Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Head in the sand

The bus was a bunch of sleepyheads on our first trip south down University Drive. Such foot-dragging and seat-slouching stood out since my day had begun hours earlier. It was Saturday, we were on our way, and it wasn't even 6 a.m.

At this time of day, everything is gravy. Passengers shuffle off to day jobs, time points are realistic, and the crush of congestion at 595 is a problem for future travelers. An hour later, when we depart West Terminal, the light is fresh and our day begins in earnest.

At Commercial Blvd, a drooping profile waits with his briefcase. His suit reveals a natty fashion sense accumulated over untold years in the industry, but his footwear clinches the impression. For most of his trip, we will hear laconic reviews of the shoes he sells. When he tells us he has the best alligator and ostrich skin shoes available, we believe him.

At Stirling Rd, a familiar crestfallen figure emerged from hiding in the shadow of the bus shelter. This had happened the week previous, when I was less prepared for this 20-something who was smooth-shaven and worry-wrinkled. When I'd greeted him before, tears welled up in the corners of his eyes and no words were given in return.
   'One of those days? Hang in there.' My encouragement was premature and presumptive; the day was too new to have gone sour, and his muteness was no proof of discouragement. Still, it seemed to fit at that moment.
Today I tried a different direction, to stoke imagination and possibility with my friend in the wide-eyed space cat t-shirt.
   'Ready for another exciting Saturday?'
"Yeah man, it's one of those days. I'm on a mission, man!" His smiling eyes and light slap on my shoulder were a complete reversal from before. His back straightened and he glided to his usual seat in the rear upper deck.

At West Terminal for a mid-trip layover, I was off the bus for a stretch when a young Asian exchange student exited my bus and approached me. Another passenger was asking her for a date; he wanted to take her to the casino. In broken English she let me know she didn't feel safe, so I offered to call Security. She declined and opted to wait for the next bus, so long as he wasn't on it.

Somewhere before Commercial, a young lady put $20 in the fare box before I could tell her we only sell day passes on the bus. I gave her a courtesy pass and scribbled the customer service number on back.

At the north end oppressive clouds were massing as struggling and exasperated young men boarded along the way. The pattern of gloom appeared set in asphalt until our final visit to West Terminal, when a breath of fresh air in the form of a beaming smile came to the door. It was Mister, a long lost regular on the 36 who I hadn't seen in a long while. He was there to save the day from depressing collapse with a cheerful greeting, a fist bump, and well wishes.

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