Wednesday, December 16, 2015

A certain slant of light

"Route 36 to Galt Mile," the on board annunciator chimes out each time the doors are opened. The curbside destination sign also reads Galt Mile. This all creates a little confusion for passengers since the 36 no longer goes to Galt Mile during heavy road construction on that stretch of A1A. Now we turn around at the beach end of Sunrise Blvd, and those heading north can transfer to route 11. There was a little confusion when the service change began and regulars soon caught on, though the technology hasn't.

This pick I drive the 36 on Saturday mornings. Since Daylight Saving Time ended last month, I still deadhead to my starting point at Sawgrass Mills in darkness, but head east with the rising sun. It is a stunning spectacle showcasing the power of light bringing the world to life. As we head over the 95 overpass, downtown is spread before us, illuminated by the sun peeking through a variety of clouds.

This is my easy piece of the week. The schedule has enough extra time built in that I actually hope for various time-eaters along the way to keep us from running hot. Wheelchair passengers are always welcome any day of the week, though the slower pace of a Saturday morning means I get to roll out the royal treatment by being precise about where the ramp will come down, kneeling low to the curb, and making sure they're secured if so requested. Then there's the FEC RR. The lights start flashing, the arms start dropping and we're stuck at the tracks. Four engines crawl by and we know this is gonna be a looong one. No problem, we got time. As a child, I used to count the cars for fun, often there'd be over 100. In those days, I vaguely recall there being a caboose at the end, not necessarily a red one, but still one nonetheless. I don't see cabooses on trains anymore. More often than not, people complain about the long train. I give the same answer as when they complain about cockroaches: It was here first. Like the natural rivers many confuse with man-made canals, the railroad is a vein of thriving life through the hearts of our eastern cities, an immovable highway connecting past and present.

Today we're on the 36, where we can see the great dichotomies of our community, the razor-thin margins separating luxury from poverty. On the east end is the Galleria, a gilt elephant for wealthy locals & visitors. At the west end is Sawgrass Mills, which seeks to wow patrons with its sheer size. In between we have the Swap Shop, with its endless dark alleys of hidden treasures.

A1A> Intracoastal> Galleria> Holiday Park> Searstown> Andrews> Powerline> Sunland Park> Dillard High> Swap Shop> Lauderhill Mall> Deepside> Sunset Strip> Plantation High> University> Sawgrass Mills

"Good morning, Boss Man! How are you this morning?" This is a regular, a young man dressed quite dapper in beige suit and tie. Always a beaming smile, a quick yet steady movement from entry to seat. His enthusiasm rubs off and I return the greeting and call him "Mister" even though he looks about 20. Any young person who takes the time to look like a future professor deserves a respectable greeting. And is he from the eastside, or the posh western suburbs? Nope, from the heart of Deepside, in clear contrast to the influences around him. Thank you, Mister.

"Do you meditate?" an older woman exiting at the Hill asks me. Maybe I present an introspective figure on these slow morns. She's an older woman with ink in fonts and locations typical of the neighborhood.
"I do sometimes" I respond, explaining how it's good for keeping stress at bay.
"God bless you" she whispers in a grateful tone, eyes piercing to the core. Her children are causing her grief and she's drained. Her hand rests gently on mine and I cover it with my other, encourage her to hang in there and stay strong.

While at the Hill, a man in work clothes and ski cap approaches. He's seems familiar with me, but with the headwear it takes me a minute to recognize him as a familiar face from earlier this year. He used to board with a fishing pole and try as I might, he'd never reveal his best fishing spots to me. Now he's set aside the fishing and is focusing on golf. Gives me some basic golf tips for beginners, and says he's recently returned from being out of town for work. He's generally reserved, but today he's open and has some thoughtful insights. Perhaps fatigue has loosened him up, since he seems tired and later on he appears to be dozing on the bus.

Near the transfer station, a young man with a megaphone is calling all listeners to repentance and to love one another.

After leaving the Hill, a group of ladies with folding carts boards. This is not unusual when we service the Swap Shop, but this is the stop near Lauderhill High and the carts are loaded with frozen turkeys and other Thanksgiving fixins being given out at the school. The line wraps around the building.

On another eastbound trip, I see a long lost friend. She just got off another bus and is rushing to mine as I pull into the stop. She's dragging two large garbage bags (clothes?) and she looks exhausted. As she boards, she's sure to swipe her pass, but doesn't look up at the driver. Still in her security guard uniform, her hair slightly mussed, and dazed stare all let me know that this lady's been working all night and is in a rush to get home. When I drove the 36 nights back in the spring, I'd pick her up and hear about her plans to work hard and make a good life for her baby. Now it's winter and it's clear she's kept her vow, finding the will to keep moving through the exhaustion. When she exited, the light inside her shone again, as she wished us a good day. These are the strong ones, spending of themselves to the last, the strength of character outlasting the frailty of body.

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