Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Ten plus sixty

Many operators don't care for split shifts, and with good reason. Sometimes we just want to settle into a shift and stay there until time is up. A split means two shifts, two buses, and usually two routes.

This day's split started with the 10 and would later see me on the 60. With a massive FEC southbound train rumbling by next door, I began boarding the 10 at Central Terminal. A cyclist loaded his bike on the rack, and an accessory on the handlebar caught my eye: a cup holder woven from palm fronds.
   'How do I get one of those?' I had to know.
"You come to Hollywood beach and I make you one," he readily replied, as if that was all I needed to know.

Once we got uptown, an older gentleman jumped as we neared his stop, suddenly aware that he'd reached his destination.
"This is my stop!" His exclamation sounded like he was getting his bearings.
   'You're leaving so soon? We have a lot of road ahead.' It was my invitation to continue his adventure.
"Nooo, I don't wanna go to Boca. Those women wanna spend all your money."

Well into Pompano now, a familiar duo came into view, along with a third, even more familiar face. It was the tenacious young lady with lupus, and her boyfriend. The other passenger with them is a Pompano long-timer, dressed for a day at sea on a fishing charter. A true gentleman, he deferred to the determined woman and let her board first. Her grimace with every simple movement was replaced with a smile when she got to the door and noticed I was there.
"Hey! Long time, no see!" Her greeting was an inner strength shining past her physical frailties.
   'How we feelin' today?' I immediately regretted bringing up the obvious.
"Oh, not good."
    'Take your time.' It was a struggle to lift her legs, and her perseverance conquered the challenge.

With her safely seated, the fisherman stood up front.
   'Any good fishing?' I asked, since he's the expert.
"Not last weekend. It gets like that in the summer. But we'll see."
   'That's the thing about fishing, you never know what's gonna happen.'

On my flip trip back to Central Terminal, I picked up another operator in uniform, heading into work. With our weird work schedules, it's not always feasible to use the bus on work days. I generally do it at least once a week, and still ride on my days off. I've been riding BCT for decades now, and when people complain about service fails I recall those days when service was much less frequent. We've come a long way, baby.

The afternoon piece on the 60 would soon become notorious for traffic delays and a bus load of students, but this day started off smooth and showed promise. We were on pace after servicing BC North Campus, and would only be a couple minutes late into the Pompano transit center. Then we came to the train tracks and all hope was lost. The gate arms were malfunctioning, stuck in the down position though no train was on the way. We eventually got permission from dispatch to make a u-turn and get around the obstacle, but by the time we finally got to the transit center we were nearly half an hour down and it would be impossible to make up any time as the afternoon progressed and traffic snarled. Fortunately a supervisor would reset us later and though we never got on time the rest of the shift, at least we were within sight of the schedule.

At the college I picked up one of my neighbors. She was tired after a long day, and it was a pleasure to give her a chance to take a load off and head home to relax. No relaxing for drivers on the 60, though, with relentless congestion and several road construction sites.

We flipped it at Central Terminal for our final northbound before heading to the garage. Not sure where he got on, but a young man covered with punk rock tats hopped on and perked up when saw me.
"Remember me from the 50 last week?" He asked, and the day came back to me. It had actually been a couple weeks before, and he had been under a lot of stress after getting an eviction notice with little time to make new plans.
"Yeah man, I got a new apartment!" It was good to see the stress was gone and things were looking up.
"Plus I hit four numbers on Lotto. My girlfriend didn't believe me."

His good fortune would be contrasted by the homeless crew hanging out at 31st Ave & Hammondville, across from the county detention center. One man was panhandling while we waited at a red light. He was holding out a spray of crape myrtle, with flowers matching those on some nearby landscaping.
"I'm trying to make a dollar so I can get some bus fare," he slurred as he came up to my window. "I just got outta jail and they're all outta passes."
Now I generally don't carry cash when I'm working, but I started to dig for some spare change.
"No! I don't want your money, just a bus ride later. Can I get you a soda or something if I make enough?"
   'Get yourself a cool drink, it's hot out there.'
"Hey! I'm always cool!"

The new pick has begun. My variety pack this time mixes the old with the new: 10, 19, 31, 36, 81, 83. From Central Terminal to Boca, and Pompano to Coral Springs, I'll be all over town. See ya out there.

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