Friday, October 20, 2017
Back to normal
At State Road 7 an unhurried early afternoon crowd deferred to an older couple connected at the hip.
'Careful there, nice n' easy. Take your time...' I coaxed them with all due care. The old woman's smile was bright and true as she helped her old man along, the thin bracelet on his wrist indicating his recent hospital visit.
"We're married for 46 years. And we love each other." She was their voice and strength this day, surely just one of her many turns in those many years.
We pulled out of the Northeast transit center a couple minutes down, and things were looking good for a timely arrival at the east end. No sooner did we exit the center and pull up to the light on Dixie, when the adjacent FEC RR lights started flashing and we had to yield to the original mechanical transport, that old iron horse squealing on its thin metal ribbons for the past 120 years. Two minutes turned into ten.
A short break and back to the west we went. At 27th Ave, three young men sat in the bus shelter, smoking a heavy lazy smoke. One boarded while the others stayed behind with the smoke. The pungency of what he was smoking reached me before he did. His dollar bill didn't want to go in the box, prompting one of the friends to giggle crazily.
This trip was rolling smoothly, too smoothly for an afternoon on Atlantic Boulevard. The reason was obvious when my leader came into view short of the west end. She'd been taking the brunt of the increased demand. About this time a guy sidled up to me. Bus drivers can also be sounding boards when someone needs to talk. He told me how he'd been homeless on the streets for 6 weeks now, and it wasn't easy.
"I'm trying to get back to normal." He stated with surety.
'You'll get there.' I encouraged him.
Heading east again and the sleeper is still aboard. Apparently homeless, with his collection of bags holding all his belongings. He used his backpack as a body pillow, hugging it close to his chest. Another tote bag sat nearby, a long umbrella handle sticking out. A white styrofoam cup hung upside down on the handle, perhaps to deter the quick grab or as a sign of surrender.
The after school crowd is joining us now, from the large middle and high schools in the suburbs. I caught my leader again at the east layover. She's having a rough day and is losing ground by the minute. She gets a reset and deadheads somewhere down the road, leaving me to do the picking up.
It's a weekday, but a face from Sunday is waiting for me under some shady oak trees. It's the Indian girl with a snaggletooth smile.
"Half hour late!" She complained through her smile.
'Sorry for the wait!' I apologized. My bus was on time, but she was late to work and no explanations would change that. As she exited at Dixie I encouraged her not to let it ruin her day. The kind smile returned.
At Lyons Road there was my leader yet again. I leapfrogged her to give her some relief. She was so busy dropping off she never caught us until we got to the west layover. She got another reset and booked it to the Northeast transit center.
Now it was my turn to work. We soon had a standing load, with the usual complaints about long waits. Unfortunately the bus is at the mercy of a million time-eaters, and this time of day calls for an extra dose of patience from all of us. The drama, the chaos, the energy, the urgency keep us from getting bored. Anything else wouldn't be normal.