We sat at the bus stop outside Calvary Towers, an old folk’s living community at the corner of Clay Street and Minnesota Avenue in Winter Park, a few blocks from our house. Across the street young medical students parked their cars and waited to be shuttled to Florida Hospital. Our route 14 bus arrived right on time, coming to a stop with a huff of airbrakes. We climbed aboard and found a seat in the empty bus. And then we were off. We have lived in Central Florida for twenty years and this was the first time we had ridden one of the local Lynx buses. We cruised down Minnesota Avenue and turned left onto 17-92, headed for Winter Park Village. We made one stop, to pick up two passengers outside the Bank of America. Ten minutes after setting out we pulled up on Denning Drive across from Winter Park Village. Here we were to change to a route 1 bus bound for Altamonte Mall.
Unfortunately, the route 1 bus was not due for 45 minutes, so we took a leisurely walk around Winter Park Village.
Back at the bus stop a transient had taken up residence on one of the seats, chugging a can of malt liquor. He regaled us with his hard luck story of how because of some paperwork snafu of the part of LYNX he was no longer entitled to a discounted monthly bus pass. When the 102 bus he said he needed to catch pulled up, he cussed, cracked open another can of malt liquor and just sat while the bus disgorged several passengers and then drove off. Obviously he didn’t need to get to his friend’s house as urgently as he said. Moments later the route 1 bus arrived and we climbed aboard, leaving our transient fellow traveler sitting in the bus stop.
Heading north towards Altamonte we tracked past out-of-the-way office complexes on the west side of I-4 to collect new passengers and deposit others. As we bounced along I compared this bus trip to some I had made in various parts of the world. The first thing I noted was how clean and well maintained the bus was, and it had air conditioning no less. I thought about the buses I used to ride in the Kingdom of Tonga in the South Pacific when we lived there. The air conditioning on Tongan buses consisted of open space on either side for windows, allowing a full breeze to pass through the bus, which was fine except when it rained, and being in the tropics it rained most days. And this Lynx bus had a fully functioning floor. You couldn’t sit and peer through rusted metal to see the road pass beneath as in Tonga. Unfortunately, the holey floor also allowed water from puddles to splash up into the bus, along with detritus from the road.
Unlike the buses I rode when living in the Philippines in the mid 1980s, this LYNX bus was sparsely populated with passengers. Everyone had a seat where they were able to spread out and relax. The rule in the Philippines back then was the bus wouldn’t leave until every square inch of space had a passenger crammed into it. And when you thought you couldn’t fit another person onboard, the driver would bellow for people to squeeze up while another ten or fifteen people piled in. The overstuffed bus would then pull off as passengers sweated over each other in the stifling confines. And of course you had to encase any bag you might be carrying in a bear hug in an effort to ward off bag slashers looking to stealthily take possession of your bagged belongings. And neither did this LYNX bus make impromptu “urination” stops in the middle of the road: “Women on the left side of the road, men on the other,” as intercity Filipino buses often did.
As well, the LYNX driver seemed competent and averse to taking risks on the road, unlike some bus drivers I have encountered in Peru who like to race down steep mountainsides around hairpin bends in under-maintained buses.
Everything on our bus trip to Altamonte Mall was orderly, clean and relatively efficient, like the buses in Hong Kong used to be.
After lunch at Altamonte Mall, we retraced our route, winding past the out-of-the-way office buildings once more before arriving back at Winter Park Village cool, dry and relatively relaxed. It was then we encountered what according to passengers waiting at the bus stop was a major glitch in the LYNX system—making connections. Our bus had arrived a minute and a half after the route 14 bus left. And since it ran hourly we had fifty-eight and a half minutes to wait for the next route 14 bus in order to complete the final ten-minute segment of our trip. Oh for the efficiency of the bus system in New York City, where a bus runs along a route every twenty minutes. We could have walked home, but in the spirit of TrIP we decided to wait, heading to the local Starbucks for a cup of coffee in the meantime. We checked to see if the transient drinker from earlier in the day was still at the bus stop across the street; he had moved on. Perhaps he finally made it to his friend’s house, or maybe he had gone in search of more malt liquor.
Eventually we got back to Calvary Towers.
Following this bus trip, are we ready to hang up our Jeep keys and ride the bus on a regular basis? No. To get from our house to Altamonte Mall by car via I-4 takes approximately fifteen minutes, the return bus trip to the mall, including waiting for connections and a quick lunch had taken nearly four hours. Yet it’s good to know that in a pinch there’s an alternative way to get round town, albeit slowly and with much patience.