Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Key word: adjust

The sweetest time on the 60, doing the first bus of the day out of Central Terminal. Downtown still sleeps while the gears of the city wind up for a new day. The soft glow of crooked street lights pierces the dull darkness, artificial stars of human proportion. The sun hasn't thought to wake up yet, so we will make our own light.

The regulars board at this time, folks with places to be while others dream in bed. Pulling out of the terminal, heading north up Andrews Ave, a street like no other if only for its vital conduit at the heart of Broward County. While gentrification makes its predictable march along the shoulders, the roadway itself remains cast in stone with lanes too narrow by today's standards. Time-scarred sabals tempt fate as they lean their shredded skins a hand's width away from the steady pulse of traffic. Buses better watch their mirrors along here, and ease over the puddle-collecting dips and buckles underneath.

Jutting out at the visual promontory where the FEC RR meets the street named for its creator, Flagler Drive, sits Lighthouse for the Blind. The obscured bus stop there seems to have sprouted a strobe light this morning. It is a headlamp of a passenger waiting to load his bike on the rack, and determined not to miss the bus. I compliment him on his creative attention-getter while he feeds the machine for a day pass.

We make our appointed trek uptown, with the usual busy spots at Commercial, 56th St, Tri-Rail, and Race Track Rd on the way to the Pompano transit center. Connections are made with other routes and the 60 then makes its most daring venture of the route, a sharp turn westward along Martin Luther King Jr Blvd. The road formerly known as Hammondville has recently received a permanent name change after decades of dual-name status evoking the history of a Broward long past. Next comes the Collier City loop, then over the Turnpike, followed by anxious concern from passengers since we don't enter BC North Campus on this first trip. From there it's a straight shot to 441 in time for the majority of those remaining on board to connect to the 441 Breeze heading south to Golden Glades. Two stops later we're at the north layover, where I and whoever's left wander into Dunkin' Donuts for some caffeine.

The sun is starting to peek over the eastern edge as I return with cup in hand and a dark figure waits near the bus. I thank him for his patience and the floodgates are released. My policy is to make folks comfortable with being sociable so strangers can be instant friends. This young man dressed in black took his cue and came on strong. If I wasn't awake before, I had no choice but to focus up now. A raw blend of bitterness and resignation flowed freely as he settled into a seat up front, while I scalded my palate from sipping too quickly. Claiming to be oppressed, before detailing why MLK's dream is another man's nightmare, he soon resolved to leave the US. A side argument with a young lady defending MLK after this disparagement soon fizzled out, so he returned to me. The earlier vociferous introduction was now replaced with calm introspection. His polemic continued in an orderly process, wrestling with the mixing of the nations, promising not to hate me since I may have Moorish blood, and finally discouragement while desperately grasping for a foothold in the mystery of humanity.

A few hours later I was making the same path as that first trip, servicing the Pompano transit center for the last time of the shift. An older man boarded, his casual Hawaiian button-down shirt providing a welcome splash of color against the drab trim of the bus interior. He stayed up front by the yellow line, bracing against the stanchion.
"So, are you getting the hang of things?" It was a broad question to start with, the kind you might get later in a conversation.
   'Hang of things? Where?' Rather than assume anything, I needed a clue.
"Oh, the job in general."
   'That? No way, never! Just when I think I've got the hang of things, I learn that I don't.'
"I think the key word is adjust. Most things in life are like that."
   'That's very true. Adjust, adapt. It's not one size fits all.'
"Like me, I don't like riding the bus, but don't have enough for a car right now, so I adjust."

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