Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Annum Recognition: 3

Three years ago this blog was birthed from the boundless life flowing through our streets every day. A year later the famed dragon blood tree on Andrews Avenue downtown still displayed the mature, stately glory it had been for decades. The following year, this venerable rarity showed its age as nearly half the plant broke away. A valiant effort to preserve the remnant ultimately proved to be a losing battle against time and the march of all living things back into the earth. Our community is blessed to have a plentiful share of earth's wonders, and a large number of residents who appreciate them.

Our very presence here, on the end of this distinctive peninsula, is a wonder in itself. With a limestone bedrock laid down by untold trillions of microscopic sea creatures, a sandy topsoil deposited here in the distant past after eroding from Appalachian mountains that were once as tall as the Himalayas, and abundant rainfall that prevents the land from turning into another Sahara Desert (with which it shares the same latitude) - things just grow here.

Broward County's constantly booming population contributes almost 2 million residents to the tri-county total of over 6 million. Those numbers aren't getting smaller, and public transit is a vital service providing crucial support for our quality of life. With more people comes more everyday life, and that's what flows through my bus every day.

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This morning shift shift on the 10 was only a couple round trips. It was by no means the first bus of the day, starting downtown at the Central Terminal shortly before sunrise. New LED lights in the terminal lit up the rows bright as day until the real thing could take over. The city was waking up with a bubbling frenzy, and now the bus was right in the middle of it. My follower bus pulled in behind me, creating a brief moment of confusion for passengers until I waved them aboard my bus and we pulled out of our cloistered bay and plunged into service among the heaving pulse of the boulevard.

I pulled over to the first stop at Stranahan Park for a man waiting patiently. When he asked for "US 1" I had to make sure which part of US 1 he needed; the 10 services the part north of Broward Boulevard, the #1 services all points south. It was the #1 he needed and which he'd just missed, but I assured him another was on the way and he was at the right stop. From that point we have to get the bus over to the left lane before reaching US 1 a couple blocks away. As I signaled and gradually shifted lanes, a car behind crazily honked its horn far more than necessary. Although I could see him clearly and yielded for him, that motorist couldn't know for certain and was taking every measure to announce his intention. Such an attentive driver is much appreciated when we are routinely interacting with distracted drivers.

We made it through the congestion in time to get in line at the red light for US 1 before turning north. Ahead of us in the inside turn lane was a box truck for a bakery. The rear roll-up door was open, and the driver (a young man in his 30s) was out of the seat and tending to stacks of trays loaded with bread, hastily rearranging and strapping them down. A woman jumped out of the passenger door, hurried to the back to check on him, then jumped back in to her own seat before the light turned green.

Bikes were loaded and unloaded, someone told me "it ain't no good morning" after I'd wished them a good one, another asked me to let them know when we got to Commercial, still another said you couldn't pay him to wear those shorts, and the bus annunciator was announcing coded techno-talk during one of its updates. "Can you repeat that message?" an older man joked.

It was to be expected that we'd pull into our north layover a little late, but we still had a few minutes to stretch out before heading back south. Transit is a game of minutes, and sometimes seconds. A few blocks south of Sample Road, I noted an empty bus stop normally occupied by a young lady heading to work. I slowed and looked down the side street in case she was running late and it was a good thing or I wouldn't have seen her. She was winded as she hopped aboard smiling with gratitude. "Thank you so much! You got my back, man!"

The next trip north didn't have any exhibitionist bread trucks or snarky commentary, but the bus surely runneth over with sunshine. In fact, the lady I call the sunshine of Broward Transit paid a visit. In her cheery manner she shared her delight in the cool weather of the season and brightened the bus with her infectious smile. It was so catchy there was a double case of the smiles when we got up to Pompano where the two older Brazilian ladies awaited at their regular stop on the way to Boca.

All morning there had been a persistent sight at nearly every intersection: flocks of starlings. Immense numbers of them clouding the sky, covering powerlines and mast arms. This was not their daily ritual, but apparently it was the right time according to natural instinct. Starlings often remind me of the pin-feathered chicks I rescued awhile back. That episode impressed upon me how we are all like the little birds at some point, helpless and vulnerable in an overwhelming world.

Our final trip had only begun, we neared the Gateway curve to head up north one last time. An older gentleman boarded, his long white hair conjuring up the classic hippie image. He stood up front and in soft-spoken words shared his sadness.
"I almost committed suicide a month ago. The gun felt heavy, but I couldn't go through with it. If God could sacrifice his own son, who am I?"

I don't recall how I responded, though at the very least I listened with compassion and to make sure he was not a threat to himself or others. He was calm and spoke clearly. His pensive mood indicated someone at peace for the moment. Sometimes that's enough out here.

Light, dark, smiles, cynicism, and nature's timeless cycles. We are in the middle of it and there's no filter on the doors of the bus. This is the stuff of Life. And it's waiting at the next stop.

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