10 is a sweet route to start with, gliding up and down Federal Highway from Broward Boulevard to Palmetto Park Road in Boca Raton.
My deadhead trip to Central Terminal was sunny, but still early enough to give way to the shadows of downtown towers. We pulled out of the terminal to start our service on the least-hectic day of the week. At ArtServe, Dierdre was waiting under the black olives. It had been awhile since we'd seen each other over here so it was new to see her in a colorful shirt for a car wash up the street. She was working at Goodwill before and was excited about this new job.
"I worked 9 hours yesterday! Non-stop, it flew by."
A man in fatigues and both arms weighted with luggage stepped up to the curb at Wagner Tire, our last shared stop with the 36 before turning northward. He set one bag down by the farebox to remove his pass from his mouth and give it a smooth swipe before reversing the process and finding a seat.
'We're all in the same bus!' I offered up out of recognition. Quite some time ago he coined that phrase in response to my tired recitation of 'We're all in the same boat.' At that time he had more luggage and created a minor delay for the bus as he got everything stowed aboard. He was apologetic then and I assured him of my patience since we all have similar predicaments from time to time. Now after recognizing him and his creative contribution, he drew a blank and didn't remember saying it. Remember or not, it was still true now as it was then.
In Boca Raton, we waved Good Morning at old man Mizner's pedestalled statue, with mischievous Johnnie Brown on his shoulder. Pulling into our north layover by the Publix, a regular there couldn't wait to board. Half-paralyzed on one side, this was his turf. Perpetually with a portable cooler in his good hand, he set it down to pay his fare and shuffle to a seat by the rear door. Painfully self-conscious, he had no patience for others on the bus.
"People always lookin' at me weird. Makes me sick to my..." He complained loudly with piercing squeaky voice.
It was easy time going back south, keeping on schedule. Someone requested the Greyhound stop.
There are bus fans, and then there are fans of bus operators. Francois is one of the latter. Exchanging fist bumps at Central Terminal, he talked about his favorite drivers as he stood in the slot for another route.
Even on the weekend, weekday chaos can make a visit. Approaching Copans Road, a fresh rear-end fender bender was sitting in the middle lane. Our timing was fortuitous as ambulances and police pulled up to the wreck while we sat at the red light. The bus squeezed through the flurry of activity before the scene was closed off.
Any return to the 10 would be incomplete without an appearance by a legend on the route, Miss Patty. This time however, she appeared in name only. Heading back to the garage after our shifts, the other driver in the taxi told me she heard Patty had died. This was the first I'd heard of it, and feared the worst since I hadn't seen or heard of her for longer than I could remember. Life on the streets toughens those who call it home, and also takes them away without warning. It was stunning news, but would be hard to accept without evidence. Time would tell more about her fate.