Long Day's Journey Into Plight: Stephen Dare & JTA 2

December 6, 2015 51 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

Welcome to a summary of one of Metrojacksonville's most popular articles of all time: Originally published in 2009, when most people would agree that the beleaguered Transit Authority was at its absolute nadir (pre Nat Ford) One of the most popular threads in the history of the Metro Jacksonville.com forums was the daily journal kept by Stephen Dare when he decided to stop driving cars and go green. As he struggled to find a way to use only the mass transit options offered in the city of Jacksonville, the journal got at times hilarious. This is one of the most popular stories of Stephen Dare's attempt to use Jacksonville Mass Transit. The Equestrian Center Caper.



Welcome to a summary of one of Metrojacksonville's most popular articles of all time:  Originally published in 2009, when most people would agree that the beleaguered Transit Authority was at its absolute nadir (pre Nat Ford)

I Was Duly Warned



Today's Mission:

To travel by bus along one of the remaining untraveled routes for the purpose of visiting the Westside Equestrian Center.

The Equestrian Center, one of the cooler projects of the Better Jacksonville Plan is 35 million dollars of awesomeness located off of Normandy on the Westside.  Not only are there tremendous facilities for all things equestrian but its also a great place for horses.

Not that there are unlicensed horses simply running amuck normally, because there aren't.  There are however stables and showgrounds for the massive shows that happen there.  Otherwise one can simply choke on the dust and hay while wandering around the deserted facility.

But thankfully, this is not the only attraction to the Equestrian Center.  There is also a freaking brilliant aquatic center with diving boards, etc.  It's massive.  It sprawls.  There are bleachers, and the pool itself is Brobdingnagian.  There are showers and lockers and lifeguards and all in all it is one of the most pleasant ways to spend an afternoon for free in the city.

Outside the Aquatic Center there are baseball diamonds, archery ranges and all manner of coolish ways to divert yourself.

It is one of the largest public investments in outdoor recreation in the cities history.

So surely there would be easy access by the municipal center via public transit.

Well the early signs seemed to point to the opposite.

It all began when I called JTA customer information.  630-3100.

Readers of this column are already aware that this is the only part of JTA that is in working order.  The only reliably quality run service that is consistently provided and unfailingly knowledgeable are these few stalwarts who man the phones at the Service Center.

Glenda sounded skeptical in the extreme of my chances of being able to make it to the Equestrian Center or the Elysian waters of its indoor Pool.

"Honey, it doesn't really take you very near there"  she told me.  "That's it, the only bus line that we have that goes out there......You would have to get off at the Gym or FCCJ....."

Of course, being a Beaches Native and a core city inhabitant, referencing either the 'gym' or 'cecil campus fccj' is about as useful as referencing the Seattle KFC or the Rug Sales Center in Downtown Morocco.  One assumes that they must be vaguely near, but other than that....nothing.

"Hmm. The Cecil Campus FCCJ"  I led.

"Well thats at LEAST a mile or so from the Equestrian Center.  It would be quite a walk"  She said, obviously not trusting my iron sinews or steely resolve to walk a mere mile or so

Hmmm...., I returned non commitally, while trying to envision a mile or so in my head.

"I'm sorry we can't help you."  she said finally.

I realized that I was wasting her time with my invisible visualizing and imagineering.

"Well, what bus do I have to take and when does it leave?"  I asked quickly.

She sounded skeptical but provided me the information.

Its B-6 and lets see.....it leaves at 10:45, and then it leaves every hour from Rosa Parks Station.

I thanked her and hung up.

Little did I know that I would replay this little scene in my head again and again, ruefully realizing that I had missed the turning point in this moment.

I packed a little bag with shower accouterments and towel, swim trunks and a change of clothes and embarked.




The Journey Begins

On the Bus, B-6 (I have no freaking idea what the "B" refers to in this case)

I grabbed a schedule for the return trip and settled in for the ride.

Whatever planning might be ongoing within the bowels of the Jacksonville Transportation Authority, every single thing that might be done wrong apparently got together and conspired to make of the B-6 route a medley of bad ideas as would make the dark gods of bureaucratic Chaos proud.

First of all, the route is too long.

Way too long.

Freakishly way too long.  As in time.

For instance, starting at the Greyhound Bus station at 11 in the morning one can depart from Jacksonville to Gainesville.

The JTA Passenger (myself in this instance) leaving the Rosa Parks Station just blocks away departs for the Westside at 10:45.

The Greyhound Passenger will arrive in Gainesville before the JTA passenger makes it to the corner of Normandy and New World Avenue.

I sat on the bus as we wormed our way through the uninhabited streets of downtown and then meandered a labyrinthian route through Riverside.

Apparently this route was primarily designed to service a tragically unmedicated chapter of the Red Hats Society.  We drove a residential loop de loop through the historic neighborhood and picked up the mutually hostile members of a now extant bridge society who segregated themselves into chatty little groups and began badmouthing each other.

I sat with a group of African American women in the front who filled me in on the grisly details of the ancient animosities at play.

We all hushed as a final group of the old bandercoots boarded and sat primly next to us.

I made the fatal mistake of making eye contact and smiling.

For the next 25 minutes I was nailed into the coffin of a conversation about the bus scheduler's suspected parentage as told from the point of view of an especially bitter old magnolia.  Her lemony observations, (with which I heartily agreed) were accompanied with dark observations about the class of people who not only no longer knew their rightful place in the world, but also rode the buses with impunity and a lamentable lack of social restraints, the type of which she hinted at without ever clearly describing.

The women I had begun the ride with kept rolling their eyes and looking towards heaven.

Only the good die young,
remarked one of them.

The little old lady filling me in on the failings of the modern world in general and the JTA bus planner in specific pretended not to have heard.

As we got to Roosevelt Boulevard all of the white haired Cold Warriors of the Bridge Club disembarked the bus, and I was left not only feeling exhausted but keenly aware that it had already been an hour of transit.

Still we plunged on.

The Bus driver, a tremendously helpful fellow explained the route a bit more.

Apparently the bus didn't go out to the Equestrian Center as a result of the lack of ridership at the furthest edges of the trip.

But that shouldn't surprise anyone, I was advised, as the Bus was useless to any potential customer on the Westside.

Who knew, but apparently Boeing has an active operation out in Cecil Field, and FCCJ has a new aviation campus.  However, none of the employees or students will use the bus because the trip is an hour and a half either way.   No one who works out there wants to spend that much time a day on the bus, and they quickly get a car in order to cut down on the transit time.

I was told about workers at Boeing who lived on the Southside.  They were having to take a 1.5 hour busride downtown, pay a second entrance fee and then ride another hour out to their home in southside.  2 and a half to three hours per day one way on the bus alone.  Obviously if they used JTA for transit both ways, they were spending 6 HOURS A DAY in transit.

Additionally, the driver opined that there would still be more riders on B-6---which is under consideration for being cut altogether---if the JTA at least waited for FCCJ to open its campus.

I asked him why the bus didnt add the Equestrian Center as a stop in order to draw more riders.

"No one has requested that the bus go out there" he responded.

And apparently no one thought of it at JTA.  I realized.



Part 3.  Mayhem.

The bus driver began to approach the mysterious area of town whose landmarks, The Equestrian Center, The 'Gym" and "FCCJ Cecil Campus" have already been mentioned.

Before we reached any of those destinations, the driver did me the service of letting me out as close as possible.  The return trip, he promised, would be incredibly more distant.

At the corner of 103rd and 'New World' (prophetic in a way) I dismounted the diesel chariot and, steeling my Scottish resolve, stepped sturdily out on my way. I walked from 103rd to Normandy and turned left.

I squinted and tried to make out the entrance to the Equestrian Center, feeling certain that I would be able to make out something in the vague distance.

No luck.

Still, with a cheerfulness borne of incipient weight loss, I sojourned on.

On the open roads of Normandy I suddenly realized that all of the recent bitter recriminating of bicycle enthusiasts on the blogs was in no way exaggeration or over-hyped.

The highways of Jacksonville, and especially its West Side are traversed by criminal dumbasses, barely one step above murderous swine.

In fact, the city is rife with potential murderers if not murderers in actual deed.

To these barely cognizant beasts careening down the paved byways, the pedestrian is merely a target.  A focus point for abuse and practicing pitching arms.

There are no sidewalks in the new world, nor is there mown grass.  The tall weeds that line the street are writhing with scaly life and flying grasshoppers.  There are bodacious sandspurs growing Judean scale thorns amidst reptilian and insectile congregations.  One is forced to stick close to the highway, especially a native born Floridian keenly aware that mere penny loafers are not sufficient armor against snake bites.

That was when some group of anonymous blaggards struck me unaware.  I was suddenly stung with multiple sharp welting objects that covered the back of my legs.

As the SUV responsible sped by I realized that they had thrown a handful of pennies.

Bastards.   What the hell.  
Why do something so intrinsically hostile and hurtful!?   No sooner had these thoughts crossed my mind than a Wendy's cup narrowly missed me as it was flung by a passing vehicle.

I made my way into the brush.

About 500 feet into it,  I caught site of a modern looking building on vast acreage through the pine woods that line Normandy.

The Equestrian Center?  I wondered.   I could see the building by merit of an abandoned road over which dirt and spotty grass was beginning to spread cover and thought well what the hell, its better than walking the highway with these thermonuclear dumbasses in utility vehicles zooming by.

I trod down to the complex.

Once there I was informed by a security guard that I had arrived at FCCJ Cecil Campus.

I asked how best to get to the Equestrian Center, and he gave me excellent driving directions despite having watched me walk the entire distance from the highway.

I asked the quickest way to walk there, noticing that there was a back road that led in the correct direction.   He told me I would have to trek back to the highway.  

'What about that road?'  I asked, gesturing towards the aforementioned path.

'Thats the Feds', he said.   'They don't want you out there.'

I wondered exactly how top secret anyplace might be, nestled between a community college and a swim center, but I refrained from asking.   The security guard was a dried out bit of beef jerky, and I know from long experience with this type that one might as well plead with a boiled egg to display sharper wit.

I plodded back down the abandoned roadway.

Just before I got there, I noticed a trail in the woods which appeared to run parallel to Normandy.  Better yet, it was paved.

Surely this is preferable to walking amongst the driving assmonkeys of Normandy, I decided.



In Which the Innocent Commuter is Bloodthirstily Attacked by Wild Beasts.


The trail was just the ticket.

At least at first.

If I was going to have to hoof it a mile or more, it might as well be within the protected confines of this nice and additionally shady woodsland trail.---as long as it didnt divert too far from Normandy.

After a football field or so, the path suddenly turned to the right----directly in the opposite direction of the highway.  I could see that it would turn again in the correct direction and decided to go ahead and risk it rather than  retrace every last damnable step back to the FCCJ pathway.

Butterflies were getting thick on the ground and the mottled sunlight was streaming down in gorgeous patterns over the trail and the ground around.

The 'trail' I began to surmise had once been the military roads for the old base and seemed to be laid out in a more or less gridlike pattern---despite the otherwise complete conquest by nature it was at least predictable.  I relaxed a little.

As I turned a corner, by now fairly distant from the highway, suddenly in a clearing I saw it.

A beautiful dappled fawn.  I suppose it was a fawn.  It wasnt a full grown deer at any rate.

Suddenly the deer saw me.  Wildly mistaking my situation for a disney film, I held out my hand and made clucking noises, fondly believing that this would charm the young deer to approach and let me pet it.  Perhaps we would become friends, and I would come back out to these very woods.  We would grow old together, although of course I would eventually outlive the poor beast.  I would sadly plant beautiful flowers in that distant time, reminiscing over all our many quiet times in the woods together.

As soon as I made the first clucking noise, the young deer panicked and bolted with great desperation.

Dismayed, I heard crashing noise coming from behind me.

I turned to see another young deer charging directly towards me.

As I took it in, I realized that this new deer was not alone.

There were a few others, wildly bolting in my direction.

Then I noticed a monstrously angry looking buck with horns.

His head was lowered as he ran straight at me, his intention to jab those horns directly into my vital organs crystal clear and getting clearer with every nanosecond.

I'm not a hundred percent certain, but I'm pretty sure I screamed like a bitch and began hauling panicked ass.




The Deadly Deer

I don't know how long I ran before I realized that my intestines and lower colon were going to remain safe within my body, but breathing hard enough to qualify as actually gasping for the very breath of life, I paused, resting with my hands on my knees, trying to keep alert for any renewal of the bloodthirsty attack by the feral deer pack.

It took me a moment to listen for the traffic of Normandy.  (assclowns, I ruminated bitterly, they were after all, the sole reason I had wandered into hostile deer territory.)

I oriented myself appropriately and began hiking along in what I was certain was the correct direction.

As I regained breath I got into better spirits and even had time to chuckle a little.

I realized that I had probably panicked without much justification.   I had probably scared the buck as much as he scared me.....Ok probably not, since I don't think that Bucks were subject to embarrassing screaming.

What were the chances of that having happened, after all?

I had no idea that there were really even deer here in Duval County.  I guess I had always assumed that 'Deerwood' was simply the fanciful creation of some yuppified developer---like the perniciously monikered "Wolf Timber"-----I mean certainly no one believes that there are any timber wolves gallivanting loose here in Jacksonville.

I realized that I had been walking without paying attention for a few minutes while I relived the electrifying deer encounter, when I turned a corner to correct my path again only to discover that the deer and I were destined for further mutually upsetting interaction.

For whatever reasons, the gods that drive the paths of panicked deer packs and wildly off course journalists saw fit to place both on a collision course once again.

Still running together, with the younger deer in the lead, I simultaneously heard and saw the murderous creatures coming straight for me.

The male deer caught sight of me, and visibly communicated that I was an unwelcome sight indeed.

His eyes filled with martial hatred and I don't know if these horrible creatures are supposed to do this, but I was convinced he growled and began galloping towards me again.  There was absolutely no sign whatsoever of fear, nor any indication that the Deer intended anything other than direct conflict.

"This cannot POSSIBLY be happening again!"  I thought, this time determined to keep my cool.

With hellfire in it's eyes in plunged toward me and I decided that I had indeed reacted intelligently the first time.

I broke and ran as fast as I could, I turned and saw that it had stopped, but was watching me intently.

I stopped as well.   Maybe we could agree to disagree after all and just go our separate but peaceful ways.

The buck leaped forward and I turned and recommenced the hauling of my ass in earnest.

I ran behind a tree, thinking that it was unwise to have no barrier but thin air between those deadly horns and my tender posterior.

I looked back and the deer had once again stopped, watching me.

When it realized that I was stopped too long, it reared a little and started chasing me again.

I had no choice but to show the better part of valor.

I ran like hell.  I ran zig zigs, I circled bushes, I looked wildly for something to climb.

The deer was playing me like a violin I now realize.

Every time I slowed my flight, the bastard commenced hostilities.

Finally, having been run as ragged as Falstaff, I finally burst into a clearing that contained a baseball diamond surrounded by a huge chain link fence.

I ran along the fence until I found an opening and slipped onto the grounds of the Equestrian Center.

The deer lingered at the edge of the woods, daring me to come back.

It needn't have feared.

The Commuter is Forced to Play Unwilling Target in a Game of Highway Dodgeball.


The Equestrian Center was everything I had hoped that it would be.  Fun, relaxing, easy to use, easy to like.

Of course I did have some transit anxiety.

The bus which I needed to catch back to town left at 5.25, which mean that I needed an hour lead time to get to wherever the bus stop was near the corner of New World and Normandy.

I showered, dressed and feeling tremendously at peace with the world I set out to find the bus stop.

Remembering to welts raised on my legs by the pennies thrown by the motorists, I was understandably reluctant to immediately head towards the highway.

I briefly considered the trails again, but unable to calculate the odds of chance deer migrations, i quickly decided against it.

Well that's all there was to it.  The highway.  Only I would endeavor to stay out of reach of the cars.

It actually began as a nice walk.  That particular day wasn't as hot as many recent ones, and there was cloud cover.  I was in fine spirits.

This lasted about a hundred yards, or the amount of time that it took for an enterprising ape in a backwards baseball cap shoved over his greasy blond hair to lean almost completely out of a car window and launch a missile of Wendy's Iced Tea.

While he missed direct contact, there was sufficient sweet brown rain that i was lightly showered in the drink of Cornbread Champions.   I edged a few feet further from the road.


Not another hundred feet had passed before the next drink was tossed.   This time it was a cola of some kind in a Gate cup.  It missed altogether.  Ha!  Losers.

In all, four drinks and an unidentified object were aimed at me, although only the Sweet Tea connected it.

I took out the cell phone and held it up to ear, and after that the attacks ceased.

I had been walking for about 40 minutes when I finally approached the huge intersection of New World and Normandy.

Now this is putatively near the spot where the Bus stop back to town was supposed to be located.

I checked my cell phone for the time.

5:10.

Holy Hell.   This was no situation to be pressed for time.

I looked searchingly in all directions.

As far as the eye could see, there was nothing remotely resembling a bus stop.

Remembering the direction that the Bus Driver who brought me from the city had indicated, I turned right and began walking to the next major intersection.

This was 103rd.

I began to panic a little.

I called Customer Service at 630-3100

In Which the Commuter Discovers That The New World is Uncharted Territory


Customer Service was certain that there was a stop at the corner of Normandy and New World Road, an illusion of which I disabused them.

Not only was there no bus stop at Normandy and New World Road, but in no way could one describe a bus stop as even being remotely close to that excellent corner.  And by 'excellent' I mean 'having the curious power to magnetically attract motorists with a pathological need to hurl refuse at pedestrians'.

Where was I now? the troubled operator, Glenda asked.

At the corner of New World and 103rd, I informed.

She patiently checked, all the while I could feel an internal hourglass whose sand was slipping unstoppably away.

"Well it says here that the nearest stop to you is at the corner of Perimeter and New World.

Which might as well have been at the corner of Mowgli and Tarzan, as I had no idea where either of these two were, but assumed with reason that they might involve the untamed jungle and wild beasts.

I asked the helpful JTA Service Operator where exactly that was from 103rd and New World.

"Baby, I don't know......"  came the all too tragic reply.  "I'm not familiar with either of those roads."


"Well I'm not either, and Ive already been attacked by wild animals and people throwing things at me.  Isn't there a map or something?  Just give me a direction.   How long until the bus reaches the last stop out here?"

As the good Glenda was simultaneously trying to answer all of these questions as once, off in the distance, coming straight for me down 103rd I could see the bus.

Panicked I looked around in all directions for a stop.

There wasn't one.  There wasn't even a sign that might be used to herald a bus.  It was as though there had never been a bus that had intentionally driven through this part of town.

My panic managed to convey itself through the phone line.

"Whats it doing?!" asked Glenda sounding a little anxious herself.

"Its just driving!  There's no stop here!  Wait!"

"What?!  Whats it doing now?"  she asked.

"Its stopping for the traffic light."  I said.

"Well try and flag it down."  she said.

I ran.  I ran like a Christmas shopper on December 24th who realizes that there is only ONE copy of Halo 9 left on the shelves and some low competitor is also trying to get to the same shelf at the same time.

This ended up being, by far, the most dangerous decision that I would make for the entire day.




The Trojan Horse:  The Commuter is Attacked, Abused and Threatened With Arrest

I gratefully leaped aboard the completely empty bus and explained to the unsympathetic looking bus driver that Customer Service was on the phone.

He stared at me evenly and told me that this wasn't a bus stop.

I acknowledged that it wasn't a bus stop but pointed out to him that there wasnt a bus stop anywhere near here.

He returned my clear plea with a dogged.  "This isn't a bus stop".

"Yeah?  Well I've already walked a mile or so, there isn't a bus stop at Normandy and New World, nor is there one here at New World and 103rd.  Where is the nearest bus stop?"

"About a mile away."  he informed me with no sense of irony.

"Am I supposed to race you to it on foot?"  I asked.

"Sir this isn't a bus stop."

"Well I'm not about to run to the next one, perhaps you can just let me ride."

"Sir this isn't a bus stop.  You need to get off the bus."

"I'm already on the bus, Why can't you just let me ride?"

By now the bus driver was getting visibly angry.  Which made me stir with a little internal temper myself.

Now as an aside, this is ridiculous.   We aren't paying millions of dollars every year for a mass transit system whose purpose is to provide the operators of the buses with a handbag full of reasons to deny transit to customers.   Who the hell made it ok for these people to get angry at customers for wanting to ride the damned buses?

"Sir you will have to get off of the bus." he repeated loudly.

In the interest of arguing with me, the driver had let his foot off of the brake, and as we were at an intersection, the bus had slowly begun to creep out into traffic.

Because the fool was turned and focused on me for the sole purpose of telling me that I wasn't allowed to ride the bus he was totally oblivious of the fact that a speeding 18 wheel truck was coming directly down the lane that he was creeping incrementally towards.

I however, was facing his seat and could see the truck clearly.

Far too clearly.

I tried to warn him, but he cut me off.

"You will have to get off of the bus.  NOW!"

"Would you shut up and------!"

"Who are you telling to shut up!"  he demanded.  

The 18 Wheeler was bearing down on us.  It was going to be a close call, and it seemed to me that we would enter the far lane just in time to hit the truck as it passed.

For the second time that day I screamed, pointing frantically at the truck.

The driver SLAMMED on the brakes just in the nick of time, first throwing me forward and then jerking me backwards into the aisle.

From my recumbent position I heard the man cry "That was YOUR fault!  Now you really are going to have to get OFF this bus!"

The Trojan Horse and the Final Indignity


I struggled to my feet, by now thoroughly insulted and offended as well as tired of being attacked by deer, Normandy motorists, and now this.

"Well, I am not going to get off the bus.   This is ridiculous.  You've nearly killed the both of us with this nonsense, and it really is as simple as driving on to the next bus stop."

The drivers face underwent a transformation that was both angry and even more mulish than before.  I could see him mentally digging his heels in.

"Oh, we will see who is going to get off this bus.  You think Im playing with you."

He wheeled across the highway and pulled off on the side of the road.

"What are you doing?"  I demanded.  Afraid that it was all too sadly, all too tragically clear.

"We are going to wait right here until you get off the bus"

Already experienced with waiting for the Rapture, I instead pulled out my cell phone and dialed JTA Customer Service.

'You DO realize that this bus is supposed to be public transit right?  Im your only passenger and you are screaming at me.  And you wonder why no one is willing to ride the bus system?  Well YOU are part of the reason."  I said to him as penetratingly as I could.

At this he lost his mind and began gibbering loudly and imprecatingly.  None of the noises coming out of him sounded nice.

Customer Service picked up the phone.  It was Glenda.

"Hey, I'm having the most extraordinary time with your bus driver.   He's yelling and screaming at me in the background and has pulled the bus over on the side of the road and is telling me that Im going to be removed from the bus.   Can you transfer me to Mr. Blaylock's office?"

In the background the yelling and screaming increased in volume and intensity.

"Is that the driver"  asked the customer service agent.

"Oh yeah.  That's him."

"Oh my goodness."

The bus driver, left to his own devices, began making calls and radio transmissions of his own.  Apparently two could play at this game.

As I waited for Glenda to transfer me over to the main office, I could hear him talking to either the dispatcher or the police, in either case he was requesting back up to remove a belligerent passenger.

"I'm holding for Mr. Blaylock"  I informed him as he hung up his line and stared at me with deep bitterness.   This information seemed to have the same effect as slapping him across the face might.

"I don't care WHO you are holding for, you are getting OFF this damn bus. And besides you aren't holding for Mr. Blaylock"

As though he had spoken truth to power, the line to JTA went dead.

"This is ridiculous, and you know what, im going to write about this."  I told him.   "And while you don't know who the hell I am, I'm actually doing a series of articles about the JTA and its service."

This last bit, far from fanning down the fire had the same effect as throwing gasoline in copious amounts over the top of a well lit barbecue.

The driver began bellowing and actually got up out of his seat.

I quickly, desperately, redialed the number to customer service, squirming uncomfortably through the 'all of our customer service representatives are busy with other customers' message.  If I was about to be savagely beaten to death on a public bus, at least there would be a lone witness.

Well maybe not much of a witness, but at least they would hear my final moments.  Maybe someone would be concerned enough to search the bus for signs of a struggle if not a body.

I glumly considered how easy it would be for this maniac to dispose of my corpse.  He would probably feed it to that demonic deer.  He seemed like the sort.  Him and the deer, gloating over my final demise.  The image just burned me up.  Well, I wasn't going to go into that good night without a fight.....

If I had to, I would tell on him.

The Trojan Horse, In Which The Commuter Miraculously Survives The Bus Ride


I waited for Glenda.

As she answered again, he was yelling maniacally in the background.

"I don't know who YOU are!? I don't know who YOU are!?"  he was going on, "Well YOU don't know who I am!"

"Hello, Glenda, this is me again."

"Is that the driver still?"   she asked incredulously.

"Sure is."  By now he had started calling me a liar.

"Can you hold on, I'm going to get my supervisor"

There was a series of clicks and beeps and of course the ranting and raving of the by now, thoroughly exercised bus driver.

"Oh yes!  Oh yes!  Wait till you learn MY name!  Then you will recognize."

Was he Blaylock's son? I wondered?

I checked his badge.  It was 1995, and he wasn't wearing his name tag.

As though reading my mind, customer service asked the bus number and his name.  I told her and added that my cell phone was dying.

Glenda asked my phone number to call back and I gave it to her.

At that moment, the line went dead again.  I cursed the connection.

"AhA!"  the driver said triumphantly.  "Now we'll see!"  He added leeringly.

"Don't you think this is a little too much drama over one customer riding the bus?"  I asked him, genuinely curious to know.

His radio made an insistent noise.  Deciding to fry my hash later, he picked up the line.

His voice got low and then I heard him demanding a supervisor to drive out.  He pronounced every syllable of the word with malevolence:  Su.  Per.  Vize.  Er.  He repeated the word several times.

I surmised that he was afraid that they hadn't understood him the first few times.

My cell phone rang.  He jumped up.

"This is probably Ms. Brooks now."  I informed him hoping it would have a chilling effect.

It didn't.

He didn't care WHAT Ms. Brooks had to say.  He didn't Care WHO I was talking to.  He said "I Don't Care WHO youre talking to!  I'll tell her to her FACE.  I DON'T care!"

"Is that the bus driver?"  asked Ms. Brooks.

I sighed with relief.  Maybe I wasn't destined to die like a dog on the side of a highway today after all.  On the westside no less.  As readers of this blog know, Ms. Brooks is the Director of Customer Service.  I was saved.

Even so, this nonsense went on for the next thirty minutes.   We left the side of the road and he drove to FCCJ Cecil Campus.   Scowling horribly at me he stormed off and disappeared on campus.

Time passed.

More time passed.

The car belonging to the JTA supervisor wheeled into the parking lot.

There was discussion between the bus driver (whose name I didn't manage to get) and the supervisor.

A call came in on the last gasp of my cell phone's charge.

It was a gracious apology on behalf of the JTA and a guarantee of transit back downtown.

We rode together on in silence.

Finally at 8:00 or so, having left the Equestrian Center at 4:25 I arrived downtown, caught the bus to Springfield without incident and joined the public meeting of Metrojacksonville.com at HOLA.

Which by the way, was one hell of an experience.