Thursday, April 6, 2017
In my heart
We picked up the eccentric cyclist and he wasn't talking about the weather when he joked about going under the Doppler Radar today. Life is bound to bring us all a collection of scars, and he proudly displayed an impressive one on his abdomen, gouged there by an infection during a hospital stay.
"I just had surgery and got up to go to the bathroom, but the nurse thought I was falling and went to catch me. She was holding two bags of IV fluid and grabbed me with the bags, right on the surgery spot. The doctor almost fired her."
About this time Mr. Pickle boarded, heading to work at his Pickle Spot in Festival Flea Market. Somehow our conversation turned on me and the two of them were shocked when I told them I was working from 6 am to 7 pm, with an evening run to Miami on the 95 Express after this local shift. There tends to be a wide chasm between the ridership of our premium express service and those on the local routes. They rarely overlap, and each group is unfamiliar with the other service. So I wasn't surprised when they asked me if I'm on the 441 Breeze, which is promoted as a limited-stop express service, but in fact stays on surface streets. I started to explain the differences and was met with looks ranging from confused to betrayed, as if I was a wayward father with two families. Mr. Pickle soon exited and conversation ended.
After the Tri-Rail station, we passed the AMPM Food Mart with at least a dozen day laborers hanging around for someone to come by and offer work.
A Haitian woman boards and asks for "Pompano", but can't be more precise.
Pulling up to the red light at Dixie, a 50 bus barrels by southbound. It stops close to this corner and a man in a pink button-down jumps out and races over to my bus. For those I'm familiar with, I'll joke that it takes a real man to wear pink. This guy is a stranger, so I skip that idea and go with a simple compliment: 'You're fast.'
"When I got a knee replacement, they gave me an upgrade! Like Steve Austin."
'Where do I get that?' I had to know.
We flip around at the east end and a familiar face from the 10 is waiting on 33rd Street. A perennial Grumpy Gus who once told me to "give it more gas" so he could get his coffee before his connecting bus, he was a regular when I drove the 10. Now I was picking him up where I left him off. Uncharacteristically sociable today, though still a dour front as usual. Some reasons for that started to become known.
"I'm ex-military. That's where I got hooked on coffee. I put cognac in it on the weekend."
From there he listed his complaints about BCT: bad schedules and bad drivers. I was with him on the first thing, as for the second complaint my answer is always: We got all kinds.
Now we're bookin' it back the other way, heading east. Another regular with a bike boards at Turtle Creek. Semi-retired until Social Security kicks in, he flashes a LAID OFF - RENT DUE sign at Powerline. Unabashed about how he makes ends meet until then, he wistfully recalls receiving $100 bills in west Broward. Far smaller denominations come his way on this dusty stretch of warehouses at the base of Mt. Trashmore. His voice audibly broke when he remembered one young man in a BMW giving him all the money in his pockets; he grabbed the generous giver's forearm and said, "You're blessed."
He cleared his throat, lowered it to a whisper, and came in a little closer: "Over here, people of color are the most consistently giving, while our own kind sneer at me. Took me 60 years to really see, though I knew in my heart."
While at the east layover, I did a walk-through and found a hat left behind. It was the second one of the morning.
At some point a petite, wan young lady boarded, clean and with a freshly made up face. Her blank expression brightened when I said hi, and she stood up front while we rolled.
"I'm a little nervous about what I have to do now, I'm not happy about it." Her first words came resigned and tentative, grasping for a life preserver. Not wanting to pry into what she had awaiting her, I tried to think of some encouragement for this skeletal girl with the sweet disposition.
'We've all been there, this too shall pass.'
"Thank you." She seemed bolstered as she slipped out the door.
At Holiday Springs, a woman held a baby, perhaps her grandchild, and pointed up into a tree near the bus stop, smiling.