Sunday, June 26, 2016
The natural way
The morning started out a little rough, after having to leave the garage later than scheduled due to getting a replacement bus after the one assigned to me was determined to be not road ready. On the other hand, the replacement bus was an old friend of mine, my regular ride on the 441 Breeze awhile back. Comfortably settled into the familiar seat, I went into service on the 72 heading eastbound from Sawgrass Mills.
The stretch from the mall to University Drive tends to be the quietest of the whole route, dominated by bedroom communities and residential developments. The lull wears off quickly once we approach University and the businesses that dominate the rest of the route. It was a gentle ride 15 minutes into the trip as I serviced the pull-in stop at University and loaded the small crowd waiting on a Saturday morning. Then, from behind the bus shelter, he appeared. A man of indeterminate age with the unchanging wardrobe and eye-watering aroma of BO and stale tobacco that generally indicate homelessness, but never has the standard luggage - or the standard fare. I've also never heard him say a word or utter a peep, so I assume he's mute. This makes communication difficult, but he doesn't really attempt to communicate anyway. He has a habit of puffing leisurely on a cigarette as he walks up to the door, unlike the majority of smokers who fiendishly maximize their final puffs before boarding. His relaxed habit was delaying service and I would have been within my rights to leave him there for the next bus rather than hold up all the people on the bus who did the right thing. It was tempting; I even started to shut the doors. That movement seemed to get his attention as he gave me a surprised look - not anger, not dejection - a genuine shocked expression that the bus might leave him. He dropped the cigarette, boarded, and took a seat right up front where I could smell his presence all the way to the Galt. It was the look that got me: I couldn't leave him after that despite the stench, the fare-skipping, and the lack of communication. That look communicated volumes.
At 441, loud and clear reggae music drifted over the intersection from the car wash across the street, its languorous island rhythm keeping the morning mellow. Another bus operator pulled up next to me in his car and waved, presumably on the way to the garage. It's easy to feel isolated in front of the bus, but his coincidental visit was a reminder to always be on our best on the road - you never know who's watching.
After passing Powerline, I kept an eye out for the aforementioned quote sign, and pondered its statement.
It was barely after 9 in the morning, and Jack's BBQ already had the smokers fired up, an anomalous sight along with the piles of seasoned oak firewood along a busy road like OPB, but such a welcome fragrance with our pungent passenger aboard.
A layover at the Galt to stretch, grab a bite, and get some fresh ocean air. This layover point is unique among them all as we are required to shut off the buses if we'll be there more than five minutes. I've heard conflicting reasons for this, but they generally center around appeasing the residents of the wall of condo towers lining the beach. Even the passengers know about this arrangement, as I got an opinionated earful from one who was waiting when I returned to the bus.
The women's center across from the Main Post Office typically has a few anti-abortion protesters holding signs on the sidewalk, and this morning there was a sizable bunch. They're always respectful of motorists and don't interfere with the bus, unlike the political demonstrators at US 1.
Our final eastbound I pick up an older man wearing a NEWARK cap. First of all, I don't think I've ever seen a Newark cap before, secondly, I have a habit of asking about their trip whenever someone boards wearing souvenir clothing.
"How was Newark?"
"I'm still there," came the resigned reply.
"That's too bad."
"Yeah, you're right," he agreed as he drifted into the bus.
The bus we've been using all morning has served us well, kept us on time, with no mechanical issues (i.e., good a/c). It's a 60-footer articulated, spacious and deep. It also has a spacious dash board, larger than usual. Somewhere along the way, someone left a tract there, out of my reach from the seat so I decided to leave it there till the layover. In the meantime, I could see the title: You will be with Me in Paradise. As I considered the morning's events, and the hopeful sign quote, I nodded my head and smiled.