Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Can you believe


Wise ones have said that what's old eventually becomes new again, and we'd see if that was true this sunny warm Sunday in March. As long as I've been doing this, we've always started new Picks on that day. This normally happens three or four times a year, and it's a chance to start afresh, a welcome reprieve if the previous months took a toll on you. That's the 'new' part of this equation. The 'old' part is that we are again on the 72, the same route we just did yesterday to finish out the old Pick.

The bus itself was a bit long in the tooth as well. A 700 Series just a tad past its expected service life, but not about to retire. Getting it ready for a day on the road, the only glitch that came up was a card misfeed on the farebox, preventing it from printing passes. If this was to be our biggest problem today, we were off to a good start. After grabbing a handful of extra passes from another bus in the yard, I pulled through the gates for a bit of Sunday driving.

Halfway into the first trip, the familiar towering silhouette of a man with a walker became clearer. A regular on BCT since long before I began driving, he was wearing a mask for the first time on my bus, though it was hanging on his neck.
"Can you believe, Driver, what's goin' on?"
   'Hard to believe,' I replied. 'But I guess we better believe it.'
Lockdowns and mandates were being issued by the hour, and many food and sanitary staples were becoming scarce as fear led to stockpiling. He was on his way to the grocer, to score some ground beef the butcher was reserving for him.

Along the way, the farebox fixed itself and decided to start printing passes, so we were now glitch-free. The only other quirky feature of this bus became obvious once I'd left the garage: the air compressor was extra hissy, which gave the impression it was razzing every other vehicle passing by.

A fresh bridge delay at the Intracoastal ate in to my recovery time at the end of the line. there was still plenty enough to get out of the seat for a few minutes before turning it around. These Sunday runs are generally laid back anyway and can be peaceful enough to negate the need for a break.

The next trip held to that pattern, since we were smooth and on time all the way across the county. The first round trip in the books, we started our secondtrip east from Sawgrass Mills mall. About ten minutes down the road, another familiar face in those parts boarded. He wears a rotating collection of various t-shirt designs that all read TENNIS, an appropriate selection as he plays it every chance he gets, and frequently boards with a racquet. The physical activity is paying off well into middle age with an energy level younger guys should be envious of. Today he was concerned because his usual court was locked up for the foreseeable future in order to discourage group gathering during a pandemic. It's good to have connections however, and there was another court where his friend knew the gate guy.

That interaction was the highlight of the trip until just past the halfway mark, when thunder rolled in from the rear flank. Four Bike Life scouts leading the way for more to come were going east like us, but doing it in the westbound lanes. A dozen more showed up a few blocks later, shaking brainwaves within a hundred yards. They were followed by another six a bit further, till the convoy fizzled out with a few stragglers on dirtbikes and ATVs.

Oakland Park Boulevard had quieted back to a lull by the time we reached Andrews, when the Music Man blessed us with a rare visit. Toting a bongo and tambourine, he's considerate enough not to play them on the bus.

Another decent little break on the beach end, during which a man showed up with his own bed. It was actually a sleeping bag, and he was trying to get somewhere on west Atlantic Boulevard. Right here he was closer to the Atlantic Ocean, so I informed him where to get off my bus for a connection to his destination.

Due to the loop at that end of the 72, there's only one stop on Galt Ocean Drive so out of courtesy I waited for a runner to reach us before continuing. We made the turn back on to Oakland Park proper and as it was now the 5 o'clock hour, the setting sun resumed its task from the previous day of broiling my lap and belly.

At a stop before Andrews Avenue, a young man of about thirty boarded with a trim hipster beard. He flashed a ten dollar bill, but like every transit company out there we don't make change on the bus. He was apologetic about it, but I don't leave anyone behind so this ride was a freebie. A few minutes later he could be heard talking aloud, as if on a phone call. The catch was, no phone was visible. Not a smartphone to the ear, no headphones, or even earbuds to be see, yet there was definitely a conversation taking place. It was an external display of internal stream of consciousness flowing into song lyrics, preaching, and a colorful word salad.

Even easy Sunday shifts must come to an end, but first we needed to cover our final trip back east across town. Three people boarded at Sawgrass with their bags of afternoon goodies, several more joined on the way to University Drive. This was rapidly becoming the busiest trip of the day.

A little more than halfway through the trip, our tall friend from earlier reappeared, finished with his errands. He wasn't going far, but limited mobility made the bus a necessity. Plus, he's the son of a bus driver so he's a lifelong fan of public transit.

This longtime regular has a default vocal volume close to booming to begin with, but when we arrived at his stop and he let loose with a loud defensive tone, it was still out of character for him. Apparently another passenger directed an offensive comment at him, not a wise act toward someone twice your size while in a confined space. Yet it was happening before our eyes and ears as this man who I've only known as thoughtful and helpful was instigated into raising his voice, then his fists, then a bottle of soda. This was my cue to park the bus and open the doors. As I tried to get his attention and redirect the fiery energy, another complication stepped into the picture. A homeless woman who camps at the bus stop shuffled over to the front door, asking with the sweetest voice and tooth-free smile if anyone left a pass on a seat. She's advanced in years and unwittingly endangered herself by blocking the doorway at a most inopportune time. For her protection, I got out of the seat and coaxed her to the bus shelter, fishing a spare pass from my shirt pocket. This opened the way for my upset friend to exit with dignity, after which I didn't hesitate to hop back in the seat and shut the doors. The sources of friction were now separated, no physical harm had occurred, and we were back in service.

Sundays signal a new week, and this one began a fresh schedule of shifts, a chance to leave the past behind. We use these calendar changes, both as a society and as individuals, to mark times of change. The times ahead would bring more change than we'd been accustomed to, and Life would remind us there's really nothing new at all.

1 comment:

  1. Ilike the way you describe the travelers.kind cosiderate adjectives.it helps to picture them.keep up the stories.i really enjoy them.