On my way home from Birmingham, I stopped through at Green Acres to get a 5-piece all-the-way. As I was waiting at the traffic light at the intersection of 4th Avenue N & 17th Street, the 38-Graymont/Ensley pulled up next to me. I haven’t been on that bus since my days of taking it from 5 Points South to the stop on Graymont Avenue about 3 blocks away from Parker High…way back in 2001. Things were certainly different back then. That brings me to this week’s moment in the Flashback Friday series: the MAX bus experience.
How I first came across this moment? I’m pretty sure my experience with the MAX buses started with my mother. She navigated the City of Birmingham quite efficiently via the bus. My earliest recollection of riding the buses with her was when I was 4 years old but I’m sure it was well before that. There was the driver on the 14-11th Avenue South in the early 90s, who was really cool with my mother. When we’d ride his bus and there were layovers, he let me sit in the driver’s seat. For a 4-year-old, that was like the equivalent of having free reign in a candy store. I was riding the MAX by myself by the time I was 5 years old and that continued up until I purchased my first car.
What it meant to me then? As a youngster, the experience of riding the MAX was unique to me. I really got a chance to see a lot of Birmingham and the surrounding communities that way. With the exception of the 20-Zion City and the 50-Cherokee Bend, I rode every bus that was in the system at some point from 1990 until 2002. The 49-Crestwood/Century Plaza was my favorite route. I made many good friends on the MAX, including my longtime best friend and the prospective best man at my wedding.
What it means to me now? I haven’t rode a MAX bus since February 2003, when my father took The Deuce away from me for a week as punishment. Do I miss it? Not really. I’m probably better off. By the time I stopped riding, it was a different experience than when I first started riding. That was probably more because of me riding it all the way out to Huffman High as opposed to Parker High…different demographics, different people in 2002. I’ll be forever fond of the memories of my times on the MAX buses though. I remember when I rode the 11-Hooper City just because I wanted to see why it took so long to get from the Winn-Dixie in North Birmingham to Downtown Birmingham…all those damn layovers. I remember getting on the 39-Homewood/Edgewood at 5 Points South, riding all the way to Wildwood, and getting off in Smithfield when it was a 38-Graymont/Ensley…a lot of great conversations with an elderly driver named Al back in those days. I remember when one of the guys I caught the 17-Naples/Eastwood Mall with back in 1999 slipped me a copy of Hot Chocolate men’s magazine—Volume 1, Issue 3—in a paper bag with a “don’t let your momma see this” message. I met my first girlfriend on the MAX. I got from school to my first job on the MAX. There will always be a great appreciation from me for that mode of transportation.