Thursday, November 10, 2016

Silverbacks and cherry tops

Our 595/95 Express routes generally use dedicated commuter buses with features not available on local route buses. The first difference that is obvious is the outside appearance. Taller, longer, and more curvy, many of these models are decorated with either a silver or red roof and a large spaceship entry door. Inside, the seats are plush and padded, and the wifi always works. Although designed for rider comfort, a few of the older units have developed an unpleasant surprise for unsuspecting drivers: a rain reservoir that drains when the bus is in motion. Ok, so into every life some rain must fall, sometimes it happens to drip on your lap while you're on the turnpike. Soon enough, the dashboard's Stop Engine light and attendant buzzer sound activate, presumably in protest to the uninvited moisture behind closed panels. After pulling over briefly, the warnings relent and we continue our tripper to Miami.

After that morning run, I get a couple hours off the clock before returning for an afternoon on the gritty 50. The buses on the 50 run the gamut, from ancient time machines to brand new models unsullied until the fresh bus smell wears off. The previous driver seems to bring me a different bus each time I relieve him or her, and today I get a newer one which means everything is probably working ok. A good bus covers a multitude of ills and we're gonna need any edge we can get for the road ahead.

Prior to the bus arrival, an older woman also waiting made some comment and we joked around. The levity was to be short-lived soon after we boarded and departed the Pompano station. She set up camp in the middle of the very back row and not long into our trip I could hear a row brewing. As she yelled and cursed, others began arguing with her. In rough shape, with a bruised face and no sense of self-control, she let loose her entire obscene vocabulary. Difficult to determine if the behavior was due to drunkenness or derangement, I'm very patient with these episodes since the offender will exit eventually. As distasteful as crude language may be, it's still just talk and she never threatened physical violence toward anyone. It was only a short distance to our north layover anyway, where I assumed she'd exit. Never assume. She decided to stay on and ride back around, continuing the abrasive performance without tiring. When we returned to the Pompano station, the security guard escorted her off - right where she'd gotten on in the first place.

The rest of the trip was a breeze after that, but the afternoon was progressing and we got slammed on the next trip. Packed bus, wheelchair, bikes, slowpokes, and a suspicion that my leader bus went down.

At Sunrise I picked up a regular rider, an amputee in a wheelchair who's been riding Broward Transit since before it was Broward Transit. He can come off as bitter and cranky at first blush, but in time reveals a keen intellectual brand of humor; no cheap one-liners here. Totally independent, he inspires awe as he maneuvers the chair backwards up the ramp, the rear of which is heavy laden with a collection of bags common on the streets. No assistance required, my offer of securement declined. Way up the line an old man boarded cautiously, hands feeling before him. I've carried him occasionally, every time he's sure to tell me he's blind and where his stop is, and that he's 91 years old. Every time I congratulate him and make sure he gets his stop. He held on the stanchions to make his way into the bus, and was snapped at by the passenger in the wheelchair who preferred not to have someone sitting on his lap.

"Appreciate your help, you guys are a lot nicer than the bus drivers in Boston, where I'm from." No, this didn't come from an older passenger thankful for my assistance, but rather from a young man looking for an address. More mature folks tend to be profuse with their thanks, but I hear it from all ages and it's appreciated.

"Are you new?" a man asked at the Pompano station. I hear this question a few times a year and I usually reply the same. "New to you!" and a smile.

The afternoon got later and we picked up the pet vet. I asked him what exotic animal he worked on today since he's mentioned treating rhinos, lions, and pot-bellied pigs. Today it was nothing exotic, just a toy poodle with an owner resembling Arnold Schwarzenegger.

On this trip a pattern is developing: I'm getting reports from passengers that my leader passed them by. Most likely that bus was instructed to go out of service and get back on schedule, but passengers don't know that. Even I didn't know that, but it made sense of my earlier hunch.

The ongoing lane closure north of Sample is in effect today, causing a traffic crunch at the worst time of day. We're all wondering why the line crews can't do the work at night.

The weather's nice and the street walkers are out in force, hustling the blocks south of Copans as the daylight wanes.

At our final north layover, the rhymers arrive, hurrying over from Hillsboro. I'm stretching my legs on the sidewalk.
"What's flyin', Brian?" the young one gets the ball rolling this time.
"What's the deal, Neil?" the older one follows up with his nugget.
I'm ready this time. "What's the hurry, Murray?" directed towards both of them, followed with a smooth spin into the bus.

We're well into our fall/winter pick. You'll find me on another variety pack like usual, this time on the 2, 10, 34, 55, and 114. All over the county, let's ride together...

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