Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Nuthin's gonna take my smile

Friday the 13th on University Drive. This would be my last eleven hour shift for the foreseeable future. As a bonus there was no school today, which generally promises lighter traffic. The streets were slicked by an intermittent drizzle, nothing heavy. The temperature was a welcome neutral, neither cold nor hot. The ridership going north out of West Terminal was a bit on the cold side, if only because it was lighter than usual.

Going south on the next trip was a continuation of the first, with light traffic and no delays to make us late. At Sunset Strip, an older woman who's a regular on this run boarded with a motherly smile and focused on the fare box.
   "Good morning," we both said simultaneously. She must not have heard my greeting or seen my lips move as she was looking at the box, since she repeated herself in a slightly sour tone. I gave her a few extra Good Mornings for good measure. She liked that and the smile returned.

In Davie, a man handed me some paper as he exited. It was a paycheck, uncashed and forgotten. It would be deposited with Lost & Found at the end of the day.

We got down to the layover in Miami Gardens with ample time to stretch the legs. A woman boarding there held up a French coin in my face, claiming it was worth $2 and asking if she could use it as bus fare. At that time we only accepted U.S. legal tender, so I politely declined her offer. After that, she found the proper currency.

We pulled out of the bus line heading west on 207th St. Vultures clustered in the middle, pecking at an unidentifiable red spot.

Traffic picked up around I-595, though it wasn't quite lunchtime. We rolled in to West Terminal with a few minutes to recover. Everyone could exit or board at their leisure, including a familiar regular.

An older gentleman with a Redd Foxx walk and a friend to everyone he met, for years he had been inseparable from an enormous flashy beach cruiser which was conspicuously missing today. To see him without it was like seeing an amputee.
   'No more bike?' I asked out of curiosity.
"No more bike. I fell down too much." He seemed wistful over his sporty wheels, contentedly resigned to keeping himself free from injury.

He settled into a seat near the front and struck up a conversation with a woman around his age. They immediately began comparing emotional battle wounds inflicted upon them by loved ones.
"My kids and grandkids went bad! My daughter hates my guts." He stated with the same resignation he showed for his beloved bike.
"My addict brother took advantage of my kindness." She responded. "Nuthin's gonna take my smile, not me, ha ha!"
The back and forth continued, all at loud volume so nothing would have to be repeated. When he exited up the road, I thanked him for bringing good vibes on the bus - and to stay safe out there.

Over time, we'd been up to the north layover at Westview Drive, and found ourselves all the way down in Davie on the last southbound of this shift. Still, I was only about two-thirds through the endless hours.

At Griffin Road, a red light caught us and held us. A Honda SUV glided to a long stop in the lane next to us. The driver's window almost lined up with mine, which is always open regardless of the temperature. The woman driving gave me a kind, knowing smile which caught me a little off guard. Did she need to cut in front of the bus? No motions in that direction. Then the rear windows, tinted black as a limo, rolled down. Inside were a couple children very excited to see the bus.
"Hi, Mr. Bus Driver!" They called out in squeaky unison.
   'Hi guys!' I called back, with an added wave before the light turned green and the moment was gone.

There were still hours to go before I clocked out, and unexpected encounters were sure to meet us on the way. But the cheers from our youngest bus fans would help me keep my smile for the foreseeable future.

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