The lady at the marina printed an updated bus schedule and fare sheet. She explained that few buses stopped at the airport. I should ride the bus to Key West and transfer to another at Sears. The connecting bus would deposit me at the airport.
The explanation sounded fine at the time. Now, sitting in the hot sun on the side of the highway, half an hour past the designated time, I worried. The sign next to the bus stop said, ‘Key West, 25 miles.’
Too far to walk.
I finished lettering a big “K W” on the back of the bus schedule and stood. I was about to stick my thumb out when the bus arrived.
I hopped on, said to the driver, “Key West?” and he nodded. I said, “Senior citizen fare, $1.50, right?”
He looked at me and shook his head. With a Jamaican accent he said, “Two Dollah.” He started the bus.
Why do I accept everything? I just go along. Why is the bus late? Why is the fare two dollars? I didn’t object.
I dug out two dollars in quarters and put them in the machine. I said, “I understand this bus does not go to the airport and I have to change busses at Sears.”
“No mon, we go de airport.”
I sat down to enjoy the ride and looked around at the other passengers. They got on the bus and got off and I assumed most of them were workers on their way to a place of employment. They didn’t appear upset at the late bus so I decided my schedule was wrong.
As we arrived at Key West the bus made a detour to the community college and the hospital. These stops were not on my schedule. Nobody else seemed concerned. A young couple boarded the bus and I heard them talking about the fare to the driver. I figured they were tourists.
At the advice of another rider, they stepped off at Sears. The driver yelled at them. “Where you goin’? Suddern Mos Point? Get back on!”
At an industrial section of Key West the bus pulled up to the headquarters of the transit authority. It was a nondescript building with a large sign. The driver mumbled something about a twenty minute break. With the bus running and the air conditioning on he left the bus carrying his little cooler.
I thought, “What just happened?” I looked around at the other passengers. They were looking at each other with stunned expressions. Nobody said anything. The young woman, who boarded only moments ago, squealed. She ran to the bus doors, pounded on them. “We’re trapped.” She couldn’t open the doors. She took a deep breath and sat down.
A young man with a camera whom I concluded was a tourist turned around. He started talking to an older woman who had also been taking photos. I realized the other five people on the bus were all German tourists: three young women, the older woman and the photographer. Besides the German group and the young couple, a kid sat in the back of the bus playing a guitar. He appeared unconcerned.
The photographer looked at me and made motions to the door and I shrugged. He came over to me and asked me something I didn’t understand. I said, “I don’t know,” and shrugged. He didn’t understand. I patted my chest and said, “tourist,” which he also did not understand. “I’ve never been here before,” I tried to explain.
I’m not sure why he turned to me for advice except I was an American and I didn’t appear worried. I was.
I glanced at my watch. Even if this driver takes a twenty-minute break I will still get to the airport in plenty of time. That is, if he actually goes to the airport.
Although I had no map I figured we must be within an hour’s walk of the airport. We must be on Key West. The airport sits in the middle of Key West. Key West isn’t big. Is it? If he doesn’t come back in twenty minutes, I’ll try to break out of the door and walk. At least he left the air conditioning on.
A twenty-five mile ride on the overseas highway and an hour and a half of entertainment and transportation to the airport, all for less than the cost of a bottle of water. Life is not all bad.
After a while, the German photographer walked forward and pushed on the bus doors. They opened. He trotted out to take some pictures of a nearby motorcycle. The young woman made no move to escape. The driver returned and put the bus in gear. The photographer scrambled aboard.
“After downtown, back de airport.”
Downtown Key West. The driver shouted, “Duval Street,” to the group and pointed to the door. They all piled out and gathered round a map in the middle of the sidewalk.
He made another downtown stop. An older couple (my age) tried to get on and asked, “Does this go to the airport?”
The driver said, “You want de next bus for de airport, Mon.”
They looked puzzled. He repeated, “De next bus, to de airport,” and put the bus in gear and closed the doors and the bus moved forward.
I thought, “Should I worry? Why can he take me to the airport and not them?” I didn’t say anything. After all, we were leaving the downtown area and heading back. If we go over any long bridge, I’ll worry.
The driver let the young couple off a few blocks later: “Walk tree blocks to de Soudern Mos’ Point.” The kid with the guitar departed two stops later at a beach. Now I was the only passenger on the bus.
Well, a nice view of the beaches. We haven’t gone over any long bridges. I’m fine. Not to worry.
Three miles later, after a few more stops there were no other passengers. The driver pulled into the airport and stopped at the terminal and announced, “Airport.”
I said to him as I walked down the steps, “Thanks. Sorry I doubted you.”
“No problem, Mon.”