To hear LYNX talk up its new Central Station transit terminal which began admitting passengers last week you'd think that Orlando had just witnessed the rebuilding of the ferchrissakes World Trade Center. But all the company's crowing over the terminal's up-to-the-minute capabilities can't obscure the fact that the people who really frequent bus depots are more concerned with practical, real-world considerations like where the best place is on the premises to score a dime bag or a hand job. So we visited the new station and graded its key features according to the criteria we knew would matter most to our readers. Naturally, our tour starts in the:
MEN'S ROOM There are only two stalls, which would seem to drastically impede the potential for assignations of any sort. On the plus side, the handicapped stall is pretty darn roomy. Have at it, intrepid glory-hole drillers!
And you panhandlers, don't worry that the squeaky-clean station's momentarily high visibility will make your job any harder. The morning of the terminal's grand dedication ceremony when the place was crawling with LYNX employees, government officials and law-enforcement types we took a trip to relieve ourselves and were almost immediately accosted by a guy in a business suit, who brazenly asked us to give him $3. Not one, not two, but three. Nobody made the slightest attempt to censure him. Maybe he was a LYNX manager himself, seeking pin money for his next trip to Vegas.
We assume the ladies' room is a similar hotbed of underground economics, but we didn't have the stones to find out for ourselves. Any female reader who can file an informed report is more than welcome to do so. In fact, maintaining ties with women who know a lot about bus-station rest rooms is a general policy of this column in the first place.
INFORMATION CENTER There are more walk-up windows than there were at the old Central Boulevard terminal, and the glass that separates you from the on-duty route specialists seems to be thinner, because it's much easier to hear their answers to your questions. That's great news if you've just stabbed eight nursing students to death and need to get out of town fast.
Know what's not your friend? The overhead 10-by-20 video screen that's been the subject of so much advance publicity. True, the arrivals/departures board at Central Boulevard was a glorified delicatessen menu, but at least it displayed the details of every route simultaneously. This oversize Etch A Sketch parcels out information a mere four routes at a time, guaranteeing all the hair-pulling impatience of a night spent watching the TV listings channel on basic cable. By the time you've learned what you needed to know, your bus is halfway to Apopka, Highway to Heaven is on its last commercial and the feds have ID'd the fingerprints you left all over campus.
PAY PHONES There are two located inside the terminal, representing a thoughtful tip of the hat to freshman-level crack dealers who can't yet afford cell phones. We give it two weeks before they're permanently out of commission. (The phones, that is. Not the crack dealers.)
OUTDOOR ARCHITECTURE The loading and unloading area is covered by a ceiling canopy that's meant to resemble rolling waves. That's all well and good from a design standpoint, but what the apprentice vagrant in us really wants to know is how much protection from the elements we'll enjoy after we pass out while waiting to take the bus home after a hard Tuesday night of clubbing. Not a lot, from the looks of it: Though the individual loading bays have their own coverings adding a beneficial second layer of shelter in some areas the overall building structure still makes copious use of exposed scaffolding, unconnected surfaces and other examples of negative space. To believe that this is a watertight edifice, you have to subscribe to the physical paradigm that rain never falls on a diagonal.
As a palliative, no one has to worry about being run over no one who can read, anyway. The signs that point the way to the bus bays all carry the helpful warning, "Caution: Buses." Like we were expecting to run into sampans or something. Where were these people when we spilled all that scalding McDonald's coffee in our lap?
INDOOR SEATING Here's where a lifelong love affair with inertia pays off. The indoor waiting area seats 60, with a bank of 10 connected chairs located on the west side of the room and another five banks situated in the center. The best part? None of the seats have armrests, affording you an ideal opportunity to stretch out for a nice nap or perhaps engage in a bout of impromptu coitus with a carny worker who has 35 minutes to spare before her bus leaves for Jacksonville. Take a load off and lie down; LYNX will leave the light on for ya. (The metal benches outside look similarly comfortable, though they're a bit shorter. Save them for trysts with that midget hooker in your life.)
And that's just the tip of the illicit iceberg. In the weeks to come, LYNX will expand Central Station with retail shops and fast-food restaurants which, as we all know, are where the very best anti-government conspiracies get ironed out. In the meantime, try to ignore the half-hearted injunction that's posted outside the Garland Avenue entrance: "Please, no panhandling, loitering, sleeping in the terminal, skateboarding, riding scooters, rollerblading, riding bicycles or parking." You'll of course notice the glaring omission of bukkake. It's going to be one great winter, fellow transit riders.