Wednesday, December 7, 2016
Our first trip we came rolling down the Turnpike overpass, made our turn onto 31st Ave, and pulled up to the first stop for an awaiting trio of men. Two of them told me they just got out of jail, a common confession at this stop across the street from the detention facility. They want free rides, and they have the universal bus pass of the just-released: "I can show you my paperwork." One fumbled some papers in hand, then added with a quiet afterthought: "It's nothing to be proud of."
We made the horseshoe turn onto 27th Ave through the still-sleepy Collier City. A birdman was crumbling biscuits on the sidewalk, but there were no birds.
That first trip tends to be the busiest. Sunday service starts later than weekdays, but people still need to go to work so we're packed now, but it will lighten up as the morning progresses.
The next trip is northbound. At the Prospect red light, there's a loud thud sound. The solid impact two cars make when colliding is a mystery to me. With all the glass and metal and plastic involved it seems like there should more of a shattering, scraping sound. Even so, it's always a similar sound: thud.
We make the turn off John Knox and onto Dixie. A slight curve in the road lined with auto garages leads to the first of two stops before the Transit Center. The stop is empty and my heart sinks a little. Ordinarily there is a group of five or six day laborers waiting, immigrants speaking little English and dressed in their Sunday best: clean jeans and t-shirts. Without so much as a peep after we exchange Good Mornings, they make their silent pilgrimage to San Isidro, patron saint of farmers and feeder of birds. Always paying their fare, camping out in the back of the bus, and pulling the cord on cue, I find them to be a source of steady and reliable strength. Maybe they're whispering back there, but I hear only silence. It can't be because they're not familiar with English, we get all languages talking on the bus at all volumes. They are mysterious in their presence, and today they are mysteriously missing.
Pulling out of the Transit Center, we began our westward trek on MLK. Soon there was a woman in a red sedan in the lane next to us - driving the wrong direction. At this section of street there is a landscaped median which meant she was between it and the bus. I slowed down to a crawl and may have come to a stop in awe of what I was seeing. She continued on her way without causing harm to herself or others.
After that, a familiar face in the neighborhood boarded. With thick graying dreadlocks hanging out of his ski cap, he cuts a distinctive figure. This philosopher is always ready to drop some knowledge on me and I'm always ready to listen. Today he theorizes that the government should better maintain housing projects to keep people's spirits up, then transitions into the concept of helping others. A vague example of him sitting down, asking for help, and not putting in any effort seemed clear at the time but now I'm not sure.
Finally making our way back up 31st Ave on the final leg of this trip, a rider we picked up awhile back makes his way up to the front. Sporting a Cheetah Pompano shirt and lunch tote, he must work there since it's too early to be open.
"Off to work," he said with resignation after an audible sigh.
"Another exciting day?"
"Yeah." No enthusiasm.
"There's gotta be something exciting, something's gotta happen." It was trite encouragement, but it's not like he was looking at a day of drudgery in an office.
"When you seen one, you seen 'em all."
Late morning has arrived, we're on our second southbound going through the college when who should board but my pal Al. He's on a mission to feed some feral cats and dogs. Regaling me with military adventures in Costa Rica, this guy's been places.
We're back on John Knox going the other way and I can see my old regular Louis rising from the bench when he spots the bus. This is the rider who threatened to fire me awhile back. Now he's a bit miffed because a coworker quit at the gas station and he got called in. Forced to nix his plans to attend a charity wrestling match at Mickey's Bar, it added insult to injury as we passed by and could see the ring set up in the parking lot. Already surrounded by several dozen motorcycles, he said all the biker clubs would be there. When I hinted that might mean trouble he laughed it off.
Maybe angels can be found in the unlikeliest of places: prison, strip clubs, biker bars, even bus stops.