Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Keeps me alive

My regular early-morning start on the 2: Report at 5 a.m., inspect the bus, and roll down south to pull out in the dark at West Terminal. We had an old Gillig today, and these babies can move. Not that we'd have much need for speed out here on University Drive, a main trunk line through suburbia. Still, it's reassuring to know you have the option.

The day started like clockwork, on time and without incident. There wasn't going to be any excitement today, not out here. Nope, just the predictable routine of folks heading to work and school and errands. We were all here together to watch the sun rise from way inland. The sun decided to wake up late today, and when it was time to pull out of the north layover in Coral Springs, the sky was still wrapped in a dreary overcast. Large flocks of ibis flew low toward their grazing grounds in the east.

At Sample Road I issued a courtesy pass to a gentleman who paid for one on the 34 he just transferred from but hadn't received it since the farebox wasn't printing passes. We all got a little wake up call by the Plantation Fashion Mall when a woman boarding in sweats sucked the air out of the bus. The telltale scent of stale urine made it difficult to breathe, but she got off a few stops later and a squirt of deodorizer remedied the discomfort.

The day before, my picture had been posted in our garage lobby. It was a poster of my grinning mug, along with my name and Operator of the Month title. There are only twelve operators honored this way each year, so it was a welcome recognition that I was doing something right out here on the streets of Broward County.

The traffic was only creating a minor delay this morning, still leaving me a few minutes at 207th St to stretch out before I flipped it back north. At Pembroke Road a Jamaican man suggested in smooth cadence that a shelter be installed at that stop. It was a good suggestion as that stop gets plenty of play and other stops nearby have cover. I'd forgotten to bring my sunglasses this morning, but the misty dull light made them unnecessary. On the other side of the street, I waved at one of my classmates also driving for Team 2 today.

Our final south trip and we'd only just begun, approaching Sample again there was a flurry of arms waving us down. It was only two arms on one man, but his exuberant use of them is his trademark. I pick him up in various places around town. He's a tall man, and his height is enough to to announce his presence. Sometimes it's only one hesitant arm halfway extended toward the street, his free hand shyly tapping his chin. Another driver told him to do that at night and since then he takes no chances when the bus nears, even in broad daylight. I always laud him for his technique, telling him he sure knows how to stop a bus. He's a sweet soul, always friendly and sociable with me, inviting me to Christmas shows and other church events. He has a solid memory for numbers and dates, remembering the first time he rode Broward Transit back in the 1980s. The driver who advised him about hailing the bus also suggested holding up his cellphone in the dark. "In the 80s we didn't have cell phones," he thought out loud.

An older man who rode on a previous trip reappeared to ride back up; he'd missed his stop. The lunch time traffic was the worst of this ho-hum day, making us late to our south end layover. I took a couple minutes to stretch before the long trip north, knowing I'd get a break in the middle at West Terminal.

We left a minute behind schedule to make sure there were no last minute transfers from Miami buses and booked it west on 207th St, north on Douglas Road, then east on Miramar Parkway back to University. At the last stop on Miramar, a well-used stop by those transferring from the 28, was an older man in a motorized wheelchair. The stop is one of a few that are still at ground level, making for a big step into the bus. I kneeled it as low as it would go and swung out the ramp, which looked steeper than I would prefer. The senior took it in stride as he probably did often, and zipped up safely. His service dog came on with him, at home on the man's lap.
"He keeps me alive!" he praised his furry companion. "He knows when I'm hypoglycemic. I tell my daughters he's their brother. He's also the biggest chick magnet I've ever known."

It was well into the afternoon on this final trip, wrapping up a shift that had begun so many hours ago. In Davie, a lanky man boarded with clothing stained and soiled from the work of the day. He told us about the 150 foot tree he'd felled earlier, defying gravity in the rain-weighted limbs filling a space that was now empty. And confirming what I'd thought all those hours earlier, there wasn't any excitement today, not out here. Nope, just the predictable routine of folks heading to work and school and errands.

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