For the past few weeks the yellow tabs have been in bloom all over South Florida, spinning straw into gold. Most of us natives are accustomed to northern transplants complaining to us how there are no seasons here. Sure, our most pronounced seasons are the wet and the dry cycles, whereas more northern latitudes have showy displays of fall foliage and snowfall. Yet somehow our flora knows it's springtime and decides to put on an outrageous explosion of golden color. My current theory is that despite the sometimes violent nature of our weather, for the most part the changes are subtle and help develop an extra-sensitive awareness in those who pay attention.
This was just another day on the 50, which meant there was not much chance of getting bored. I relieved the previous driver as usual at the NETC, and as I adjusted the mirrors some passionate singing wafted up from the rear.
"How great Thou art..." came the feminine voice, squeaky and totally off-key in a Jamaican accent. I instantly recognized the voice as that of a regular rider, an older lady with a habit of singing hymns on the bus. She's always crying poor but keeps on keepin' on, routinely trudging off to the Swap Shop with a folding cart full of wares. This trip we were going the opposite direction, so hopefully she had a successful day that led her to be thankful on the way home.
As we pulled into the north end layover in Deerfield, there was heavy police activity on the back street so I advised everyone to be careful out there. Something in me hesitates to deliver my passengers into the midst of potential danger, but since we don't do door-to-door service and the police appeared to have things secure we made the best of it.
A lively older gentleman boarded, the rusty gait and deliberate movements testified to a time-worn body. His mind was well-oiled however, firing on all cylinders. He was talking at that volume which is meant for everyone, a tacit invitation to the other boarding strangers to join in conversation.
"I don't want a woman who only loves my money. I want a woman who loves me and my money, and God in heaven."
A younger man took his cue, and the two engaged in a back-and-forth about women, Jesus, and resurrection.
Down the line,
It was an especially heavy ridership that day, my leader was loaded and running late on our next northbound. She called in to dispatch to report that she had to pass up three passengers in wheelchairs since she already had two aboard. I was a little concerned myself since my bus was nearing a full seated load and there were passengers using the seats in the two wheelchair areas. What I like to do to motivate people on the bus in this situation is just pull right on up to the wheelchair passenger, pop the doors, kneel the bus, unbuckle my seat belt, turn around toward the cabin and ask in bus driver voice "Do we have room for a wheelchair?" Generally whoever is in those seats will readily move, since the sooner we get everyone on board the sooner we get moving again. They're certainly not required to move, they have as much right to those seats as anyone, so I always thank them. "You guys are the best! Thank ya thank ya!" And sure enough, we were able to reconfigure ourselves and make room for everyone.
Our next southbound at Copans, line crews have closed the right lane to install utility poles. They're replacing older wooden poles with upgraded concrete models. Traffic is backing up.
At SW 2 St in Pompano the free-range yard chickens at one apartment complex are pecking around in the weedy lot. They may be skinny, but they're not dumb; I've never seen one as roadkill on Dixie Highway.
At Central Terminal boarding for our next northbound trip, a solidly built gentleman with trim mustache in BurgerFi uniform swipes his pass and looks at me a little longer than usual.
"I remember you from the 72 last year! You're the only handsome driver," he sweet-talks.
"Oh, there are many more," I reply with my usual humility.
He makes a comment about my positive attitude standing out from other drivers. This naturally follows into a conversation about positive thinking, and he has a paragon of this particular virtue waiting at home. His wife had both kidneys removed 11 years earlier and has to take 9 hours of dialysis daily, yet she maintains a positive attitude despite this inconvenient and unpleasant necessity. As he tells me more of this incredible woman, I can only shake my head in admiration and tell him flat out that he's a lucky man.
It's now our last southbound trip. Hopefully a smooth run to Central Terminal then we'll take it home to the garage. The reality of the 50 at this time of day makes that wishful thinking. As we work our way down the line, I'm getting bad reports from passengers of long waits, a regular complaint at any time, however the growing load lends credence to this. It's as if my leader has disappeared, but I haven't heard anything on the radio about it going out of service so I can only apologize for the inconvenience and keep it moving.
At Sample we pick up another regular, a middle-aged man who's counting down the days till his driver's license gets reinstated after a DUI.
"Just a few more days and you'll never see me again," he promises.
I congratulate him and wish him well.
Halfway through the trip and the bus is still packed, including a wheelchair passenger. Some get off only to be immediately replaced. Normally we'd get some elbow room after servicing the NETC, but the double-load theme continues and it's not till we get way down to Five Points that we get some breathing space. We pull into D Aisle at Central, everyone exits to make their connections, I switch the head sign to NOT IN SERVICE, flick the cabin lights off, and we roll out back to the barn, just me and a bus full of the ghosts of the day.