Tuesday, October 4, 2016


Every April 1st I wonder ahead at what pranks may come my way that day. My keen analytical mind would like to think I can anticipate whatever cheap shots are thrown at me. Unfortunately too much navel gazing blurs the big picture and we can miss the significance of the moment at hand. The everyday routines of work and life can lull us into a false sense of order. A 'forest for the trees' analogy comes to mind. It's especially important when pre-tripping a bus; best to start with an overall glance so as not to miss the broken window.

This past April Fools' Day found me on a split shift with the 114 in the morning and a long afternoon on the 50. The 114 is a 595 Express run to Miami. It's only a tripper but maneuvering a bus through highway traffic in the morning isn't the greatest way to start the day. Fortunately the run went smooth until the end as I made my escape from Miami. 10th Ave was extremely congested, as if other streets were closed and detouring over here. The bus was a thread poking through the needle's eye of semis, cars, and one guy parking right in front of me so he could grab a cafecito at Omar's, with buckets of foggy-eyed red snappers on ice spared from the chaos. Inching northward over abandoned train tracks, the street is a glorious mess of warehouses, schools, food trucks, corner stores, apartments, auto shops, water works, and front lawns. It was a bittersweet relief making that right turn back onto the highway.

In the afternoon I arrived at the Northeast Transit Center to relieve the morning driver. While waiting for my bus, I talked with the new security guard. It was unusual to see someone other than longtime stalwart Officer Lewis, who I always greet as my hero after his death-defying heroics the day an out-of-control naked man was confronted in the bathroom there. This new guard was excited about joining BSO and patrolling Pompano.

When the bus pulled in it wasn't our usual model, instead a much older one. I joke about these Gillig Time Machines, where everything rattles and you feel every bump. This one had no announcer, and no PA for me to use; these units have no vocal chords. No problem, we'll just go old school and use our bus voice to call out the stops.

On our first northbound we approached 10th St in Deerfield, the light was turning red, and the intersection was too big to clear on short time. Judging that I could stop safely, I applied the brakes a little shorter than I like to. I'm all about the smooth ride, especially on these time machines, and it was smooth - but short. As I came to a stop, I heard running footsteps behind me coming forward. A young lady had been standing in the aisle and used the momentum of the stop to run forward and stick a perfect landing at the front of the bus.
"Hold on!" I begged, wanting to avoid an injury.
"You good. I wasn't expecting that." A smile of accomplished satisfaction lit up her face. She didn't fall or even bump into anything.
"You've got good balance," was all I could say to compliment her skills, although inadvisable to attempt on the bus. Most of our buses have frequent service announcements reminding riders to hold on while on the bus. No such reminder on this mute time machine.
"Thank you. Track star."
At that moment she got a text from her brother saying he was in the hospital in critical condition. Her elation was instantly gone and she looked about to collapse from the bad news. A follow-up text qualified the previous one as a prank and she let it go.
"Blue for autism tomorrow," she said while exiting, after asking if I was working the next day. I was, so I wore blue like every other driver.

After our north layover, we headed down to 4th St, cutting a left through Pineview Cemetery, which is neighbored by cozy little homes. One lot has an abandoned unfinished house on it, a bare concrete block shell with no roof. In the front yard, Satchmo BBQ sets up shop, an enormous smoker piping out mouthwatering aromas for hours, laden with half a dozen full racks of baby backs. A couple love taps on the horn elicits a glance over the shoulder and a wave from the pitmaster.

The Burper is on the radio today. Presumably a joker in possession of a radio and our bus frequency, his repertoire consists of deep, guttural burps over a lengthy period. Nothing good about this; it clogs the airwaves when they are needed for important business. There's also an embarrassing component: if the volume is right, passengers may think the driver has a gas problem.

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