Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Out of respect

A number of my posts are depictions of a certain route, using incidents from that route that occur on different days. For the most part, I try to avoid this because it doesn't always paint a true picture of a day in the life of a bus driver. Artistic license gives me a pass to mix and match, but be assured every word of it is true. Sure, there's some subjective perspective coloring the picture, though I see no reason to exaggerate or fabricate because the truth can stand on its own. And truly, one day's stories are enough.

This one Saturday on the 72 was shaping up nicely. My first eastbound trip was uneventful from Sawgrass to the Galt, but it was early yet. The first westbound trip things started brewing. First, at US 1 the group of active political sign-wavers is in full force. Their signs are always timely based on current events, and quite elaborate. Some signs are on extra-long poles leaning over the street; I'm hesitant to pass knowing how high the bus is, so I slow down till the obstacle is pulled back.

At the next stop after the light a long-forgotten bearded face from late nights on the 10 boarded. It was Josh, an apparently homeless man of unwavering manners and gentle speech. I try to remember names as best I can, and his distinctive appearance makes it easier than most. The look never seems to change with the years: hunched with both arms perpetually hanging with countless loaded multi-layered plastic grocery bags of indeterminate contents, scraggly shoulder length hair, WA cap, and Ray-Ban style sunglasses even at night - he's instantly recognizable. Plus it helps to have a brother who shares his name, though he doesn't need to know that. The shock of his name being pleasantly called out by a vaguely familiar bus driver was enough for him to process that morning. He always has his pass and is ready to pull it out, but the collection of bags are essentially an extension of his person and disengaging them proved early on to be a time-consuming effort. So those times when he recognizes me he'll inform me he has his pass, and I generally spare us all the inconvenience, potential bag spillage, and lengthy wait of going through the formality of the swipe. Today he has a new accessory: a triangular white paper guard covering his nose, presumably handmade. Not wanting to intrude, I don't mention it and instead we discuss the latest releases at the movie theater. A few blocks later he exits and melds back into the streets.

The next eastbound was much like the first. I'm a habitual reader and my eye naturally gravitates to words wherever they may be. I especially get a kick out of routinely changing signs, particular businesses and churches like to put pithy proverbs out for passersby. As we approach St Helen's Catholic just before Martin Luther King, I check out their current posting. Formerly the Serenity Prayer, there is now a single verse: "This man welcomes sinners and eats with them." A brief reflection upon the accepting sentiment and we keep rolling.

Our last westbound, we just have to get to 441 where the relief driver awaits to take over for the afternoon. The distance is probably 5-6 miles, less than half a trip. Don't remember where I picked them up, but it was on the eastside. A man and woman, tipsy drunk but friendly. They told me they had their passes, then sat near the front to look for them. Meanwhile, she's talking up a storm.
"Where are we going? How messed up are we?" she kept asking in a wondering, happy tone.
At the next light, the man came back up and swiped both passes. She called out to me.
"Hey driver, is there a hotel around here?"
I asked if she was looking for a certain hotel.
"No, just a hotel, any hotel."
We had passed I-95 and this stretch of Oakland Park doesn't have any so I let her know there were plenty in the opposite direction.
"Where are we going? How messed up are we?"

While they pondered their next move, traffic was backing up thanks to utility crews closing the right lane at the height of lunch hour. We had just passed the Home Depot stop and were stuck at the light. Out of the corner of my eye there was some movement, so I glanced over to see two figures running our way from the shade of an office building across the parking lot. Another man and woman, she doing her best to keep up. He was really moving, with beer bottle in hand like a Hash House Harrier. He put one foot in the door and I pointed at the nearly full Heineken. For a brief second it looked like he was having second thoughts about not finishing his drink, but ultimately decided to go for a ride and tossed the green bottle in the grass.
"Hey man, we don't have any money, can we get a ride?" he implored. He could almost pass for Luther Campbell's younger brother, in smart glasses.
Nevermind the current price of an imported beer, he was totally skunked and now wasn't the time to have a rational exchange over spending habits.
"This one's on me, grab a seat." The light turned green and I was ready to roll.
"Thanks man, I know you don't have to do that. I just wanted to ask you out of respect." We shook hands and the two disappeared into the depths of the bus.

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