Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Comfort food

Some routes carry an extra measure of favoritism for me due to nostalgia and sentiment; the 60 is one of these. Long before I became a driver, the 60 was my go-to route for getting downtown. Once there, I could spend hours in the Main Library with its multiple floors of discovery, education, and fascination behind coral-and-glass clad walls. Or to the New River for some brackish fishing - the ghosts of Seminole legends, Major Lauderdale, and Frank Stranahan whispering in the ripples. Or to Broward Community College for some higher education. Or to Government Center (former Burdines building) for numerous reasons.

Most of this past summer I drove the 60 once a week in the afternoon as the second half of a split shift with the 40. For the most part, it was a smooth and uneventful run, servicing the majority of the Andrews Ave corridor, up into Collier City and Broward College North. As a rider, I never traveled the route from end to end and so had little idea of the large area it covers north of Cypress Creek Rd. Even now as a driver, it will always have that connection to my own stomping grounds, and I find myself perking up a bit when we're passing through my neighborhood.

Now I no longer drive the 60 as one of my regular routes, though I occasionally return to it when I'm filling in on one of my days off. I was already accustomed to heavy ridership previously during a couple late afternoon trips when folks were getting off work or school and heading home, but a morning slot I was assigned blew that experience away. I had received the assignment a little later than it was supposed to start, which meant we would have a late start. But it was the first 60 northbound from Central Terminal, so better to run it late and get everyone where they need to go. Even at 5:30 a.m. there was a crowd at the Terminal ready to fill the bus. One problem with running late is that the later you get, the more passengers you get who would normally ride on your follower's bus. So by the time we got to Sunrise Blvd less than 10 minutes after pullout, we had standing room only. Fortunately a few people exited there which made room for the bunch waiting to board.

At the head of the pack was an old regular from my Sundays on the 50, the anxious man with the rolling suitcase.
"You better drive fast man," he said without looking at me, swiping his pass and finding a spot for his luggage.
With his seat reserved, he came back up front a bit mellower and let me know he missed me on Sunday. I returned the sentiment and let him know my new Sunday route. Soon he was laughing with the other passengers, everyone keeping it light as the bus got heavier. Complaints about the lateness mounted, but they were generally about having to wait; it was still early enough that most could make their connections and get where they needed to be.

We passed my neighborhood and one of the streets was closed off with police cruisers, their flashing lights glaring in the dark. A tv news van was set up nearby, telescoping antenna extended.

Finally, near the end of the first trip my follower caught up and passed me. He had called on the radio about mechanical problems and was instructed to return the bus to the garage for a replacement. This meant I now had no follower and no recovery time at the end of the trip. Only choice was to keep it moving lest I fall further behind. So I serviced the last stop and headed back south for our return trip to Central Terminal.

We passed by the closed off street again. I later learned a man's body had been found, stabbed to death. On the same street a young woman was also murdered last year.

Our next northbound trip was truly a grind due to running late. By now I'd been in the seat for several hours and was definitely picking up my missing follower's people. One of these people was a regular of mine from the 40, an older gentleman who works at a restaurant in my neighborhood.
"Hey man, how you doin' this mornin'?" he greeted me.
"Oh, not so good, it's been a rough morning." I responded honestly.
"Aw man, it's not as bad as all that, you'll be alright" he encouraged me.
Suddenly any built up stress was gone. I was doing my best and had to be content with that for the moment. My friend caught me up on dinner specials and shared his ideas to improve the restaurant's offerings for the holidays. Block by block I capitulated to his hospitality, reminded that Life is in the present journey, not the end of the route. A few blocks short of his destination, my follower in a replacement bus caught up to us and all the passengers transferred to his bus so I could get set back on time.

We work to put food on the table and satisfy stomach pangs; occasionally we find we cannot supply our every need - but that together we can find comfort for deeper hungers.

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