Dixie Highway. It is bittersweet to see landmarks you grew up with unceremoniously demolished for newer, denser construction. Of course, it's always been this way, I just can't recall it being so focused on a single corridor. Broward is nearing 2 million residents, and people gotta live somewhere - so why not Federal Highway?
The other part of the allure, the main part, is essentially the same thing that draws me to other routes: the riders. Neighbors, visitors, young, old, excited, depressed, et al - this route has more than its fair share. So last pick I had one day a week on the 10, a split shift that started with a single southbound trip in the morning.
One morning on that first trip we pulled into the Sample stop and an older woman boarded. Certainly not elderly, but let us say seasoned by the sun and the effects of a life fully lived. She had one of those smiles that reveals an inner youth, an infectious grin that squinted the eyes and smoothed the wrinkles. With a raspy voice evocative of a female Tom Waits, I'd love to hear her belt the blues on stage, but this day I would settle for being chatted up from Pompano to Central Terminal. No, she wasn't flirting with me, though her pointed questions gave that impression. She was trying to set me up with her daughters, both newly single, one with a 20 year old son. Though I'm not against the concept of a ready-made family, this arrangement wasn't for me. Even so, she was so sweet about it I couldn't help but thank her for the thought, and wished her luck in her matchmaking.
"You know, I was born with a caul," she offered.
I had to roll through my mental dictionary to recall what that was, but had a vague idea it was some sort of membrane that remained after birth.
"You know what a caul is? It's very rare, and it's good luck."
After a break for lunch, I set out on the second shift of the day. As we approached Atlantic Blvd, the police presence grew. The air was filled with siren wails, and all the side streets were blocked by a BSO cruiser. Unmarked vehicles with red and blue flashers zipped by us. We crossed Atlantic and serviced the pull-in bus stop. A middle-aged woman boarded, unfazed though she had been in the epicenter of the frenzy. She stood up front and I pulled out, wanting to limit our exposure to whatever was going down. As soon as we got going, a teenage boy came running around the corner of a building in our direction. A couple BSO deputies followed close behind in hot pursuit, guns drawn. The kid gave up after the bus stop and dropped to the ground.
"I would have tripped him," the woman claimed as he surrendered right where she'd been waiting.
On a northbound trip, the ongoing right lane closure on Sunrise during rush hour meant a 10-minute time waste to cover 1/4 mile. I took this time to wonder why buses don't have Not In Service signs for malfunctioning pull cords or dirty seats.
Our next visit to Central Terminal I boarded a familiar face in a wheelchair. He was a coworker at a previous job when I was in the printing industry. I'd picked him up a few times before on other routes, but was surprised to see him taking the 10. He may be disabled, but he hasn't let it keep him from moving forward. A perpetual ladies man, he always seems to have a different girlfriend when I see him.
On our final trip, I could see two figures waiting on a bus bench. A young man and woman, I wasn't sure if they were wanting the bus or just hanging out, so I slowed down in case I'd have to stop. I gave a couple love taps on the horn, and her arm went out to hail the bus. They were extremely slow making their way from the bench to the door, and the young man was assisting the woman. Her legs were in an awkward position for walking, and her face was contorted in a grimace. They were both young and looked healthy.
"Are you ok?" I asked, trying to see if she needed help. She could barely walk, so I lowered the bus as she labored to board, all the while her friend helping to support her.
"I have lupus," she explained with tears in her eyes. Her pain was quite visible now. The friend got her seated, swiped her pass, and kissed her goodbye. She was now on her own and distraught.
"I'm afraid..." she said quietly to no one, an inner thought shared with the world.