struggling to respect its ancient history. So in a way the bus becomes a time machine as we roll down Brickell Ave.
Which brings up one bad thing about the route: Miami traffic. I jokingly say there is nothing 'express' about these runs since the designated express lanes on the highway are usually a parking lot by the time I make the drive down there. They're certainly better than the paralyzed gridlock on the local lanes for the most part, but only slightly. One recent rainy morning the traffic was more horrific than usual, and the express lanes were posted as closed to traffic. It is county policy that buses do not enter these lanes when posted as closed, and in fact drivers can be ticketed by FHP for failing to observe this. Nevertheless, we carry on through the grueling 20 mile parking lot and deliver everyone safely to their destination - 40 minutes late. One passenger, upset about the lateness, asks why I didn't use the express lanes. I explain the policy, but it seems he wants to use the express lanes no matter what - even though we would've been later had we used them. Fortunately the majority of the other passengers, mostly regulars, understand the nature of the commute and thank me as they exit. One woman needed help with an address, I was able to direct her, and received voluminous thanks and a radiant smile to ease the stress of the trip. Always a good way to end a trip before switching the headsign to Not In Service.
While deadheading back to the garage, I could see numerous tents set up in Wynwood for Art Basel events, and wondered what new masterpieces were being sprayed up this year. The reach of the festival is long, and would touch me again before the day was out.
The second piece of the split shift is the 441 Breeze, an exciting journey from Turtle Creek in Coral Springs to the Golden Glades Park & Ride in north Miami. This route is all about sheer volume and speed. It's the only route where I need an artic (bendy) bus. The whole spectrum of society rides this route and it never gets boring. One woman coming up from Dade and unfamiliar with Broward needs help with an address for the wake of a friend. She commented on how built up Broward is, and I joked that maybe she expected flowery meadows. With the sun down and the bus's lights turned low to reduce windshield glare, she nervously noted how dark the rear of the 60-foot bus looked and how "I gotta stop watching horror movies."
Earlier on a previous trip a young Jamaican man with a particular pungent herbal aroma boarded in a yellow Lion of Judah jersey wearing headphones and reciting random reggae lines. He's looking for a certain department store, but the Breeze doesn't stop there since it's a limited stop route. When he realizes he's on the Breeze and not the 19 which makes local stops, he mutters a calm "Bumbaclot" to himself, then a "Give thanks" when I told him we stop just across the street. As he exited, we fist-bumped and he offered up another "Give thanks."
Finally, my last trip of the day. Northbound and there is no longer the rush of previous trips. We don't want to miss anyone since the Breeze doesn't run very late and I relish counting down the stops:
Oakland Park>41st St>Commercial>Kimberly>Southgate>Atlantic>Coconut Creek>Copans> and as we approached Sample, the stop before the end of the line, I wondered who might be left on the bus. In the reflection of the windshield, I could see a pair of women's feet in slippers. Not wanting to turn around while moving, I figured I'd assess the cabin when we came to a stop. At the stop, anyone left on the bus exited, including the owner of the feet - a beautiful young blonde woman. In what I took to be a Russian accent, she approached and said she had a gift for me, while reaching into a tote bag. Secretly hoping it was her phone number, instead she pulled out a small brown paper container. She said it was a meat sandwich* she got at Arby's. That's what I thought I heard through the cute accent, and repeated it to her. She spoke again: "Artbase, the festival in Miami". For some reason it still didn't register in my mind what she was saying. Maybe I was distracted by other things. Later on, while heading back to the garage I realized she was saying Art Basel in her own inflection, I just didn't make the connection. Still, it was nice to end the second shift the way the first one ended: with a pleasant face smiling back.
*Curiously, the week before on the same route, a Vietnamese man carrying a pail full of spicy-smelling sandwiches also gave me one.
And while we're on art, some time ago I purchased this colorful piece directly from the artist, at Central Terminal: