Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Hold on loosely

Sometimes the longest days are the ones you sign up for. When I signed up to work on my day off, I was given an early morning report time, but no assignment. After sitting around for a couple hours, I was cut loose and instructed to return for a PM shift. Dispatch gave me an evening piece on the 62, one of those neighborhood routes not restricted to any one road, but meandering around the north part of the county. Senior drivers favor the route for its low key pace. About the only downsides are the hour and a half trip from end to end, and layovers that are over all too quickly. There are a hundred turns, but some drivers like that.

When my bus arrived late to the relief point at the Tri-Rail Park & Ride, I was ready to hop in the driver's seat and go. A handful of passengers were also waiting, I gestured them on board while getting my mirrors positioned. A young man on the platform asked if this bus went to such and such a place, I calculated he needed the 62 going the other direction and let him know. Shut the doors and away we pulled out.

No sooner were we back on route than I could hear the whispers in the back about my response to the young man, and realized my ignorance had failed us both, at least temporarily. Although we were going the wrong direction for his destination, this bus was the bus he needed since we would be the next one going his way once we turned around at the end. Being a fill-in today, I wasn't familiar with the times between buses on this route.

We completed the trip and looped back around to the station stop. The man had crossed over to the correct platform and I apologized for the confusion. The mix-up wouldn't have gotten him there any faster, but at least he could be comfortable on the bus. He was gracious about it and was actually thankful to just be going the right direction now. He had taken the train up from Miami and was on his way to Our Lady Queen of Heaven Cemetery over on 441, to visit the grave of his girlfriend. Jaco Pastorius, the world's greatest bass player, is also buried at Our Lady and although this gentleman wasn't familiar with Jaco, he loved to hear about the connection. She had died a couple months earlier of complications from a car crash. Rather than languish in mourning, he was vitalized talking about her and the positive impact she had on him. He rode with us again on the return trip a couple hours later, impressed by the peaceful setting of her plot, ever grateful she was no longer suffering. Disappearing into the bus, I could hear him streaming an old Jaco video, perhaps Portrait of Tracy.

At 31st Avenue a couple boarded. Sweat-sticky from a day in the sun and inebriated from drinking the loose change given to them through car windows, the man wanted to go to a hospital on US 1, concerned about his mysteriously swelling leg. She would keep him company, taking his mind off his discomfort by nagging him to change his mind and skip the hospital. In the midst of their loud arguing, a polite young lady boarded. Like an angel of peace she glided on. The couple were unfazed, locked in their personal struggle.

The final trip was underway, and a day that had begun more than 13 hours earlier would be wrapping up in another hour or so. On Nob Hill, just south of Southgate, a boy was slowly dribbling his basketball on the sidewalk under the streetlights. I noted it out of habit, using the awareness bus operators have for anything moving in their vicinity. Maybe there was a pebble on the sidewalk, or the pavement was uneven, but the basketball took a sharp bounce out of the boy's control and came our way. I braked as quickly and safely as possible, and laid on the horn as the boy instinctively chased it. He changed his mind as the ball rolled under the still-moving bus and lined up perfectly with the rear wheels before making a POP! sound. There were no injuries, and no damage to the bus. Still, there was reason to sympathize with the boy, for his loss that a moment earlier was unimaginable.

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