Sunday, March 27, 2016
New faces, old places
The 50 is one of my favorites. My coworkers think I'm joking when I tell them this, maybe my enthusiastic smile comes across as facetious. Or it could be that no other driver I know of likes the 50. I'll usually get sighs and head drops when I ask other drivers how the route is treating them. On the surface, much of the route appears to be stuck in a time long past, with the dreariness of industrial zoning always nearby. That's no doubt tied to the FEC RR which mostly runs adjacent. But where practicality threatens to keep a place stuck in stasis, fresh faces from other places keep it dynamic.
Speaking of faces, one trip to Central Terminal a 20-something male tattooed one approached and in low voice told me the terminal supervisor said he could ride free. He flashed his hospital band, a common practice among the homeless to skip the fare. Often they'll wear them till they're faded. Maybe it was his nonchalant presentation, but I wasn't buying it - and told him so. Everyone boarded, I peeled myself out of the seat to stretch before another long trip when who should come over but the terminal supervisor. He confirmed the patient's claim and I had to accept that for every rule there's an exception. It was a reminder that every person entering our doors has their own story.
"Told ya so" he slipped in the jab as he slipped out the door. Then he asked for a free pass. Can't blame him for asking.
A regular I call Mr. Mercedes since he tricks out his bike with hood ornaments and custom paint jobs boards. I compliment him on having the coolest bike on the route and we talk about paint colors. I recall he used to have a Cadillac-themed bike and ask what happened to it.
"Oh that was stolen" he states matter-of-factly, and I instantly relate.
Have I introduced you to Charles? He talks my ear off with a ceaseless stream-of-consciousness torrent of fascinating experiences and life-learned wisdom. A 'senile citizen' (his words) he loves to talk of family including his twin brother ('womb mate'). No conversation with him is complete without him telling you about his faith, but he's also the lowest-key converter you'll meet. I admire him for living fearlessly and relentlessly, always active and on his way to some exciting event or errand at an age most just retire.
We pick up an older Haitian woman who speaks zero English, and hands me an FPL bill. I assume she's looking for an office to pay the bill, but when she exits it all makes sense: she was showing me her address so I'd know where to let her off.
One trip we pick up a gentleman in unbuttoned dress shirt and jacket. It quickly becomes obvious he's been drinking as he struggles to slip his money into the fare box. I patiently wait for him to finish and find something to hold onto, as he doesn't seem too steady on his feet, and finally we pull away. At the very next stop he exits.
Our last service visit to Central Terminal a familiar smile boards: my Jamaican sunshine, who I don't think I've ever picked up on the 50. She's got perfect dreads, a glowing smile, and calls me her favorite - so it's easy to instantly cheer up when she shows up. It's been an overcast day, and when she exits I thank her for bringing the sunshine.