Nikki Namdar currently lives in Sanford, Florida, and writes and photographs for local publications. She is completing a degree in English, with a minor in mass communications, at the University of Central Florida, where she is a junior.
I’m going to ride the bus. No fixed destination in mind. Just going to ride wherever it takes me. That was the plan.
I decided to take the bus on a Sunday morning. Saturday night I checked the schedules to plan my trip. “No Sunday/Holiday Service” the document read for Route 34. Well, there goes my Sunday trip, I thought. But why doesn’t the bus run on Sundays?
Finally, I decided on a destination: where the story is.
I planned again for a Thursday. I emailed a representative at LYNX and asked why the bus doesn’t run on Sundays. I packed my Betseyville purse with my Nikon D3100, my voice recorder, note pads, and lots of pens. Everything a journalist needs. I walked over to the bus stop on the main road by my house, where I waited for more than 20 minutes for the 46, which I would use to transfer to the 34. I thought maybe I should just drive to the 34, but reminded myself I needed to do this like any other bus passenger.
From a distance, I saw a big, red bus a few blocks away, and thought finally.
“Does this go somewhere where I can transfer to the 34?” I asked the driver. She told me at the hospital. I sat down beside a man with headphones on, across from women with a lot of bags.
When we arrived at the hospital, I was the only one who got off. I sat down on the bench by myself and waited for the 34. I stretched my legs out and basked in the warm sun with a cool breeze. What a beautiful day for this. Ambulance and cop vehicles drove past me at slow speeds, hardly a sound but a bird hidden in the distance. Pink flowers bloomed beside bare trees. Inside and outside of the hospital, there was life with death.
Nearly a block away I noticed another bus stop with a larger seating area and what looked like a person. I thought, Good, maybe I can talk to this person about bus riding. I ran towards the next stop, looking behind me making sure my bus wasn’t approaching. I didn’t want to miss it after all. But then again I really had nowhere to go. When I got to the stop I was out of breath, and noticed these two women were smoking and probably just hanging out on their break. I asked if they were waiting for the 34. They said no, they were just smokers, and even offered to take their smoke elsewhere. I told them it was fine, I just needed people to interview for an article.
“Oh, the bus doesn’t come for another hour,” one of the women said. “Soon more people will come out.”
The two women went back inside their jobs at the hospital, and I took their word for it that more people would show up in the next hour. Then I turned my left and noticed a gold LYNX bus with the number 34 on it. So much for an hour, I thought. I got on the bus, which only had two people on it, a man and a woman. I approached the woman because she was closest to me and asked if I could interview her.
“I’m a really boring person,” she said. I reassured her that it probably wasn’t true. Her name was Lyllia and it turns out she works in food services at Idyllwilde Elementary School, and takes the bus every Monday through Friday. She didn’t need the Sunday bus service. On to the next.
The man in the back of the bus hopped off, but on came a young girl with a red pixie cut and red lipstick. I asked for an interview. It turns out this 18-year-old Sanfordite is a vegetarian. A vegan, I was intrigued by the conversation.
“I never meet vegans or vegetarians in Sanford!” I said. We discussed our favorite veg restaurants and grocery stores as we passed through a neighborhood with boarded up homes.
“I wonder why these homes have boarded-up windows,” I said.
“Somebody died there,” Lyllia said.
Apparently we were in the projects of Sanford, and the bus was flying through the street, not making any stops. Lyllia further explained that somebody was shot and there was mold there. The apartment buildings were going to be torn down and rebuilt. Before I knew it we were passing bars and places called “Sunshine Liquors.” My new vegetarian friend was gone, and two unusual people came on.
“Don’t talk to them,” Lyllia warned me. “They will talk to you for days.”
I decided I didn’t want to have my ear talked off, so I didn’t bother interviewing them. But the moment they got on they started talking to me.
“The bus isn’t gonna be running anymore,” the man said. He was wearing a Marvin the Martian beanie and what I call “Jeffrey Dahmer glasses,” which make me wonder if he was stuck in the ‘80s.
The woman who got on with him chimed in and started complaining, too, but I couldn’t make out what she was mumbling.
“So wait, the 34 won’t be running anymore?” I asked. “But I spoke to a LYNX spokesperson this morning who told me they were actually going to add on Sundays.”
“It’s a lie,” Lyllia said from a distance.
“Well let’s say it isn’t, how will it affect your lives?” I asked the two new passengers whose names I discovered were Melvin and Margaret. Lyllia warned me that they would talk a lot, but after hearing their answers, I realized I found my story.
I got off at the transfer station where I would take the bus back home. While I waited, I emailed the LYNX representative letting him know that a few Route-34 passengers think the line will be completely cut. He reassured me that’s false, that they are working to add on services, like he told me earlier. I felt safe with my story, and was excited to pull it together.
I called my father and asked, “Dad, are you around to pick me up? I’m tired of riding the bus.”
The Story: Sanford Riders: Bus Will Run on Sundays (Front page of the Sanford Herald, March 4, 2014.
Sanford residents can expect the bus route 34 to start running on Sundays beginning in April, according to a LYNX spokesperson. The bus currently runs Monday through Saturday. The Sunday service will be provided every hour.
According to the spokesperson, the routes are evaluated and altered three times a year, and it was time for the route to run on Sundays.
“Service levels are married between funding and demand,” the spokesperson said. “The 34 service level has evolved to where it will be beneficial for the passenger to have Sunday trips.”
The 34 will also begin operating on French Avenue, which will modify the 46. Route-34 passengers have said they would be happy with these changes. Margaret Showalter of Sanford has been taking the bus for years and says the bus running on Sundays would help so many people.
“If you gotta go to church, if you gotta go get your groceries and stuff, it’s hard to do. I don’t wanna keep walking to do it,” said Showalter, 45, who takes the bus every day with her friend Melvin Shepherd.
The changes will also help those who are transferring to the 34 from other routes. Shepherd, a Sanford resident, said the changes will prevent him from having to walk the mile from his first route to the 34 on Historic Goldsboro Boulevard.
”Cabs are too expensive,” said Shepherd, 54, a Southern Tech student who has been taking buses most of his life. “That would be great. That way you don’t have to walk all the way down there; you get a ride.”
The service will not go through Goldsboro, but the boulevard will have a service, which is a relief for its residents.
Jimmy and Jen Gilliam moved to Goldsboro two years ago and have since taken the bus every day. Adding on Sundays, and remaining on 13th Street, is important for them and their three young children.
“It’s our lifeline; it’s the only form of transportation we have . . . We don’t have enough money to own a car,” said Gilliam, 37, a carpenter in Sanford. He and his wife have to work their schedules around Sunday and can’t go to work because the buses don’t run.
”We have to make sure we get everything done before Sunday,” Jen Gilliam, 37, who works for Pet Rescue by Judy.
The only wish the family says they have is for the buses to run every thirty minutes rather than every hour. “But every hour will work,” said Jimmy Gilliam. “I’m glad there’s something they’re putting on Sundays.”
This blog post was originally published on TrIP: The Knight, Fantastic blog.