Thursday, March 16, 2017

Kissin' cat's eyes

Mid-morning start for a Sunday on the 34. Headed to the start point at Coral Ridge Drive to wait for my pullout time. Once there, still in the seat, front door open, spot a woman on the sidewalk winding up her morning jog. Her long-sleeve light blue running shirt was an eye-catcher as she strode up to the bus, cell phone in right hand by her side. Rather than keep walking, she leaned into the open doorway, her empty hand balled up in a fist and outstretched toward me.
"No a/c." There was a note of disappointment in her voice, hoping for reprieve from the heat she'd worked up.
   'Little bit inside.' I thumbed back into the cabin, knowing the a/c hadn't had time to fully chill this space.
"See you later." Her flirty glance was welcome and her impeccable short dreads stayed put as she continued her long stride cool down. A nice way to start the day.

The bus stayed empty till University, where we connect with Route 2. A handful of people waited patiently, including a regular in her Toys R Us uniform. She'd given me a store coupon recently and was upset I hadn't come in to visit.

Further down the road, a wood pallet flew off the bed of the pick up truck in front of us and landed in the next lane. You never know what's going to come at you next.

First westbound trip, the morning was now warmed up and people were getting active as the Sunday sleepiness wore off. At the east layover a Broward legend appeared, Tony Montana. Not Scarface reborn, but a long-lost namesake. Proud of his 76 years and irrepressible wiry energy, he and his 89-year-old brothers swear by Texas Superfood, though he needs a sleep aid at night to keep that energy in check. Blurring green tats on his forearms and a stallion peeking out from his half-buttoned shirt testified to a hard life, softened by a scarf around his head and women's reading glasses studded with rhinestones. Before long, the blustery bravado makes its insatiable return.
"I cleaned all the homeless out of Deerfield. I have a 160-0 fight record, like Kyle's 160 kills. I need one more to break the record."
Then veering off onto his epic daily bike mileage, while wearing a backpack containing 20 pounds of sand. The sand itself is a weapon, blended with the maximum amount of cayenne pepper still legal to carry in public.
"I can hit someone's face at 10 feet." The boasts came quick and loud, a verbal force field keeping everyone at a distance.
"All the cops know me."

Around the corner after pullout, my pal Al was an unexpected visitor on this route. He gets on sweaty and ready to cool down on the bus after cooking in the morning broiler.
"It's hot outside."
   'That's how we do it in Broward County.'
"I'm going to Costa Rica, where it's just as hot and nasty."
   'Hope they have a/c down there. Send us a postcard: Wish You Were Here.'
He didn't say if they have a/c.

At the west end in the industrial park, a young man with an umbrella boarded, visibly upset. I can only guess he's been waiting for awhile, since Sunday service is notoriously spare with only a few buses on this route. We arrive at the layover a few minutes later, and his frustration intensifies when he realizes we're parking. He's trying to get to University, a mere 10 minute ride - but we have a nearly 20 minute layover.

Those first couple trips were blazing hot, now we're getting some relief as cloud cover thickens at the west end. Our next eastbound leaves the clouds behind as we drive into the sun. Street reflectors on the Turnpike overpass are angled so they catch the light and gleam like diamonds. I kiss the cat's eyes with the curbside tires, a skills test to skew the bus as far as possible from neighboring traffic without the thumpthumpthump of driving over them.

At Dixie, a man boards in a blue t-shirt sweat-soaked through from front to back, clutching a bottle of sweet tea. At the east layover he asks in a Haitian accent about a ladies dance club on 441 in Margate, which means he needs to head back the other way. I'm not familiar with the place but it sounds exciting, so I ask for the address to help him locate it. I can see he'll need Route 19: dix-neuf. He was speaking Spanish on the phone a moment earlier, so he's clearly multilingual, and gives me a language lesson.
"French, the mouth is closed; Creole, mouth is open."

Underway now, our friend who was previously getting lost was found again at his usual stop. He's holding a massive SAT study book today, presumably in pursuit of a teaching gig. Coincidentally he's studying French and recites some roughly yet clearly.
"Both of my parents are either bilingual or trilingual, but I only speak English. When they came to this country they thought it was best if I was raised to know only English."

At Turtle Creek, a man in his 20s loaded his bike on the rack but held the seat separately. He pointed out the seat post on the bike had bent and broken, so the seat fell off. It had happened while riding, and the lever to tighten the seat had torn a huge hole in the rear of his camo shorts, exposing his underwear. I didn't even know what to say at the situation, bizarre as it was. He took it in stride, laughed it off, and kept on going.

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