Thursday, September 29, 2016


Communication comes in all sorts of formats: verbal, visual, venal, and even vapid. As we communicate with the world around us in whatever way we have become accustomed, those signals can be misinterpreted, misunderstood, or worst of all just missed. As connected as we are by invisible tethers of gravity, the truth of our isolation returns when distractions cease.

The cradle of desolation and need which the 50 runs through requires us to scratch the surface to find the treasure. Once we commit to put our hands in the sand, the hidden value reveals itself. Not in buried pirate's loot which birthed the name Gold Coast, but in Life.

The first southbound trip started out with an indication of the direction the day would go, and it had nothing to do with the compass. A trio of two women and a man were standing at a corner, not near a bus stop zone. Engaged in conversation, at the last second the man looked up at the bus and put out his hand in a half-hearted hail attempt. It was too late to stop safely and not a bus stop anyway, but the trio seemed to be a little out of place on that stretch and I try to assist when possible, especially if there's a bench or street sign that visitors may confuse for a stop.

Soon enough, we pulled up to a stop where Smiley was waiting. With his perpetual grin and near-mute vocabulary, he plunked some change in the fare box and drifted aboard. It was unusual to find him this far from his normal turf, even though it's on the same street. He generally could be found floating in the vicinity of the Northeast Transit Center.

At one major intersection a sizable group was waiting. Among them was a vaguely familiar face, but I couldn't place him as a regular on this route. The time wasn't much past noon, but he boarded with the dejection of a weary man. When he mentioned his aunt was a bus driver for 32 years, I immediately remembered him as the exuberant young man on the 441 Breeze about 6 months earlier. Now he was boarding short on fare and with news that he lost his job at the car wash when business slowed. Back then, he'd been so excited about applying to become a bus driver. This time as he explained he hadn't heard back about his application, I could only suggest he be patient and in the meantime look for other positions to get him through the lean times. His voice noticeably choked as he mentioned his teenage son.
"I haven't been able to do for him like I would like to..."
It was clear his driving ambition was not merely about himself, but rather for the benefit of another. The lament over the merciless passage of time revealed this young man to be not so young after all.

Eventually the tide rises and it did so on our follow up northbound trip. Like clockwork, a slew of recent Haitian immigrants board after school. This group is truly young, almost all teenagers still trying to grasp their new language. In the beginning they would enter single file and orderly, each slipping in a dollar bill. As the semester progressed they grew impatient, skipping each other to get a seat, greeting me with What's Up and a fist bump. These kids learn fast. Always with bright smiles, polite, and never any trouble; that may be the true culture shock.

On our next southbound a lady was waiting near one of the countless used car lots along Dixie Highway, it's perimeter lined with sun-faded and tattered American flags. She boarded with a confused and imploring look.
"I don't have change." Four words not uncommon to my ears, but I decided to go down the rabbit hole.
"How much do you have?" I replied with joking curiosity.
"$900." She shared in hushed tone. "I don't want to wait on Dixie with all that cash. It's a down payment for a car, but I should've known this place was shitty when I saw all the flags."

Finally, at our north layover just before pull out our old friend the name rhymer comes scrambling over so as not to miss us. He's wheezing from the exertion.
"I ran, Stan!" He squeezed out between gasps for breath. "Thanks for holdin' the bus, Gus!"
As we approach his exit, he makes his way up to me from the back of the bus.
"See ya in awhile, Lyle!" He slyly threw at me as he hopped off. When he paused to measure my reaction I delivered my offering in classic deadpan.
"Good night, Dwight."

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Then we lose our name

The anniversaries keep on comin'. First it was the annum recognition for the blog, now it's time to update our name list. These are some of the monikers gifted to me by our ever-creative passengers. Among the countless greetings of Sir, Boss, or Bro some gems manage to shine through.

Good boy
Bus man
My baby
My boy
Boss man
My brotha
Big man
Big fella
Young brotha
My main man
Doogie Howser
Johnny Depp
My son
Mr. Bus Man

Ranging from commonplace to comical, it always makes my day to hear a new name. Looking at the variety on this list and the abundance of aggrandizing (if not affectionate) titles, I can see my riders like to have fun with their bus driver.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Up and over

We're frequently presented with obstacles and deterrents as we move about. In fact, these are signs we are moving, unless we capitulate and stagnate. Schedules real and perceived influence our actions, though we are each in our own orbit and necessarily on our own time frames.

One of the most vexing parts of the 10 earlier this year was during a protracted period of utility work beneath Sunrise Blvd. The half-mile stretch shared with US 1 presented a daily time-eater at the worst time of the day, late afternoon. Lanes would be closed down to two or even one, paralyzing traffic that is regularly congested even when all lanes are open. The passengers and I would often wonder why this work couldn't be done in the overnight hours. Never did find out.

Eventually we emerged from the downtown stranglehold and were bookin' it uptown. At his usual stop stood the hunched figure of the Weatherman, and I was counting on him for a moment of levity after the exasperating futility earlier.
"Hey, there he is! The Weatherman! What's the forecast today?" This has become my way of greeting him and getting him to open his bag of jokes.
"What did Mr. Light bulb say to Mrs. Light bulb? Baby, you light up my life!" The corny jokes began coming rapid fire, built up since our last ride. There are times when the simple jokes are best, no in-depth analysis needed. On top of it, he stood up front and his voice projected loud enough that the rest of the bus could hear his contagious humor. Suddenly his tone changed, he edged in closer to me and lowered the volume.
"What did the hurricane say to the coconut tree? Hold onto your nuts, you're in for a big blow!" This triggered a guffaw and return to the loud volume.
"You're a bad man!" I replied with mock judgment, which only encouraged him to continue laughing, right off the bus.

Shortly after dropping him off, we passed the Publix plaza north of 24th St in Pompano. Normally it's one of those nondescript places you don't notice unless you're looking for it. Today something caught my eye: the fountain near the street was frothing and foaming as if someone had dumped a bucket of soap in it. The masses of suds were drifting along the ground into the street, lighter bits breaking away and going airborne. If only all things that came at the bus were so benign.

Somewhere on a northbound trip a cyclist who only rode a short while stayed up front, hanging onto an upright stanchion. Guess he didn't want to get too comfortable and miss his stop, but he also had a pensive stare into the distance.
"Imagine what this place is gonna look like in 10 years, it's all gonna be underwater." It was a different take on weather small talk, decidedly more long range.
"Hmm, we'll probably build on stilts, or abandon the lower floors of buildings, or build a wall at the beach to block the sea." I worked on proposing solutions to his dire statement, trying to spin it in a more positive, hopeful direction. My contrary nature just couldn't accept defeat so readily.

Up at Commercial, a homeless regular was ambling among the waiting cars, working the last throngs of the day for handouts to get him through the night. He spotted me and grew a grin as he approached my open window.
"Why are you on my bus?" His light-hearted inquiry expressed a level of comfortable familiarity.
"I'm borrowing it." The familiarity went both ways.
At that, he flipped his ratty cardboard sign with generic marker scribbles asking for help to show me the opposite side: Trees & beer 4:20.
"You working till 11?" he asked, presumably letting on when he would be heading back downtown.
I shrugged, not letting on either way as the light turned green.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Annum Recognition: 1

You may have to remind me how this works. This blog is a year old. I'm not one big on birthdays, as anyone who knows me can aver.  Hence the title of this post, co-opted from my brother-in-law - a term he coined as a loophole to observe my day. Here's the paradox: I'm not big on my birthday, but love to foist thoughtful gifts on others for their day.

There are personal reasons for this as you may expect, and the simple one I usually respond with is that birthdays are for the very young and the very old; when young since every day is new, when old since every day counts. There may be some faults in that logic, but also some sense. Besides, I'm more a fan of the Unbirthday concept, where every day is a chance to appreciate the presence of others.

Now this little online journal is growing up, learning to walk, and hopefully past the spit-up on your shoulder stage. It may make the occasional detour, but generally remains true to the route map. It is always looking for areas to improve service, based on the needs of the community.


"It's my birthday, do I get a free ride?" He was sweaty and panting, having arrived at the stop a moment before on his bike.
"You still have birthdays?" I had to ask. He was neither very young nor very old. "Happy Birthday! No fare?"
"Not on my birthday!" Perhaps this was an annual expectation of his, like free dessert at the restaurant. "I'm 56."
"You're kidding, what's your secret?" He looked far younger than he claimed. "You must stay active."

That was the secret, and tends to be when I ask older folks for tips on staying strong as the years advance. An old landlord had a pithy saying along this line: "Never stop moving. The day you stop moving is the day they put you in the ground."
It needn't be strenuous, though often we push ourselves to know where our limit is. It needn't be fast - slow and steady wins the race. Never stop moving.

Thursday, September 1, 2016


A slow day on the 50: picked up the animal vet who gets to work with the most unusual patients. This day he was doing radiation treatment on a 350-pound pot-bellied pig. He looked tired.

Followed up by a lengthy convo with another passenger about good meal deals around town: Mai Kai, Shooters, Benihana, Ruth's Chris, Alegria Taco, etc. Prime bus belly material.

Finally, the name rhymer showed up on cue at the regular time.
"You ready Freddie?" I greeted him. He wasn't.