The gloomy weather also has another effect: it tends to keep people indoors, which means the bus is lighter than usual and we weren't going to be running late today. The first couple trips were smooth as can be, highlighted by one young lady's shirt with the design: I Don't Sweat, I Sparkle. Yes, you do, and thank you for getting creative with the unavoidable perspiration.
On Saturdays only every other bus on the 19 goes to Sandalfoot in Boca Raton. The run I had was the short one, just between Lauderhill Mall and Turtle Creek. Before the next trip south, I made a pit stop at the gas station at the north end, across from the Coconut Creek Casino. Pulling in, I noticed a man standing under a nearby oak tree, fidgeting anxiously, a duffel bag at his feet. After taking care of business, I returned and found him still there, with a sort of conflicted pacing.
'Are you riding with us today?' I called over to him, to indicate we'd pull out soon. He stayed where he was while I got in the seat and released the parking brake which released the familiar squeal of air brakes.
He slowly made his way over, as if forcing himself by sheer will power.
"You know you a blessing today?" His first words were quiet and unclear.
'I am a blessing, or I'm getting a blessing?' I asked to be clear on what I heard.
"Well, I was gonna go in that casino, then I heard those air brakes and it was a sign to go."
Now this was a new one for me. BCT regularly delivers a steady stream of gamers to that casino and others, but now there was at least one customer who we delivered from spending his money unwisely.
At that point in the route, the sky had cleared. Underway on our southbound trip, it got darkly ominous again, lightning flashes illuminating the clouds. A squirrel ran across the expanse of State Road 7, taking a chance with its life, and outran the traffic.
Back down at the Hill, the weather was soupy. An older man boarded complaining about it. It's no fun trying to dodge the raindrops when out doing errands.
'Keeps everything green.' My go-to return line at these times. Sometimes I'll throw in the added trivia that South Florida is on the same latitude as the Sahara Desert. If we didn't get such voluminous rainfall we'd be a sandy, barren landscape like that part of Africa.
"That's the good thing about it." He had to agree.
Montgomery, one of our popular senior drivers was doing the 36 and we did the bus driver wave when leaving the Hill.
Approaching Oakland Park Blvd, we kept pace with a funeral caravan using the other lanes.
Up at Coconut Creek Parkway (the road, not the casino), an older woman boarded lamenting about just missing my leader "by 10 feet". A previous resident of Texas, she raved about the stellar bus system in San Antonio, making a point to praise their clean-cut drivers. She was shocked to come here and see ponytails and dreadlocks on our bus operators.
Our next trip the wet streets were taking their toll: at least two incidents of disabled vehicles blocking the right lane.
Midway through the shift, an older man with a white-haired ponytail requiring three rubber bands to keep under control boarded talking on his phone.
"You can't have Afraid to Open Doors Syndrome," he was saying to someone on the other end, loudly. They hung up and he came up to me and shared his frustration with an ineffective coworker. They were making decent money to apply PUSH/PULL decals to storefront entry doors, and his coworker was screwing around, ruining it for everyone.
The weather had stifled the typical bustle of the weekend, but the earth came alive in the diminished activity despite the dampness. An anhinga flew low in front of us just before Prospect. Near Copans Rd, thousands of tiny butterflies in the lawn in front of a U-Haul, making the ground itself flutter with life.