Thursday, October 15, 2020

Doin' something else

COVID Chronicles
All the stories on the blog up to now have been about the time before 'pandemic' entered our daily vocabulary. Although those stories and others deserve to be told, I am skipping ahead in the timeline to share stories from this unique moment in our collective history. These new chapters will document the early days of life under lockdown and the ways we've been adjusting since. Stay strong. Bless you all.

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A bright Spring day with lots of clouds. That's how we do it in South Florida most of the year. I drove myeself and three other drivers in a taxi from the garage to our relief point for an afternoon on the 441 Breeze. It would just be a few trips, but they were fairly long: from Coral Springs down to Miami Gardens, about 30 miles one way.

The previous driver delivered the bus plenty early, so I had time to do a proper walk-around inspection and adjust the mirrors. When the appointed time arrived, I shifted into gear and merged into traffic for the start of a nearly two-hour trek down south.

The Breeze is limited stop, generally only at major intersections along 441. It's easy to keep track of where you are and you're unlikely to miss a stop. We marched right down the line: Sample Road, Copans Road, Coconut Creek Parkway to start us out. After servicing Atlantic Boulevard, I beeped out a love tap for the Stature of Liberty. It was tax season so a woman stood by the street in her costume and waving a sign for Liberty Tax.

Down at Oakland Park Boulevard, the left lane was closed for road work. This forced traffic in the other lanes to get over. We were still in the  middle lane when one car cut ahead of us like it had no brakes, so we missed the light. That makes the bus late, but also gives more people time to get to the stop. A dozen plus boarded there and all three bike rack slots were filled. I helped an older woman pull her fully-loaded folding cart on the bus and someone called out: "You should be the mayor, you help every one!"

An hour later we arrived at the end of the line in Miami Gardens. The Park & Ride facility is nestled beside Golden Glades, a massive interchange where numerous highways and surface streets converge from all directions. We had a little wait, and I boarded one woman who was already there since she'd be more comfortable in the cool cabin. She may have been the only passenger from the start, but we got company going back north. The crowd of folks transferring at Miami Gardens Drive with their blue-inked Miami-Dade Transit transfers; the benches at Ives Dairy Road lined with people waiting for other buses (though we waited for a runner in his red Donna's Restaurant uniform); then Countyline Road before re-entering Broward County and its stops: Hallandale/Miramar, Pembroke Road, Hollywood Boulevard and all the rest.

An Atomiko orange that wasn't visible on the trip south was now smiling back at us from the wall of Metro Signs at Plunkett Street in Hollywood.

The school crossing guard at Riverland Road waved as she must at every bus. Most of them don't so I'm sure to wave back for those that do.

Just about an hour and a half later we're back up to Atlantic. Not sure if the Liberty lady was still posted across the street, but it had been a smooth trip and we were only about five minutes down. With three more stops before the end, we'd make up that time easily.

While at the Turtle Creek layover, my friend Rockland appeared. A sometime-DJ and fulltime hustler in a good way, he had a mixed bag of news. Just out of jail over a misunderstanding, he lined up a construction job in Little Havana for the next morning. It was an early start, so he was heading down to spend the night there. First he wanted to panhandle up here for a coupe hours, hoping he'd cross paths with a generous winner leaving the casino.

I pulled out empty for my final trip, which isn't unusual when leaving that layover. Passing the Sample stop because it was empty was unusual, however. There's nothing sadder than an empty bus that's still in service, and fortunately the dry spell was broken at the next stop as a regular in his Bravo Supermarket cap boarded. Heavy congestion after Atlantic didn't affect us as we switched over to the middle lane and bypassed the Southgate back-up. 

Another decent crowd got on at Oakland Park. It may have been there, or a couple stops later when a woman labored aboard.
"Whenever I see you, I think you should be doin' something else. You're too intelligent for this. I mean it." Her deep, weary eyes told me she truly did.
   'You're the best.' I replied, and meant it too.