daughter appears to have a physical disability that requires her to be in a device that resembles an adult-size stroller. They need to get to Central Terminal, mom is unfamiliar with the bus, and everyone has someplace to be. Boarding and securing a wheelchair can be time consuming, especially when the bus is already late and there's no time to spare. Suddenly there was time. Passengers shifted to make room, no one complained, and like the last pieces of a puzzle the two of them just fit. We have 'dynamic duos' like this all around the transit system, parents dedicated to caring for children who will likely never be able to care for themselves. These are the beautiful ones, their silent presence reminding us of a peace we are constantly losing sight of.

Our journey is only half done, we still need to make the late afternoon crawl along Sistrunk, down MLK past the Swap Shop, left on 19th by Driftwood Apts and Sunset Memorial Cemetery, then through the Shallowside warehouses, and ending at The Hill.

The 40 can be an exhausting run, but we're all in this bus together - and together we'll finish strong.

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