Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Whatever happens


The previous shift on Route 40 had been an epic effort in futility and perseverance in the midst of chaos. From starting out late to an endless stream of delays. Sometimes those delays are the stuff Life is made of - and where are we really going in such a hurry anyway?

Today's shift on the notorious 40 started about the same as that other one, including getting the bus late. Now, I've done my share of delivering the bus late to the relief point myself, and been on the receiving end of an impatient driver's ire. I resolved long ago to take these times in stride and not give another driver a hard time over something that's out of their hands. So long as the equipment is intact and everyone's safe, it's all good.

The first few hours were a push to keep from falling further behind and amazingly we eventually got got back on schedule about a third of the way in. Sure, there were a smattering of potential time killers: the bus wasn't announcing so I did it Old School; a vehicle transporter pulled in front of us ever so slowly at an inopportune time; an ambulance downtown triggered the lights to change so we missed a cycle; a street fight at Government Center; lost passengers; and a mass of cyclists all did their part to slow us down.

While I was grinding through the workday, beachgoers lounged lazily on the sand, soaking in the sunshine and sipping cool drinks. No resentment on my part - it's good to know someone is out there having a good time without a care in the world. We all get to enjoy the salty ocean air equally.

When we got to the end of the line, a guy who boarded at the terminal showed no signs of exiting. 

"Do you go on Sistrunk at all?" He asked, obviously unaware there are two 40 buses at the terminal, an eastbound and a westbound. He'd boarded the former when he needed the latter. A common mistake, and a reminder to always ask the driver if the bus is going to your destination. He didn't seem in a hurry, and the view out the window was fine.

So we turned around to head back, essentially on time now. Naturally that meant we were due for a delay, and we found one at the 17th Street bridge, one of three drawbridges on this route. This signature bridge that greets visitors to Port Everglades is one of the largest in the county, and speed is not a feature. It took even longer since vehicles were stuck on the span thanks to the infamous congestion on that street in the afternoon. Transportation planners have publicly admitted nothing more can be done to alleviate the gridlock there. Except perhaps get more of those drivers on transit. From the sttep slope of the birdge's incline we could enjoy the view of moored yachts at Pier 66 and a single freighter at the port itself. The clear vantage of downtown's skyline to the southwest was dominated by the construction cranes of ICON Las Olas, at that time the tallest tower under construction at 455 feet.

We rolled throught he surging city core and emerged onto Sistrunk Boulevard for our misdirected passenger. I'd made up about half the deficit from the bridge delay, but I was still late getting to Sunrise Boulevard where I caught my leader bus. He spotted me and went into Drop Off Mode all the way to the end at Lauderhill Mall. Once there, he got instructions to get back on schedule. That meant he left empty while I had a busload out of the mall, including a wheelchair.

Despite the heavy start to this trip, we were on time and rolling smoothly. At the fire station before the Swap Shop, a young man in a Publix uniform boarded asking what happened to the bus before ours. I apologized for the wait and thanked him for his patience.

Several folks begged for rides at Central Terminal: a teenager needing to get to work on 17th Street and two homeless men saying the shelter told them they could get free rides to the feeding on the beach. Everybody rides my bus, so it wasn't a problem. At least they took the time to come up with a story.

Once we got to the Galleria at the end, I was able to get out of the seat for the first time this pick, since all previous visits had found me running too late to take a break. After a much-needed ten minute stretch, we headed back.

At Bahia Mar, there was only a handful compared to our ususal post-feeding crowd. The others must have taken another bus. Now we had an elderly man in a wheelchair. Also a younger man in his 30s with long thin dreads. His woman and infant child were with him and I could see the brokenness in his eyes as he asked in a heartfelt and humble tone for a ride to Central Terminal. Welcome aboard, have a seat.

A Florida East Coast RR freighter doubled our five minute deficit after leaving the terminal and ate up any break time I hoped to see at the end. Two engines, those trademark camel-humped quarry cars, and endless containers presented a rusty moving barrier to our forward progress.

Our last trip of the day, we'd entered the quiet cruise of evening. I pulled out of Galleria with an empty bus and stayed that way for nearly ten minutes, unusual for even for the time of night. It was just me and the one passenger until we got to Pier 66. There we picked up one of its longest residents, who always pays with a row of quarters. This bus gets him over the bridge to the bars and restaurants that 17th Street is famous for. Today is his birthday and he's ready to celebrate. He's grown a little bitter over the years, tells me he's had it with the USA and is moving to Monaco.

Burning off a few minutes at the terminal, an older Jamaican gentleman shared something nice from a day he rode my Route 2 bus.

"I was shot, and you gave me a ride." he recalled. I meet a lot of shot folks and didn't exactly remember that encounter.

Crossing over Sunirse Boulevard, the drive-in movie screens at Thunderbird punctuated the darkness. Race cars exploded as we passed.

Somewhere before we made the last turn on to 441 to finish the route for the day, a woman walked up to prepare for her exit. She emitted a positive vibe with a smile and bright eyes behind glasses.

"Always smile whatever happens." She encouraged me in a lilting accent.

'I like that." I replied, and took her advice. The equipment was intact, everyone was safe, and it was all good.

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