Wednesday, March 9, 2016

10 views of a route

Old-timer bus operators have tons of stories to tell of what they've seen over their careers on the road. They'll tell you they've literally seen birth, death, and everything in between. My inclination is to suggest they write a book, to which they invariably answer, "All bus drivers say they'll do that, but never do." The reasons are probably numerous as to why they don't share their stories with the world, but I can assure you it's not because they are incapable. Even a short conversation with your average bus operator will show you a decent communicator is at the wheel. My current theory is that since a bus driver's day is made up of a million minor interactions and observations, the bus space itself is the story; the whole world comes through the revolving doors of the bus. Although the countless anecdotes and incidents are both entertaining and enlightening, they don't necessarily lend themselves to long form prose. This is where blogs come in handy.

10 glimpses on the 10 route:

-A passenger with a bike boards and asks if I like beer. Not sure where this is leading, I tell him occasionally (although limited lately to keep the dreaded 'bus belly' in check). That's when he drops the bomb: beer turns men into women. He goes on to explain that hops are female flowers and turn into estrogen when consumed. The skeptic in me asks for his sources, but nothing specific was forthcoming. I laugh and tell him he has now ruined beer for me.

-The cabin sounds like an apiary, with crystal-clear sweet birdsong drifting up to the front. It's enough to make me physically turn around, rather than simply use the cabin mirror. Totally expecting to see a canary flying loose, it turns out to be the soundtrack on a video game.

-At the Main Library, a woman boards with a tiny dog, maybe a mini pin or chi. Service animals are always welcome on the bus, and this one even has her certification card. The little cutie is dressed in some frilly pink outfit and her owner tells me her name is Minnie Rose and you can find her on Instagram. Kids on the bus love her and she obviously loves the attention.

-At Oakland Park Blvd a woman in a wheelchair is waiting to board, so I kneel the bus and lower the ramp. Although our customers with wheelchairs are not required to have their chairs secured with restraining straps, we are required to ask if they would like them. So as she rolls her chair on board, I ask if she would like to be secured.
"Oh, I don't believe in S&M" she answers with a sly smile.
It took a nanosecond for me to get it, and it made my day.

-"What does a baby corn kernel call its father? Popcorn." Yes, a 'corny' joke from a regular I call The Weatherman because he has a weather one-liner. He tells me a couple jokes about turkeys and judges. "Is he really the weatherman?" a girl asks me after he exits.

-The birds are out in force this day: As I pull up to a stop, I see a grackle flailing in the middle lane, narrowly avoiding being crushed at any moment. Cars are zooming right over it, and it's struggling to stand up. Traffic eases for a moment, and off he flies. Later, another operator calls dispatch over the radio: a pigeon has boarded his bus at Central Terminal and he's trying to shoo it off. Other drivers chime in with their witticisms: "Let him ride!" "He has an employee pass!"

-"Bom dia!" I greet the two older Brazilian ladies I used to pick up mornings last pick. This time it's evening and they're going the opposite direction than they did back then. They speak no English, so I try out a little Portuguese. "Tudo bem!"

-Here's Maria, the elderly Italian lady who's a regular on the 10. I affectionately call her Grandma. She's nearly blind and lugs a heavy wheeled suitcase she uses to steady herself, so I lower the bus and tell her to take her time. She loves BCT drivers and is always looking out for us, calling me Sweetie and asking if I'm eating right and hoping I don't work too many hours. She actually has to go the other way, but it's dark now and she can't see well enough to risk crossing the width of US 1 at her slow pace. So she's gonna ride all the way to Central Terminal even though we're way up in Pompano. A young guy on the bus sees her and helps with her bag. She's always quite talky but not pushy, filling in those quiet moments with questions about the bus announcement system, other drivers, and places to eat. This bus goes out of service after this trip, so when we get to the terminal, she needs to disembark and switch to another 10 already there and waiting in a different aisle. As I guide her off and assist her over there, this grandmotherly figure suggests that I go to a strip club to relax.

-At a certain stop popular with foreign exchange students, four lovely German girls board with brand new passes. As I instruct them how to activate the passes, they say they're going to the beach and wonder how to get there. I assure them I'll let them know, but they end up going with Google maps. Danke, they say.

-A man boards with a fresh meal in carry out container, delicious aromas making my mouth water. He sets it on the dashboard to swipe his pass and I rub my hands together and loudly say "Alright! You brought us dinner! You're the best!"

-Bonus view on a different route, but heard on radio while driving the 10: An operator called in to say a passenger was boarding with an iguana. Dispatch replied if it's a service iguana and secured, to let him ride. Reminds me of the passenger I had awhile back (on the 10 no less) with an "emotional support bunny" - which was safely secured in carry bag.

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