Thursday, March 29, 2018

Sigh into Autumn

All good things come to an end, and these Sundays on Atlantic Boulevard had been good. The natural beauty of the ocean at one end and suburban calm at the other helped buffer the crudity of the city in between. Plus the route is shorter than most, offering more chances to get out of the seat.

Our first trip would turn out to be the busiest of the shift, despite the absence of several regulars. As he predicted the previous Sunday, the regular older man was missing at State Road 7.

   "Sir, is there any way I can get a ride to..." asked a stubble-faced man at Powerline. Where he was going exactly came out mumbled. "I been out here all night." His scruffy friend nodded and quietly voiced agreement.
'You have? You've had a rough night!' I sympathized with them.
   "Two buses passed me by." He added to embellish their hardship.
'This is the first bus. You can ride with us.'

A woman whose ample upper body nearly poured out of her clingy top boarded at the same stop, slid her fare in the box, then slid into an upper deck seat. She was grooving to some tunes on her earbuds, didn't hear my greeting, and gave the bus a loud, off-key karaoke show of '80s female pop songs. "Like a prayer..."

A familiar little old man found his way on. He was not a regular, but made an impression with his mute, sad smile and blurry serial number tattooed on his forearm. Small and weathered, his strong arms had no trouble lifting his bike onto the rack.

At least one regular would see me off today, an older gentleman who made his habitual trip to the Publix bakery for a fresh baguette.

It may have been a Sunday, but it was also the beginning of the month, and everyone with government benefits was out and about. The bus filled up and so did the bike rack. A month of Sundays wouldn't see it this busy. We finally got to the east end layover by Walgreens and a crowd was already waiting to get off the sizzling sidewalk and into the bus oasis.

The next trips would be much calmer and allow me to notice things beyond the task at hand. The ever-advising marquee sign at Furman Insurance had a new posting:

The smoker was fired up at Malvo's Chill Spot, set up every Sunday on the south side of the street just before the Intracoastal bridge, luring those looking to picnic on the beach with some jerk chicken and pork.

Back to the reason I'm in the seat, visitors in a lazy season paid their visits. The girl with the raining hair wasn't in her usual spot under the oak trees, creating immediate discouragement after so many months of pulling up to her feet. Things were made right when I spotted her a short distance from the stop, running late. Gave her a sign of acknowledgment, pulled over and waited, received her and the grateful smile.

In the middle of it all, at a stop never too busy but always occupied, boarded a young lady with the basic features that might make someone look twice in admiration. The area below her neckline was exposed, prominently revealing inked skin. A broken heart sat inside a message of disillusionment. 

The final stop arrived on time, my relief awaited me. It was someone else today, filling in. Usually I would take one of our taxis back to the garage with another driver also getting off his shift. Apparently some other arrangements had been made and he was missing also. It fit the pattern of the day with everything being off a click, not quite up to speed. As I drove back alone on this final Sunday of the pick, reviewing memories of all the Sundays before, I sighed and called it a day.

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