Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Snowy South Florida

The life of a bus operator revolves around schedules, and this creates a constant contrast with the unpredictable nature of human movement. All routes have regulars who tend to ride at certain times, and when I do a certain route only one day a week that may be the only time I see those regulars. After awhile, the route is missing something if some regulars don't appear that day. Maybe they took a different bus, maybe they changed their plans, maybe something prevented them from going out that day. In any case, for those individuals who make an impression on the driver their absence is felt. But this post isn't about going missing; it's about showing up.

One of these regulars is a reserved gentleman I privately nicknamed The Reader from my days driving the 10. Back then I passed him each night at the same stop where he'd be parked on a bench, hidden behind a newspaper held out with both arms and reading under a streetlamp. Apparently so engrossed in current events that he didn't bother waving by the bus, I'd slow down anyway in case one time he wanted to ride. Now that I work mornings, he's a regular each week on another route I drive. Each time I approach the stop with no sign of him. And each time, before the bus comes to a stop there he is, hurrying out of the shadows of a grocery store. He climbs aboard with his bag and umbrella, always wearing a ball cap of his hometown team. Earlier I said he was reserved: about half the time he'll respond to my Good Morning greeting. But hey, he's on the bus to get up the street, not socialize.

This particular morning went along like the others, until we made our last turn before his exit. Rain from the night before had left a large puddle partly in the street. The puddle had enticed a flock of Muscovy ducks in their juvenile plumage to do what ducks do when they find water: have a pool party. I slowed to ensure they were clear of the bus, however one of them startled and began to fly. Ducks are obviously not built for speed in the air and this one kept pace at eye level with the bus for about 50 feet before veering away. Most of us have a bit of nostalgia and that duck triggered The Reader's to well up.
"Many years ago I was in a band and we were on tour up North. It was winter in Maine and there was heavy snow. Not good weather to drive in, but we had to get to the next city for a show. As we drove, a deer ran alongside us, calf-deep in the snow. I can still see it."
Instantly, on a muggy Broward morning one man's wistful memory had transported us to a scene of awestruck serenity.

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