Thursday, November 30, 2017

Everlasting arms

"I was a celebrity's girlfriend, now I'm alone." Her worry wrinkles and crow's feet glistened a little more behind the glint of her glasses. It was awful early for confession time, a still dark morning somewhere along the 2 route. At this time of morning-night, on this stretch of road, and with a rolling suitcase clasped in a rear-stretched arm behind her it was obvious she'd spent the previous hours out here. A lavender shawl shared its color when she crossed the threshold into the bus.
   At Stirling, our friend in a creative t-shirt boarded, and it looked like sadness was going to be the theme of the day. His battle against discouragement would be ongoing, as it often is.

   Had a nice layover at 207th St, flipped the bus around to head back north with a new trip and a new direction brighter than the first one.
   A young man was unfamiliar with the area and was looking for a particular street. He was afraid of missing it and stayed close by while I assisted him. The section of University Drive just north of Pines Boulevard is paralleled by a canal, with a sidewalk in between. Protecting the sidewalk and potential detours into the canal is a lengthy guardrail, with occasional cut outs for bus stops. While helping out the young man, the stop request bell chimed, I registered it, but still missed the next cut out. An older woman had pulled the cord, and with the guardrail preventing any kind of safe alternative exit we would have to proceed a bit further. This inconvenience triggered a tempest.
   "You need to pay attention to the signal, that's what it's there for! You missed the stop, Driver!" A voice that shook the entire bus raged from her deceptively small form, and things got dark again as she lit into me. I immediately apologized with sincere contrition.  It had been a long time since I got that kind of treatment, and I was surprised by it.
   Just past Broward Blvd, the former Plantation Fashion Mall was a demolished pile of rubble. The old was being cleared to make way for the future quite different from its past.

   The shift was nearly half over and so far it was skewing decidedly downward. Into each life some rain must fall, and we weather the storm trusting growth will result on the other side. A bus driver spends a lot of time in the bus, moving through wildly different settings and interactions. It is a comfort to consider that every trip we're "reborn" and get a fresh start. Pulling into the north layover at Westview Drive brought this trip to a merciful end. Before the bus came to a stop, a large man with trim graying beard rose from the bench and headed for the entrance steadied by a wooden cane.
   "Can I come on during your break?" He inquired politely, and of course I welcomed him aboard while he commented on the heat.
   'That's how you know where you are. Rub your finger down your back. Most of the world wishes they were here.'
   "You know it's a right for those who live here to bitch about Florida." I couldn't argue with that logic, and it made a natural transition to discuss New Yorkers who say their city is the best, yet moved away. He too was from there, but far more effusive about his year in Hawaii among jumping humpbacks, cruising dolphins, smoking volcanoes, and giant Samoans. Some people are travelers, not tourists, and he was one of those who absorbed everything in his environment and could talk about it in a thoughtful manner. He only went a few stops down the road with me, but somehow we covered thousands of miles before he exited with an Aloha and Mahalo.

   The empty space left by the thoughtful traveler was soon filled by my friend the Afghan. It had been some time since he last stopped by, so I asked about the trip to his homeland. He hadn't gone after all, citing the high cost to do the journey right. His accent is heavy but refined, and pleasant to hear and decipher. I reminded him to send a postcard.

   Sometimes our uniqueness is our blessing, and such a person showed up on cue with hers. Always giggly and ready to laugh, she has special needs yet still gets around independently, excited to be off on her errands. Simple joy is a powerful antidote for complex stressors.

   Later in the shift, and we were in the home stretch. A man entered with a horribly scarred forearm. Doctors wanted to amputate, sure the damage put it beyond saving. This man was not ready to give in so quickly, though the pain must have been immense when it occurred. The fingers no longer closed, something he would remedy with therapy. Numb nerves meant he felt no pain whatsoever beneath the healed wounds. We were looking at a miracle, reminding us of a strength beyond our hands.

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