Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Easier kept than recovered

Our Sunday morning service starts after the sun has risen. The darkness of the night before is gone, when a full moon brightens the world with its gentle glow. A remnant of our waning satellite hangs low in the white-blue sky. Wispy clouds and the silhouette of a southbound flock of ibis create an active scene above Atlantic Boulevard, pleasant silence in their motions.

   The moon isn't the only thing holding over from the night before. Halfway into our first trip a drunk couple are hung over and nearly collapsing as they drag into the cabin.
   "My crazy wife kept feeding me beers!" He announces in her hearing, jokingly proud of his catch.

   Things mellowed out for the church time stretch, mostly just folks heading out to shop while stores were less likely to be busy. We'd finished our first round trip and pulled into the west layover, by the fire station on Coral Springs Drive. That stop gets very little play at that time, but today was different: a dozen young men, Brazilian by their speech. Way out here, spitting distance from the Everglades, and all were dressed for the beach. This is about as far inland as you can get in this part of the county, and they had a 45 minute bus ride ahead getting to the part that falls into the ocean.
   Late morning now, things were heating up when all three slots on the bike rack were loaded by Rock Island. The rack was full, but the bus wasn't so when we pulled up to a fourth bike we let him hold it inside by the exit door. His earlier look of dejection at the prospects of either riding the bike or waiting an hour for the next bus was replaced with relief.
   Yes, the day was heating up as people bounced around town. At the stop just before the CSX tracks, a woman boarded with a disturbed look, giving an odd description to someone on the other end of her phone call. Something about hair and clothes color. Her gaze looked past me, so I turned to the left and saw what the disturbance was about. Across the street, in front of a bus stop shelter, a slim, leggy woman with long brunette hair was strutting back and forth in her pink underwear. Her bra was pulled down, the body parts it was supposed to be supporting were bouncing about for passing traffic. This topless exposure had the Brazilian boys in the back going wild, falling over each other to get a look at what would normally be reserved for the nearby strip clubs. Despite the initial excitement of the display, this manic behavior by someone's fallen daughter was a sympathetic scene.
   Her impact lingered as we serviced the transit center and crossed the FEC tracks, new passengers unaware of the reason for the excited chatter in the back of the bus. The distinctive Furman Insurance building rose beside us, the frequently changed marquee sign stoically advising "Character is much easier kept than recovered."
   The bus squeezed through the relic bridge over the Intracoastal and everyone exited on the sandy sidewalk as they shuffled over to the pier. Fortunately I had some good recovery time at the layover so I secured the bus and headed over to an empty beach lot to breathe some salty air and ponder the previous trip. A woman parking on the side street asked me if it was ok to park here; this has happened there before, the blue uniform makes people nervous. Once I set my sights on the endless ocean, everything floated away like driftwood on the silver ripples.

   The shift was half over when we rolled back inland, fluffy gray-bellied clouds growing by the block. A man in military fatigues hawked American flags during the red light at Powerline. From there, the road curves around Palm Aire's massive property before a steep overpass at the Turnpike. Lyons Road lays at the bottom of the overpass and due to the intersection design it is a long stretch between bus stops. The stops there are lightly used that time of week and I was gearing to glide by since no one was waiting on the other side. Some movement behind the bus shelter caught my eye and I slowed. A shirtless man had been laying in the grass and jumped up when the bus approached. He pulled a green Hulk t-shirt over his dirty, lanky brown hair and presented me with a transfer from Miami-Dade Transit. Pompano is about 20 miles from Dade County, so a transfer between the two transit systems was a bit of a stretch.
   "I've been trying to get to the terminal for 3 days, I need to get to the airport." He didn't know which airport, so he opted to go along for the ride. He wouldn't have to sleep in the weeds this way.

  Random people and objects make their way on the bus every trip, and the next one gave us someone's stinky feet, an acapella concert, scabby skin conditions, a jedi, a dwarf, and a white-washed mountain bike (probably camouflage). Just before the Intracoastal, the gate arms came down, the bells sounded, the lights flashed to indicate the drawbridge would be opening. It's a frustrating thing when the end of the line is so close. Fortunately we were at the head of the line and would be the first over when the yachts were finished passing through. We lost our place however, when four crotch rockets pulled in front of us, parked their bikes, and showed off for selfies. The boats floated by, the bridge creaked back down, and we finished the trip with enough time to get out of the seat. At the last stop, the lost traveler in the Hulk shirt asked about the beach and exited. Guess he decided against trying to get to the terminal, or the airport.

   Finally, the home stretch had arrived where I had half a trip left and would get relieved on the road. The east end was sunny, but as we headed westward the clouds massed into solid cover. At Powerline a young latina boarded. Her engagement ring was lovely but for one crucial detail: there was no polished stone in the empty setting.

   A hunched little old man loaded a small purple BMX bike on the rack with his wiry strong arms. Where he boarded eludes me now, but I had picked him up earlier that morning going the opposite direction. He was an occasional regular on these Sunday mornings, we always greeted each other with smiles though I don't recall him actually saying anything. On his inner forearm, the blurred digits of an old tattoo are all the more visible since it sits there all alone. Not being familiar enough to inquire about it, I can only imagine the path that led him here today. My shift was nearly over, and this man's quiet migrations were a reminder that none of us knows what Life will bring at the next stop.