Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Cashing in our chips

Life is a gamble and the house always wins. We play our best hand, bluff our way to an occasional jackpot, till we eventually end up with the same amount when we came in the door.

Sample Road in the north part of the county is pretty much like every other major thoroughfare around town: an endless line of commercial and residential properties interspersed with requisite amenities like hospitals and parks. Also like every other road, its flow of humanity gives it a flavor of its own.

Going west from US 1 on this morning shift, the sun was preparing to peek over the Atlantic. The bus glided under I-95 to service the stop at 5th Terrace. Across the street, day laborers awaited vans to deliver them to work sites. A regular loaded his yellow bike, the first color of the new day. Long, thin dreads and a dignified graying goatee. Always a formal greeting. Yes, Sir.

The world comes in the doors on its own time, to remind us that the magic space within is not isolated from the brutal machinations without. We passed the Coconut Creek casino and pulled to a stop at Turtle Creek.
"You been on this route long?" The middle-aged man asked as we resumed rolling.
   'Every Thursday.'
"Did you know Jay?"
   'Younger guy or older guy?' I prodded for a clue.
"Older guy. He was killed last night at the casino. Got run over in the parking lot."
Simple as that, everyone aboard was starting their day with the unthought of knowledge that Jay is dead. Yet the city was still waking up, steadily increasing its living vibrations, despite one member missing.

Many people look at each day as a chance to start fresh, to move beyond what came before. Bus drivers experience this multiple times per shift, just by changing the direction of travel. With a constant stream of sensory input coming at us, it helps to break it up into manageable pieces.

Heading back east toward the risen sun, we were in the middle of the trip when an older man boarded. Mature in years, he carried permanent marks of younger days on his arms: total coverage of green fish scales inked on.
   'How's it goin' today?' I asked, admiring the extensive body art.
"Pain. My back." He replied plainly, not expecting sympathy.
   'C'mon, man! Ya gotta take care of yourself. No fun.'
"I know..."
When he exited farther east, I wished him to feel better.
"It's been like this for 15 years." He commented with stark resignation.
   'That's depressing. It's gotta get better sometime!'
"Yeah, maybe when I'm six under!" He smiled over his shoulder as he gingerly stepped onto the sidewalk. Morose humor has its benefits too.

Traffic had calmed and the street had settled into a quiet lull. We caught the red light at Holiday Springs and watched the side streets take their turn. Through my open window a series of melodic metallic tones tickled my ears. A most unlikely spot to hear live music, on this stretch of road between McDonald's and a golf course. But music it undeniably was, and being played at an uptempo clip with great ability and versatility. I say ability because of the rapid pace of the notes without faltering, and versatility because while my ears told me I was hearing steel pans, my eyes discovered this virtuosic display emanated from a harmonica being played by the driver of a white Audi in the next lane. This was the complete rejoicing opposite of a dirge, as might be appropriate in memoriam of Jay. This was Life, making the most of a momentary pause, singing its song with every breath.