Thursday, July 28, 2016

Which way the wind blows

It was my last trip one early afternoon on the 72. We were westbound approaching the stop before Powerline. As we serviced the stop, a cyclist came out of nowhere on the sidewalk and hit the brakes. He motioned to me that he was boarding and proceeded to stow his bike on the rack.

"Wow! I can't believe I caught you! You'll never believe how far I came," he breathlessly exclaimed as he swiped his pass. He was clearly gassed from a strenuous ride, yet also exhilarated by the achievement of catching the bus.
"Whoa, catch your breath! I didn't see you back there, were you trying to catch the bus?" I asked, concerned for his immediate well-being and also tentatively apologetic if I had somehow missed him at a previous stop.
"The reason you didn't see me is because I was way up at 38th Street when you passed Andrews. I didn't think I had a chance to catch you, but there was a strong wind at my back and I was flying. When I got down to Oakland Park I could see you up ahead and knew I had a chance if the light turned red at Powerline. See, I told you you wouldn't believe it," he excitedly related his unlikely journey of some distance that was made possible by determination, timing of traffic lights, and a windy day blowing his way.
"I don't know what to say. It doesn't seem possible, but I have no reason not to believe you," was all I could say as I pondered his story.
"What's weird is this time of day the wind is usually blowing the other way," he continued, wondrous and alive thanks to this experience - and needing to share it with someone right away.

Maybe that's a good sign, when the wind changes direction and carries us farther than we could on our own.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Express yourself

It was an early morning run on the 114 Express from the BB&T Center to Civic Center. There was a calm yet uneasy glow in the darkness of those predawn hours, a shadowy half-illumination from an unseen source. While deadheading to my start point, my leader was on the radio with bus problems but this was quickly resolved and things were back on track.

"Did you see the moon?" one of my regulars asked while we stood on the platform waiting for our departure time. She was excited about the full moon, and I had a moment of disappointment since I'm a big fan myself and hadn't yet seen it. A heavy cloud cover had obscured it earlier, though some of its pale light had escaped to dimly color the landscape.
"No! I was looking for it on the way here but couldn't see it."
She went on about its grandeur though I had to take her word for it since the clouds had moved back in and there was no trace of our pock-marked satellite. At some point a glint caught my eye, I shifted a few feet over to see what was hiding behind the bus, and sure enough there he was: Old Man Moon.

He has inspired me over the years: he dares to smile, knowing that smile was created by violent rocks as big as a house. Can we react the same after such harsh treatment? He sits out there isolated yet on display before half the world.

Down at the choke point that is the Golden Glades interchange, another express bus ahead of me pulled back out of courtesy and let us pass so we could make our way to the I-95 express lanes. This common practice involves staying in the right lane which feeds the 826, then switching lanes before the dotted lane marker goes solid, allowing us to bypass an incredible amount of waiting traffic. Since traffic is so congested at this point it is no quick operation to make room for a bus and vehicles behind are necessarily delayed trying to continue to the 826. As we completed our maneuver, a motorcyclist apparently upset with the delay squeezed himself through the tightest of margins between the two buses so he could get an obscene gesture in before he sped off. Although he was nimble on his two wheels, we were going in slow motion so we could adjust accordingly, but had we been less aware of his presence things could have gone another direction. He had something to say, though, and sometimes you've gotta express yourself.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Bend it

A couple picks ago I was doing a split 10 - a single trip on the 10 in the morning, then a few hours on the 10 in the afternoon. The 10 could stand to have a few artics during peak hours, however it serves Central Terminal, which was built before the County had any artics in the fleet. Even those early ones were used out on 441 so didn't have to try and maneuver in the terminal.

For the morning run I was assigned a bus and went out to the yard to inspect it. It was an artic. Hmm, I thought, will this work? This was the first I'd ever heard of an artic going out on the 10. It was one of the newer New Flyer models which drive like a dream so I was looking forward to it. After making sure with dispatch that this was the right bus to take out, off we went.

My starting point was the north layover by the Publix on Camino Real, and I got into the habit of getting a couple spicy Jamaican patties there. It was early and they were hot and fresh. It was not unusual to cross paths with a Palm Tran driver who also had a layover at the same time, however it was invariably too early for his breakfast snack of choice.
"No croquettes!" he would decry with arms gesturing resignation.

My suspicion that this bus was out of place on US 1 was confirmed all the way down the line, from the perplexed looks of waiting passengers unsure if the headsign was correct to the incessant comments I received as they boarded.
"Is this the speed bus?" a woman in Boca asked.
"Is this the Express?" a man wondered, coming up to me after he'd been on board awhile.
Now, the US 1 Breeze north of the Terminal had been eliminated more than a year earlier so perhaps he was thinking about that service.

At McNab a regular with a bicycle grew a dejected expression as we pulled in to the stop; all three bike rack slots were taken. Fortunately, we had extra room this morning in the rear so I popped the back doors and instructed him to hold onto his bike in the spacious low floor door well area. He was grateful he'd be able to stay on time that morning.

Finally we turned into Central Terminal. Even when the onboard announcer is functioning, it never recites where we are, only to say "Route finished. Thank you." Out of habit, I always call it out. It signals the last stop, wakes up the sleepy riders after a long trip, and is just fun to say. It's a reminder that all roads lead to Central Terminal, where there's a place for every misfit - even oversized buses.