Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Ringing true

Midweek fill-in on the 19, rolling on 441 from Lauderhill Mall to Sandalfoot Boulevard in Boca. The relief point was at Turtle Creek and it was a pleasant surprise to take over from a driver who was a recent graduate of the operator training program. Like a relay race, she passed me the baton - only this one was sixty feet long. The transition was smooth and I continued the course down to the Hill on time.

An old co-worker from a previous life was there, waiting for the 40. We fist-bumped, then he spotted his bus and ditched me. A heavy overcast had settled over the south end of the route, but it was cool and dry. No sooner did we turn back on to 441 than we came to a halt at the rear end of a back-up. A disabled car at 16th St was delaying us at a critical point in the route, setting us back before we really got started. We finally got through about seven minutes later, and that deficit would stick with us for the next hour.

A teen girl got on at 24th St with a shy look about her. "Just got out of school, I don't have no dollah," she explained as she boarded. Her boyfriend jumped in behind her, pointing and mumbling. I didn't catch what he said and called him back. "I'm with her," he clearly said this time.

When we got to Oakland Park Boulevard there was a minor glitch in the matrix when two unrelated people, a man and a woman several spots apart, both asked with similar curiosity: "This isn't the Breeze is it?" The question itself wasn't unusual, just a bit uncommon since the headsign was working and clearly didn't read Breeze. Their identical phrasing and delivery were uncanny.

A teenage boy looked confused at Kimberly while trying to operate the bicycle rack. Apparently a first-timer, I hopped out to assist him. It's a simple process and speeds things along if I help, plus he'd know how to do it himself next time.

We finally neared the county line when just before Hillsboro Boulevard a passenger asked with mild humor: "Driver, do you hear ringing in your sleep?" They were referring to the ding of countless stop requests. I may have dreamt of that tinny tone in the early days, now years of conditioning had morphed it into a subconscious command to turn on the blinkers and stop by the side of the road.

The next trip found us in the ever-growing afternoon traffic, and we were getting the worst of it going south. I was stuck in the pull-in stop at 12th St in North Lauderdale, started inching forward in anticipation of a gap coming our way in the endless stream. If we could just slide the bus in there... out of my left hand blind spot a running man triggered my instinct to press the brakes. An older gentleman in an untucked white guayabera had decided to dart from the median and through our gap right in front of the bus. His blind trust that no harm would come to him made me shudder. I let him on as another opportunity to exit the bus trap presented itself. I asked the man to have a seat before we moved, but he remained standing and responded with a smile. His curious mannerisms were reminiscent of Harpo Marx: playful gesticulations with his duffel bag, bowing, and prayer hands. He finally sat down briefly as we got to the end.

During the whole shift a woman's forceful voice made periodic announcements in the back of the bus. It was a jarring contrast to the even-volumed male voice which made announcements in English. She was BCT's Haitian Creole announcer, and it sounded like she was yelling from inside a bathroom. I had named the male voice Izzy after the company that made him; his predecessor was a distinguished woman's voice I called Maggie. The new Haitian woman telling us about bus safety needed a name as well; Marie had a nice ring to it. They may be disembodied voices residing on a microchip, but they speak to us for hours, more often than most people in our lives. Maybe their words even ring in our sleep.

No comments:

Post a Comment