Sunday, October 6, 2019

Sunset on Sunrise

A bus driver can pick from a variety of shifts. I was back on afternoons nights with a mixed run for the week, or a "variety pack" as I call it. This keeps me in touch with various parts of town over the course of a week, preventing too much familiarity over the next several months.

This was Tuesday, still early in the week yet a kind of sweet spot where folks are focused on productivity. My day would consist of a ten hour shift going back and forth on Sunrise Boulevard, serviced by the notorious 36. Three of us drivers took a taxi from the motor pool at the garage and headed down to Lauderhill Mall to make relief. While there waiting for my bus to arrive, I bumped into my old classmate Vianca. We started with the County at the same time, and I have a fondness for all of those who were in our training class.She had long since transferred to the south garage, so this was a pleasant chance to catch up and wish each other well.

My bus arrived on cue, I hopped into the driver's seat, made my adjustments, and booked it out of there. We rolled west and thought I'd made out pretty good with the after-school crowd when I picked up over a dozen students across from Plantation High School. They smiled as I complimented their t-shirts and other signs of self-expression. Most were going all the way to Sawgrass Mills Mall at the end, perhaps for part-time jobs or just to hang out with friends.

The shift had barely begun and I had yet to do a full round trip since I'd taken over in the middle of the route. Now we could begin in earnest, doing a full trip eastbound from the mall. Still early enough that traffic wasn't a delay, but just in time to get buried by the second wave passing through the school zones. By the time we emerged into an open stretch, we had a full standing load. Our cabin at capacity, we skirted along Deepside before cresting the hill of the Turnpike overpass. Changing lanes at the opportune moment and letting the rush of gravity propel us downward, a sea of young eyeballs looked ahead, unblinking.

We pulled into the Hill seven minutes down, but thanks to the scheduled recovery time we pulled out back on track. Made our pick ups at the Swap Shop and other usual hot spots along the way. At 7th Ave, my blessed and highly favored friend awaited. His pronounced limp as we exchanged fist bumps didn't seem like much of a blessing, but he was still mobile and thankful for that.

A bridge delay at the Intracoastal set us back a little, but left me few minutes to get out of the seat after crossing from the Everglades to the Atlantic. That break would soon be a distant memory as we headed back west. This was the height of rush hour on a street infamous for its congestion. The next fifty blocks were three lanes of solid gridlock. The mass of cars and trucks finally broke apart and flowed better after Martin Luther King Jr Boulevard, opening up a stunning sunset vista. The flashy bright colors and glowing neon of the Swap Shop met their match in the vivid watercolor taking shape overhead. Wispy sand dune clouds stretched into coral pink streaks before our jaded eyes.We chased the receding sun to the end of the line at Sawgrass Mills.

Back on the road and heading east, the rest of the evening promised to be smooth since the earlier chaos had dissipated. At 56th Ave, where the countless back streets of Deepside spill out like an asphalt delta, a 30-something woman in a floral dress with spaghetti straps stepped on, sniffling.
"I just got out of jail." She greeted me, her way of both asking for and explaining why she needed a free ride.
   'Welcome back!' I replied, keeping the mood light and non-judgmental. She'd had enough of that from other civil servants, no need to pile on.

We got to the east layover and I finally had some time to catch my breath. At that time the regular layover stop east of the bridge and next to Birch State Park was closed due to construction, so we parked at a temporary stop west of the Intracoastal, across from The Galleria. I still had a few more hours so I took the opportunity to walk over to 7-Eleven for a snack. The petite girl at the cash register was friendly.
"Which bus are you driving?" She asked.
   'The 36.' I sighed.
"I used to ride the 36. I remember fights."
   'Tonight the fight was on the 60.' I semi-joked. She chuckled.

The break was over and we went west one more time. In the mall courtyard a group of guys in their 20s were smoking something especially pungent in the shadows. My 10:15 trip out of Sawgrass was a full seated load, becoming a standing load by the time we reached Nob Hill. The shifting colors of the sunset were probably over the Pacific right now, but the weeknight machinery on Sunrise Boulevard was not ready to shut down just yet.

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