Later on that night: Mike, early fifties with glasses, African American. Haven't seen him before.
I greet him as a friend, at Harrison Street inbound. "How's it goin'?"
I remember a newcomer once commenting on how amazed she was watching me drive- she couldn't believe how many people I knew. I don't recall remember the particulars, but I wonder if she simply thought I knew them, and that my tone and delivery was of the type she thought was normally reserved for friends.
"Aw, I'm okay," he responds.
"Stayin' warm, I hope!"
"Yeah, this cold is too much for me. I'm from Louisiana."
"I'm from LA,"
"Yeah, I'm not built for it. This stuff is unnatural! But I'm glad its not as cold as so many other places."
He seems a quieter fellow, but I can't help but chat. Where does my desire to connect come from? I'm riding the high of this last evening, and the elation is flowing over the brim. I'm a child who's just finished a drawing, and just have to show it to somebody. Doesn't matter who it is. I have to let it out, this joy, share it with whoever's around me. We cruise underneath the trees at John, that section on Fairview that has no streetlights. The traffic signals of Denny Way reach out from up ahead.
"It's my last day on the route, so I'm trying to live it up."
He may be in quiet mode tonight, but he's intrigued by my buoyant spirit. "What's your next route?"
I'm laughing. "I like it though. I think I'm a little crazy up here." Pointing at my ear. He grins. "Time goes by so fast. I start the shift, look at my watch, all of a sudden I'm done."
"Yeah, it gets that way for sure. You got a good attitude though, bro. Lookin' out for the people. I ride that 124,"
"'Nuff said, right?"
"My parents and I rode that all the time when I was little, the 174." I pause for a moment, lost in thought, recalling those lost days. The old MAN artics, with their brown seats and faux wood paneling. Holes torn in the gray fabric of the articulated section; the novelty of a bus that turned in the middle. I recall a parade of different sensibilities all around us, a generally festive air. There's great value in acclimating children to being around others. In riding the public bus they become accustomed to the variety of human life, and the equality inherent in sharing the same space. I remember being amongst everyone, looking out the window at the place that sold gargoyles and garden statues. Is it still there, I wonder, as we turn right on Stewart.
"Hey, how's that 124 now that it's offa Fourth ave, and goes through Georgetown?"
"Iss a little more mellow."
"Yeah, I was gonna say. You're not hitting all those liquor stores on Fourth."
"But you still got those guys on Marginal."
"Gets kinda funky?"
"Oh yeah!" There's his laugh coming out.
"There's good people everywhere though."
"So true," he says with a great and happy sigh, as if quietly thrilled there are those who can see this. "So true. Oh yeah."
He bids me farewell at Pine. A hollow voice calls out, followed by a hooded face coming up in the darkness: "Eey, bro! When you comin back to tha' three five eight?"
"I'ma be there next week, finally got it back! You'll have to come out, man, we'll go fo'a ride!"
He grins wide in approval. "Yeeeeeah," he says.
People often ask when I'm coming back to the 7. That's the route people remember me on the most. After that is the 358. Usually I say something like I hope so, or the next chance I get; I'm so glad I could tell him actually that I really would be on it soon.