Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Death and detours

This one will be a challenge. How to write about death and suffering without getting morbid and morose? Should I assume we are all so familiar with these things there is no need to go into detail? Let us revisit a day in time and you can come to your own conclusion.

The day started with the news of David Bowie's death in early January. A dynamic creative to the end, this was a reminder that a musical era was nearing its end and came as a surprise. The timing was the surprise, not the reminder that no one gets out alive.

This day was my weekly run on the 10, an early morning piece that ended around lunch time. It was the middle of winter and a cold front had settled in. Picking up regulars heading to work downtown on the pre-dawn southbound, we made a stop at Imperial Point hospital and I noticed that the shelter stop had a pile of blankets beside the bench - with a wide-eyed head poking out. It was Patty, in a wheelchair, which caught me a little off guard since she normally would be using the bench. She was perfectly still except for the alert eyes, their glowing whites more visible in the darkness, and probably not wanting to move lest a frigid draft sneak under her linen cocoon.

After visiting Central Terminal, we headed back north. For some reason almost every time I do this trip I hit all three red lights before we make the turn onto US 1. It could easily take six minutes to go four blocks, then only three minutes to cover the next mile. But try explaining this to the dour gentleman waiting for your bus on time like he's supposed to, with an unpleasant chill biting without mercy, and while he's letting you know all the other drivers get there on time.
"Leave the terminal a couple minutes early" he suggests.
Of course this is a non-starter since it violates County policy, and I let him know this.
"Then give it more gas" he instructs me.
Perhaps in a more ideal world, the bus would be everyone's personal taxi. Having spent decades riding Broward Transit, when service wasn't nearly as frequent as it is now, I learned to have patience and factor in extra time for any trip. Riding taught me that people wait for the bus, the bus doesn't wait for people.
For a change we're on time this day, and he actually wishes me a good morning. He's even more sociable when he exits way up the line since we made good time and he'd be able to grab coffee and a doughnut before transferring to his connection.

Up at Hillsboro I picked up the Orange Couple. A personal nickname due to their wearing bright orange sweatshirts every time I see them. It's a middle age son and his elderly mother. I've never heard her make a peep, and he always handles the fare for her, but it's clear they're homeless and occasionally the fare is an issue on their way to any given soup kitchen. That's quite rare and he's always contrite about it, exhibiting humility at their plight and gratitude for any generosity.

The next southbound started regular enough, aside from the fact Patty had somehow shifted about a mile south to the Commercial Boulevard stop, now with feet also sticking out from under the blanket pile.

Then we crossed Oakland Park Boulevard, and traffic was backing up around the curve leading to 26th St. This was not a good sign. As we approached 26th St a horrific crash scene spread before us. I could see a dark van laying on its side, and a small white car nearby still upright but with its entire front peeled up. Rescue personnel had the intersection closed off so we had to detour onto 26th St like the 20 route, then back over to US 1 along 13th St. It meant missing a few stops, and since it was a fluid situation, the bus ahead of us had taken a larger detour and missed even more stops. On top of this the bus that was supposed to be ahead of us had broken down. So when we resumed the regular route and riders were wondering why they were waiting an hour, I explained why. A few weeks later a passenger brought that morning back to memory as he recounted watching it happen, then dragging the injured from the wreckage. The up-close scene he described was far messier than the overview I observed. A woman lost her life that day, in what seems to be a daily occurrence on our streets. Are we merely playing the odds every time we go out? The longer I drive professionally, the clearer I see that safety doesn't happen by accident, it needs to be a conscious effort at all times. Otherwise it is indeed 100% chance, rather than skewing the odds in your favor.

Later that night I got some extra work on the 31 route to fill in for another operator. In an instance of surprise connections, along the way I picked up a familiar face from the 10 a few picks back. He became extremely excited when he saw me and when I told him I was only filling in he took it as a sign that I'd help him win the Powerball (at that time over $1 billion), like a bus-driving good luck charm. He was carrying ten pounds of chicken and awed that he would bump into me at that particular moment.
Some time ago on the 10 he asked if I would hold the bus for him while he ran across the street to retrieve the bike he'd left locked up that morning since the bus bike rack was full. We ended up making that happen, thanks to a fresh red light and his nimble moves.
"You're the only guy that let me do that!" he thankfully exclaimed.
Sometimes it's the little things that have true value, more lasting than any Powerball.

No comments:

Post a Comment