Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Making our case

My days of working the morning shift were coming to a close. Very soon my schedule would be flipping upside down and I'd be back on nights, where I hadn't been for a couple years. The people would be different, and the familiar old streets would become new terrain when the sun set. For now I was still a morning driver, and my focus was not on the future.

A chill Monday on the 10, cruising Federal Highway from Central Terminal to Boca Raton. The temp was 51°, so at least we were out of the arctic 40s from the day before. This was getting old and we needed the warmth to return or it would be time to head south.

The glitch-prone onboard announcer was again mute when it came to announcing stops. Instead it would randomly interject our journey with an especially maniacal Max Headroom cackle
"Formatics bootloader AHAHAHAH..."
No microphone available either, only a stump where it had once been, before years of stress had separated the connection. We'd be announcing stops old school style today. Hopefully with enough volume to reach the back seats.

The day of the week and the unpleasant freeze seemed to have paralyzed our tropical activity. We'd nearly completed a full round trip without incident. The load was light and the traffic was easy.

On Broward Boulevard, half a dozen news crews camped in front of First Baptist. A hundred SUVs covered the little lawn, the sidewalks, the courtyard. It was the airport shooter's first day in federal court across the street, and made for a natural media story of the day.

We did our time at Central Terminal and were back on our way. The previously wide open road was now blocked at 5th Street by a construction crew. Located a safe spot nearby to accommodate passengers.

The next stop brought us the two Greek Spice Grill waitresses, one with striking angular facial features on par with any catwalk model. Both were preparing to work for the lunch crowd.

More construction underway in Boca, this time at the Tower 155 site just past Palmetto Park Road. A backhoe was excavating an enormous pit in the sugar sand. A truck waited nearby with a load of steel piles to hold that sand back.

Heading back south after a ten minute layover, I picked up another bus operator. He was on light duty and was on his way to an afternoon shift at Central to work the information table.

A couple loaded their bikes on the rack, she commenting that it should hold more as they boarded. I agreed and could certainly sympathize with missing the bus myself when there wasn't an open slot. They were both sociable, but he remained quiet whereas she was immediately inquisitive. She wanted to become a bus operator and grilled me with a pleasant Trini accent. When she said there were no openings listed online, I could only recount to her the process I went through and encourage her to be patient. These inquiries come at me regularly, and I wonder how many see it through.

A beloved regular awaited south of Atlantic: the Penny Lady. An older woman who could be both curt and kind by turns, I asked her to wait so I could lower the bus just for her. She had been poised to grab the door handles and climb on, apparently forgetful of previous times when she all but demanded that I kneel the low floor. Her outsize smile was all the thanks I needed.

Down to Commercial Boulevard, where an older gentleman took his time loading his bike. He wasn't struggling with it, and didn't seem unfamiliar with the process; in those cases I am quick to jump out of the seat and offer assistance. No, he was just on his own time and in no particular hurry. Just as the green light was also on its own time and decided to turn red to teach us patience. With my internal patience knob turned up to maximum peace and calm, the man finally boarded, hands in prayer and supplication.
"Hey brother, can I just get a ride to Sunrise? Thanks, man!"

Our final trip, going north to be relieved at Copans Road. The bike rack was full again, but there were no time delays.

Commercial came up again and my friend the Outlaw got on. That became his name after someone had a dream of him as Jesse James. When the criminal is also a folk hero, the comparison is not an insult. As far as I know, the connection is only as solid as a stranger's dream. This 'outlaw' was on a different path.
"I gave the homeless guy 70¢ to buy beer."
That stop is a popular hangout, and at least one man had no need for the bus.
"Like when my dad gave me $10,000 and sent me over to Israel. I lived in a kibbutz for five months, working the land. Also worked in a banana chip factory."

On the bus we all get our preliminary hearing whether outlaw, server, cyclist, senior - even bus driver. We leave the ghosts of the day there to deliberate among themselves.

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