Sunday, May 15, 2016
Pa pi mal
When I enter an empty bus in the morning, before the pre-trip inspection, I greet the space with a quiet "Good morning, Broward County." Four simple words meaningful perhaps only to me: it is a welcome to what ever neighbors or visitors may board that day, along with a tacit promise to serve them well. Through the revolving doors of the bus enter and exit innumerable histories. Countless disparate paths wend their way around the planet to enter those doors, a moving space alive today but one day relegated to the scrap yard. I tend to see similarities between our paths and those of various celestial bodies; some are fixed, others are on an unknown trajectory. Mysteriously, they are all connected and occasionally cross paths as they make their cycles.
An afternoon on the 50 is bound to be an adventure. Or, it used to be. Service improvements have altered the character somewhat and only time will let the route show its new face. Still, there is plenty to ponder over what has gone before.
At SW 10 St in Deerfield, an ancient woman in a red minivan is vaping like a steampipe. A young lady on the sidewalk sports bright red hair a la the Wendy's girl.
Our first layover on the north end, a father with two young sons boards. I always greet little guys with a cheery "Hey, big guy" or "Alright, big step!" so a mundane bus ride becomes a minor victory. They like it.
On our way south, we pick up our irregular regular, Ace. He's in a hurry, no time for small talk.
At Five Points in Wilton Manors, a regular in a chef's jacket boards. About middle age, at least once before he's gotten on with an expired day pass and the same phrase. He swipes the pass as it gives a denying buzz, and with that distinctive Haitian accent which is both heavy and perfectly pronounced says "Driver, I'm having a bad day, please help me driver." All the while he's moving into the bus, not waiting around for my response. We were stuck at the light and he sat up front, so I slowly turned my head in his direction. This time I was able to give a response.
"Do you ever have a good day? Was yesterday a good day?" I asked in a sincerely inquiring tone. For the sake of balance in the world, this hard-working man must have some bright moments.
"Maybe tomorrow," he responded. He explained he's a dishwasher at a couple restaurants. We talked about which ones were the best to work for around town, mostly Las Olas and the beach. Briefly energized by the conversation, the day's weariness soon returned and I could visibly see his weight bearing down.
"Times are tough. Bills are big and money is little."
The next northbound right after the NETC we kept pace for a moment with an FEC train linked with endless quarry cars piled high. I remember a stat from years ago that half the state's roads are built with Dade County limestone. This material is the heart of the earth, at least our part of it. Unique to the southern part of the peninsula, it was born of the ocean as it is comprised of the exoskeletons of minuscule sea creatures. When used to make roads, it introduces a treasure trove of fossils for city dwellers.
"You always forget me, man!" the vaguely familiar rider jokingly chided. A young man, he didn't pull the cord and expected me to remember his stop. A little different accent here. First I'm thinking Jamaican, but when he says "Thank you" to indicate he wants to stop, I change my mind to Haitian. That's how many of the older ladies with limited English request a stop.
We're on our second southbound, sitting at the Sample red light. A man comes out of nowhere and knocks on the door. It's a safe spot so I pop the doors. He's out of breath and I ask where he came from, since I didn't see him out there before.
"I left it at the counter" he gasps with a smile. "I was in the store, looked out the window, saw the bus, and ran."
He wouldn't have a long wait for the next bus if he'd missed ours, but I suppose we saved him some money that day.
Uh oh, here's Smiley. A personal nickname for the young man in Pompano ceaselessly wandering the streets for another high. I have major compassion for this fellow because he's clearly caused irreversible damage to his cognitive function. Yet, he has a perpetual smile, never causes trouble, and generally attempts to pay his fare. He no longer has the ability to sweet talk or schmooze a free ride, or utter a coherent sentence. Parents point him out to their kids as a warning against drugs.
Our final northbound just out of downtown, we pick up a frequent regular. Looking comfortable in scrubs, he has a convenient stop at the animal hospital where he works.
"There he is, saving the world one dog at a time!" I announce as he boards.
"Cats, too," is his quiet comeback.
At the end of the day we all go our ways, each to our own orbit. Good day, bad day; it can always be better, but it can also be worse. Considering the alternative, not that bad.