Everything about the day was fine, except for this headache. I think you know the type. Imagine a subtle, unending brain freeze, surging every time you exert yourself physically. Something as inconsequential as kneeling to retie a shoe, and the blood is rushing up now, pushing your brain against the insides of your skull. Every move has to become delicate. I still greeted each passenger and called out all the stops, but in a muted manner, remaining genuine but with a definite whiff of the old "phoning through the motions" thrown in. No Oscar for this performance.
Somehow though, it's enough to get the rapt attention of a teenage youngster sitting a few seats back, absolutely beaming at my all-encompassing warmth toward the folks. He leapt up to the front, sliding in on some sort of astral propulsion. One second he was somewhere back there, and now he's right next to me, with a cheeky adolescent grin stretching out for days. I couldn't help but smile back. He's Caucasian, American, buzz cut angled forward at the front, lanky and limber all at once.
He proclaimed I must be the youngest, the best, and the coolest bus driver he's ever seen in all his born days, and I downplayed it, deflected this lofty praise, and we chatted about how long I'd been doing it, what I like about it, all the rest. Peppered alongside were colorful passengers wandering in and out, exchanging pleasantries with both he and I. I believe this was new for him. He was headed to friends on Mercer Island, and hadn't been on the 7 before. He felt the electric buzz of engagement, of acceptance.
Great first up-close interactions with other class and race demographics can be pretty formative, and I was excited to be present. A moment with Melody, a First-Nation woman from Montana, seemed particularly good. He beamed. Wouldn't you, upon realizing the number of people you can feel comfortable talking to has just expanded by a factor of thousands? New doors and ideas were opening as he watched me work the crowd. In the moments between our conversation grew as well.
"Where'd you go to school," he was asking. Wes was his name. I think he meant high school.
"Up here at UW. Yeah, I'd drive bus in the morning, then go to class, then go home do homework, then wake up and do it all over again. It was a lot."
"Wow. That's pretty impressive, working and paying for school all at once. 'Cause I think most people just have their parents pay for it!"
"Well, I think it's good to not have to work when you're goin' to school, so you can get the whole experience, you know, and plus it's a lot, you get so busy, and then there's the social experience of it. Of course it's good to get the experience of actually paying for your own stuff, but just the you know the time,"
"True, but when you're busier, you're also more productive."
"Oh, that's kind of amazing. I've never thought of that."
He leaned forward. "'Cause I run track and a lotta cross country, and during my off season, I'm so much less productive. My grades just drop!"
"I don't get hardly anything done. People say well, you don't get to be social when you're busy, but I say when you're busy you value your friends–"
"So much more,"
"–more, when you only get to see them some of the time."
"That's gotta be true," I said, "because I totally treasure my friends, and it's probably because well, I don't get to see any of them every single day."
Pause. I forget what happened here. I think Melody asked us about the Easter Bunny. I was preoccupied with the wisdom of our young friend. The two of them chatted for a moment while I reflected. Time management is something I discuss with friends often, and his ideas were new to me.
"How about you," I asked him finally, "what are you interested in?"
"A lotta tech stuff, I'm a tech guy. And social too."
"You do both! That's cool. Not everyone does!"
"Yeah, people get surprised when they find out that I'm into video games,"
Which triggered a thought of my own, and one I find important to share with young people: "Well you know, it's about being confident. I feel like it doesn't even really matter what kinda person you are, what you're into. As long as you're confident about it,"
He listened with a pause, thinking. "Confidence, yeah,"
"Yeah, comfortable with who you are, people are impressed by that. You don't need to be a certain personality type or be into specific stuff for people to like you. It's just confidence. 'Cause then they see you and they're like wow, this person must know something about how life works, they're so confident, so relaxed with who they are, I wanna hang around 'em figure out what their secret is! And all it is is, it's just, confidence. Friendly confidence."
"Dude, I could talk to you all night!"
It wasn't until after he left I realized my headache was completely gone. Thank you, Wes. You have no idea how helpful your enthusiasm was– the best kind of contagion, sparking the slumbering ebullience we all possess, energy we didn't know we had. Our smiles towards others can work wonders we'll never know.
Into the mic I said, "Let's get outta here!"
"We got a wild a driver tonight!" the husband of the mid-aged couple sitting up front quipped.
"It's gonna be one wild ride! How you doin'?"
"Good," the wife answered. "We're trying to get some gelato!"
"Oh, excellent! Earlier this year I was in Italy, where I had entirely too much gelato practically every day I was there…."
"Well," she continued, "here in Seattle, the place to go for it would be Gelatiamo, back at–"
"Third and Union!"
"Third and Union. But it's closed tonight. For some employee party."
"Oh the agony!" I howled.
"We walked fourteen blocks to get there, and then,"
"Oh wow." They were the sort I automatically warm to and want to know more about– a happy couple getting on in years, with overlapping but distinct personalities. They finished each other's smiles.
"So now we're going up to this place on Twelfth and Pine."
Fourteen blocks, I was thinking, only to be stymied! I marveled at their unflagging spirits. "Well, I'm glad you're putting in the extra mile, quite literally, to obtain this gelato. It'll taste all the better!"
She whispered to him, thinking she was out of earshot: "this is so much more fun!" Then aloud she asked, "where in Italy were you?"
"Milan, Venice, Florence, Naples, and Rome. I had three weeks to myself and made the most of it. I like traveling alone, you know, the absolute freedom aspect. And photography is my training, so I had a great time."
"Ha! No, photography!"
"Although that'd be great, topography! The elevation, I can't get enough!"
It's important to keep announcing zones when I'm in conversation with someone up front. It lets the rest of the bus know that I've got them and their safety in mind, too. "Okay, this is Boren Avenue, have a nice night. This is a 49 tonight, we're gonna drive The Great 49, to the U District, welcome aboard."
Back to the important stuff. "So is this procuring of gelato a regular venture for you guys?"
"Yeah well, only when we're in town, we're not from–"
"Oh, whereabouts are you coming from?"
"I'm from LA," he said.
"And I live in Portland," she said.
"I'm from LA," I replied. "And Portland is marvelous. Because you have Powell's Books."
"Yes! Biggest bookstore in the world!"
"And surprisingly navigable, what with all the colored rooms,"
"You know, there's times when I go down there and spend ninety percent of my time inside that place! I know Portland has other things to offer, but I just love being in there."
We were travelling north on Bellevue Avenue when one of them said, "oh okay, we probably need to get off at the next,"
"Hang on you said Twelfth and Pine, right?"
"Yeah, but if you're goin' north–"
"Oh we'll continue east on Pine. We're just jogging over a block."
"Little zig zag! Just to keep us on our toes, wide awake!"
"No sleepin' on the job!"
She was grinning hugely. The buzz we'd all been building together was riding high, and other passengers were smiling too. "You need to move to Portland," she said finally.
"Is it affordable?"
"That's the thing. I love this place, but I wish it didn't cost an arm and a leg to pay rent."
"And they pull 'em off so slowly!" he cried.
"Exactly, the pain! And I only have so many arms and legs!"
"I know, what happens next?"
"I'm running out of limbs here!" To the crowd: "next we have a stop at Belmont and Pine, Summit Avenue. Have a good one."
"I do love it though. I could never do this job in LA."
"Oh God no," he replied. We went on joking about LA traffic with outsized exaggeration and lighthearted sarcasm.
It was a buoyant cheer, our little creation, throwing words and smiles about, the effervescence bouncing off us and flourishing a little more each time, our beaming enthusiasm snowballing around in the aisle and rubbing off on all present. For a moment we had heightened life, made it more exciting than it already is, italicizing the carefree and jocular delight of the act of existence. It's a quantity we've all experienced before, and why not bring it to the fore once more?
Tony, Dawna, & Nietzsche
I first saw him at 14th and Jackson, chatting with some NightWatch pals. It was 6:45, long before the 9pm entry time for that program. He was dressed like a dad fallen on hard times– grey sweatshirt underneath a dog-tired leather jacket, khakis and a small knit cap. Forty, African-American.
"Hey," he said when I opened the doors. "I need an Owl transfer."
"I'll give you 10:30."
"Yeah, but I need an Owl." He was standing ten feet away from the bus, and apparently expected me me to tear him a special-length transfer and walk out and hand it to him. In that moment he smacked to me of entitlement, of pride built on sand, the sort where one believes the world owes one something. Because I'm not always at my best, I let this rub me the wrong way.
I said, "I'll hook you up next time," already closing the doors.
"Okay," he said.
The next time I saw him, which was later that same night, the timing was such that everyone was getting Owl transfers, and so gave him one too.
"You're a man of your word," he exclaimed.
"I do what I can," I said. He was polite.
That was a week or so ago. Tonight he was there again, at Third and Main. He waited while I lowered the wheelchair ramp for another passenger. My thoughts meandered: I could choose to like him or dislike him. Which will make my nights easier? He's not going anywhere. I need to find something about this guy that I like.
With the ramp now stowed he stepped aboard with an eye on my transfers.
"Hey," I said. "What's your name?"
"My–? Tony. And yours?"
"Nathan. Good to know your name."
Something inside him clicked in that second. The mind is a universe, and worlds can change in a blink. He shook my hand for a second longer. "You know," he said, smiling in a way which somehow struck me as formative, like this was the first smile, not his first but ever, primordial, a reminder that all good things start with something small… could we still be in the early days of humanity, warring our way through problems which eons from now will be utterly solved, faded memories of strife difficult to imagine?
"You know," he continued, "you're one of the, there's two best drivers, there's you and one other lady driver on the 36–"
"I know who you're talkin' about! Wears makeup, hair like this, real friendly to everybody…"
"Man. You know everyone! Before I even described her, you know, and you also knew that other bad driver on the 14 we was–"
"Oh my goodness, I forgot we talked about that guy!" His memory is better than mine.
"But what I wanted to say was, is, about both you guys, is thank you for helping those who need help."
"It's an honor to serve. It's a great thing to serve. It's not something to look down on."
"Yeah, and a lotta people do. Thank you for not judging us, for not–"
"Well. I have family that used to be homeless."
"So I can,"
"Well, the thing is, we're all the same. It's a phase. Like I'm sure you've done all kinds of other things in your life."
"And this is just another phase, hopefully one that'a end sooner rather than later."
"Yeah well, you know, my wife called me last month, the other month, hang on. What am I talkin' about, we spoke the day before yesterday. I been goin' through this surgery,"
"Oh, man! I hope it's been goin' well!"
"Her and me's been separated for a long time. Anyways she called me, mah wife, and said, 'come on over.'"
"Yeah! Said she gonna pay for everything!"
"That sounds amazing!"
"Well, it's like I kinda don't know who to trust!"
"Well maybe, it's. I mean, there was a time when you guys were, when it was good. An' that was real, and maybe it's outta respect for that time."
"Yeah. Yeah. Yeah, I hope so. I hope that's what it is." He held the thought for a beat, letting it settle in. He smiled.
I was thinking of Dawna. "You know," I reflected, "goin' back to that lady 36 driver. I respect her so much 'cause she's been able to keep up that attitude for so long. In spite of everything, all the stuff that happens, what's impressive to me is the amount of time. She just keeps doin' it."
"She's a blessing. You both are. God's blessing."
"Oh, I don't know. What goes around comes around."
"It ain't about that. You got somethin', and you're givin' it out to everyone else."
"I'm just so thankful to be here."
I didn't know what else to say. I thought of Dawna and drivers like her, and how they bring to life the great Nietzsche quote:
“It is not the strength, but the duration, of great sentiments that makes great men.”
Above: On the left, my friend Purpelle Tramble, the filmmaker. Photo by her. On the right, some guy with short hair...
Two unrelated interactions with different late-night 7 riders featuring almost exactly the same import, and not one I was expecting:
Two men are up front, street guys. Both about thirty, lanky men in shirts so huge another culture would call them dresses, and correspondingly massive denim jeans of a murky grey color. I'm reminded of male grouse which puff out their feathers when trying to attract a mate, making every effort to look larger than life. The first fellow, of mixed descent, has a three-day growth about his face and a light fuzz obscuring his bald pate. The second man, a slightly younger caucasian gent, had asked upon boarding if I recognized him. I did. "You look good now, man," I'd said. He used to stumble aboard in terrible shape, dressed in holed tatters and clearly somewhere far away mentally… but now his hair has grown back, and he's showered and clean, on kilter.
The first man did the talking. Smiling in the dark: "you get a haircut?"
"Yup, it was gettin' a lil' crazy! Startin' to turn into a wild animal!"
This is my haircut strategy. It's quite simple. Get it cut a little shorter than you'd like, for the sake of variety and so you don't have to go as often, and let it lie fallow while it grows into this nice mixture of astronaut/soccer player messy. Then the curls start to come out. Then it starts doing the Frodo Thing. After that it starts getting into these weird Wolverine-Tarzan-Javier Bardem stages that don't make any sense. Various friends and acquaintances have different ideas of when along this sequence I need a haircut, but in my opinion, a trip to the barber is imminent right around the high point of the Frodo stage. With my hair just cut, I always feel surprised upon looking in the mirror– my mental self-image has longer hair in those moments than my real self does, as I look at the strange bespectacled person across from me, looking not like an artist but some young guy in advertising from '50s Northern California.
I said, "but I think now I look a little bit square, you know what I mean?"
I expected him to agree, but instead he replied with, "dude, square's tight. Square's the new cool. I wish I was square, dogg."
"What? You serious?"
"You know, iss funny. As you get older, it ain't cool to be cool no more. Be the shit and be no shit. Iss all about bein' square. With it."
"I wanna be right in the middle somewhere."
Okay. A somewhat unexpected opinion from one street guy. Not the most surprising thing. But an hour later, Jason (the very same, from the post below this one) and a ladyfriend stepped in.
Jason grinned as he said, "gotchur haircut!"
"Yeah, it was gettin' outta hand! They said I was turnin' into a wild animal!"
"But now I feel a lil' bit square!"
His lady cried, "jigga-what?"
Jason: "Nate, you are all the way there."
"Das why you so cool!" Jason cried, as his friend explained her outburst:
"Yeah, iss cool to be square! Square's da new thing!"
There was a point in Eminem's musical career where he strayed from the typical hip-hop clothing ensemble and began showing up to functions wearing a sharp but fairly modest three-piece suit with wire-frame glasses and no jewelry. Why?
I don't know. Mr. Mathers was always an interesting sort (he had two platinum albums in 2000 and was still driving a Camry!). But there are others, too; the late Bowie look comes to mind. Maybe the definitions of cool are crumbling and shifting, as I've written about before.* Maybe there comes an age when you don't have to set yourself apart so obviously in order to claim your individuality. Or maybe these folks on my bus tonight just really like short hair.
*Here, here and here. The underpinning for these writings stems largely from Ted Gioia's The Birth (and Death) of the Cool, which explores the factors which caused coolness to come into being during the postwar years, and why Gioia feels the concept is on its way out now. Highly recommended.
Jason the Athletic Godfather
I wrote the following in 2012:
At Letitia a gregarious basketball-player-looking character steps off. He always seems to know everybody. He'll get on the bus, plunk down somewhere in the middle, and a minute later be laughing with a few passengers. People know each other out here. Once he stepped out of a Lexus sedan right in front of me and ran onto my bus. "From the Lexus to the 7," I quipped. A big grin as he said back, "from the rich house to the po' house!"
"He" is Jason, a stalwart presence on Rainier. A well-muscled forty or forty-five, always glasses and a baseball hat, some sort of well-heeled athletic wear, a combination father and master of the streets. He's always exchanging cars at the Valero gas station, chatting with the car wash guys across the street, shaking hands and patting shoulders, moving up and down the corridor and confidently taking care of business. We won't ask what that business might be, but I will say that when he once told me "ain't nobody gonna give you no trouble out here," well, all things considered, no one has. He's a face I see regularly enough on the sidewalks it makes sense to honk and wave, and I do. Tonight I drive up to the zone at Othello with my fist in the air, and Jason grins wide, arms in the air, and steps aboard hollering.
"Best Metro driver in all of Metro! On the 7!"
With him is a gregarious middle-aged Asian man I also often see about.They'd been talking. Like Jason, he's similarly omnipresent, and skilled at staying on good terms with everyone. People may get mad at him, but never too mad. He says, "hey, it's you! Yeah, he told me! Best driver!"
The interior has suddenly come alive.
These two swagger on in their disparate ways, boisterous, loudly gesticulating. They're excited. I feel humbled that these titans of the neighborhood accept me so. How can that be, really? I'm just the skinny friendly-looking guy! I'm struck by how long I've known Jason the Athletic Godfather, and say so.
"It's always good to see you. You been knowin' me since… you been out here the whole time ever since I started drivin' the 7!"
"Yeah, I remember!"
He's talking half to me and half to his friend. "I remember this guy, jus' a little kid,"
"Ten years old!" I exclaim.
"Whole entire time every time, sayin 'Hi, how are you,' all this. You ain't changed a bit! Lil' greeting for everybody,"
"That's how I like it! Easier for the people, easier for me,"
"He take the Seven. And he make it easy." Pause. They ruminated over something else for a minute, after which he took the floor once more: "Listen. When you be happy at somebody, they be happy at the next person, turn it back around onto more and more. That's important."
"Naw," I said, as deflection, which he swatted away like so many flies:
"Thank you! I try! You know, they told me when I started I would burn out after six months."
"But I'm like, I think there's another way!" I wish you could hear the elation in our voices, the ebullient fervor. We were a gospel choir, singing to ourselves, the converted soaring on the high tide of our better selves.
"Yup, there's another way. So true." He looked around the bus, practically gleeful in his wonder. "He make the Seven. Like this!" Looking at his Asian friend: "You belie' dat?"
"One big party!"
"One big party up in here!"
One day people will no longer think I'm young, but as long as I'm friendly, people will always think I'm a newbie. In Jason's enthusiasm, his storied laugh, a chuckle just this side of gravelly, was a tone I find often now, but which I hardly used to hear. His was the tone of complete confidence in my attitude, that I could sustain what I was doing. Now people generally accept my perspective as its own weird benevolent insanity, for which I'm hugely thankful, but such wasn't always the case. I mention this for the great influx of new operators being hired now. You might imagine your trajectory is doomed to follow in the predictable footsteps of decline, callousness and enervation, and certain people will tell you so. That is incorrect. There's no need for that path to be realized. You are yourself, and you can stay that way. Wrestle with the challenges in your head, work with them, work them out. If it's out of your control, don't stress about it; if it bothers you, change it or change how you see it. I say thrive on the madcap absurdity of this gig, and find your own way to ride the wave's leading edge. Don't be a product of your environment; hold steady, and dare I say it, puff out your chest, and make the environment an outsized product of yourself.
Rainbows, For Dancing On
Twenty-seven minutes into Sunday, but that's just for those counting at home. Broadway and East Pine is the center of the world for some, and here, where lights and faces streak through the slow-shutter filter of a thousand bustling doorways, it's still Saturday night. Listen to the clang of tongs on a concave surface, steam wafting out of industrial kitchen doorways; rich laughter from on high, the hearty, deep-throated kind, spilling out of a dance hall two floors above. Ancient wood and brick watch the world turn. A singing voice plays at half-speed, gravelly, nestled in an alley too dim and dank for touch. Young legs walk past, oblivious for now; they'll hear his tune in dreams.
The sidewalks and crosswalks and plazas and roadways are littered with good cheer and revelry, as the youth reach out for Dionysus, flailing for ecstasy and touch, belonging, urges we knew in the days before language. Here is an American male with a story, crossing Pine street at an amble, over the rainbow-painted crosswalk several lengths behind his friends. They toss their hair and adjust their skirts just so, with each minute trying themselves out for size, working toward a sharper conception of self.
Is he downcast? Hard to call from this angle. A hipster would wear his sneakers, and his pants are fitted, riding the crossroads between casual and covetous; the grey sweatshirt compliments his chocolate skin, classy but no big deal. He's closing in on finishing out the crosswalk when one of the waiting cars honks at him impatiently, and honks again. The girls turn back to look. Is he angry? Is he–
And then he starts to dance. He stays in front of the angry car, look at that sweet backstep, his elbows angular and alive, hips rotating in from another planet: this is the face of a whole body smiling.
The girls are loving it. Everyone does. The honking car made him the locus of attention, and he's bounced the energy around for all, flipping it away with a sprightly jolt of his shoulders. My bus is empty, but I laugh to myself in the dark, warm in the intersection's new flush. A hefty Waste Management truck drives in, turning into of my field of vision, the driver's face moving close to mine– and you know he feels it too. His white teeth contrast in the dimness, grinning abundant before he even saw me. Any drudgery, any burdensome weight of his job is gone, and for now it's just his beaming eye contact which acknowledges a common perspective, solidarity among us folks who drive heavy equipment around in circles. We're smiling at each other without bothering to think about it.
The things we get to see out here.
There's so much police, fire, and medical sprawled out everywhere you'd think it was the parking lot at Bellevue Psychiatric. This place looks like Willowbrook State in the eighties. The intersection is blocked at East Pine and Belmont, and we're not going anywhere fast. "Looks like we're gonna maybe be hangin' out here for a second," I inform the passengers, adding that this might be their best stop if they'd wanted Broadway up ahead. Parking brake with all doors open, heat turned up.
I like standing up, going for walks, especially after lots of sitting, and given we'll be stuck for a while I step out of the bus and do so. I have a mild inclination to ask for a timeline from one of the officers on scene, that I might update my passengers, but they're distracted and busy. I'll do that later. For now I'm going to enjoy the night sky, and the rare pleasure of ambling around in the center of a blocked intersection.
There's another 49 on the other side of the street, stalled as well. Still in the middle of the road, I amble over to the driver's side, and Jeremiah opens his operator window. We shake hands and talk cameras and photography. We chat it up as if we're in a hallway at someone's birthday party. Nevermind all the chaos surrounding; he has a film camera he's thinking about giving away, and we're absorbed in discussion about bodies and lenses, the value of developing passions in life.
Then I notice a girl noticing me. "Listen Jeremiah, it was good talking," I say as I bid him farewell. She's sucking on a 4th of July pop, the patriotic colors glowing from the swirling blue and red police strobes. Blue eyes and thin, pale, that scattershot gaze which takes in everything; wavy hair and skin wrapped tightly around shapely cheekbones, that easy beauty the youth don't know how lucky they are to have. She's made up tonight, hint of a sparkle on her lashes, lips twinkling in the streetlight. She avoids eye contact, downcast, a wounded animal hiding behind the breezy exterior. That's Zoë.*
"Gimme a hug!"
"Hey, whats goin' on over there?"
"I dunno. Must be somethin big, this type a response." There's a cocktail of Fire, Medic One, four Seattle Police trucks, with a King County Sheriff or two thrown in for appearances.
I'm not that interested in calamitous details, though. I turn to her. "How are you?"
"Good. I saved someone's life today." Imagine her voice, husky but spry, riding the cusp between adolescent insouciance and genuine ardor. At some point in each of our lives we discover it's okay to be passionate about things.
"No way!" I exclaimed.
"Yeah, down by the convention center, this lady was overdosing and I was just walking by and I saw her and I gave her Narcan."**
"Oh my goodness,"
"Nobody was around, she was on the ground, and I hit her with the Narcan. It was fuckin' awesome, well not awesome, but you know,"
She's trying to sound cool and collected about it, but I'm totally blowing her cover with my enthusiasm. We balance each other out. "Oh yeah! Zoë, you're amazing! Saving people's lives! I'm so glad you just happened to be right where she was over there."
"And I just happened to have the Narcan too,"
"So crazy. You saved a life!"
A passenger strolls over. He'd said he'd go talk to the cops, ask them to move; their cars were only inches away from not blocking everything.
"Hey," he says to Zoë. I'm invisible to him, with her standing around. "I thought he was the bus driver."
Zoë: "he is."
Me: "how's it going? What'd they say?"
"Just some drunk guy, really high."
"Oh my goodness, that's it? Thanks for talkin' to them. I get kind of intimidated when there's a bunch of 'em."
"Not really my crowd!"
"They said they'd be outta here any second," he says. "Oh, there they go."
"Right on. Sweet, let's do this. Thanks for talkin' to 'em."
She and I, walking back to the bus, life around us curving back to normal.
"How are you, how's Northgate?" I'm returning to an earlier conversation. She's one of those street faces I encounter intermittently as the years turn over.
"It's good. I got this new charger. I thought I lost my charger, but my dad got me this portable one 'cause I'm always losing mine."
Luddite Nathan: "What? I didn't know they made portable chargers!"
"Yeah! After you," I said at the bus doors during a pause in her talking.
"Oh I'm not getting on, I'm meeting someone."
"Okay. Hug." It just felt appropriate. "Stay strong," I whispered.
They say you need to embrace someone for longer than thirty seconds for the pituitary gland to release oxytocin, the neuropeptide which reduces cortisol levels and promotes feelings of trust and bonding. It's what's released right after childbirth and makes mothers forget all the agonizing pain and actually love their child, and is the primary biological basis for positive social connection. I'm not sure the full thirty seconds is always necessary, though. The instant held, a half-second of connected stillness drifting outside of time, as sounds dimmed enough for a whisper to register.
I realized afterwards that was a moment I hope never to forget. But why? I barely know this person. We talked about phone chargers. Why was it so meaningful? I drove up Broadway as oxytocin coursed through my hypothalamus, but that was the how, not the why. Science is great at explaining the former, but not so much the latter (have you ever noticed how kids get bored when we answer scientifically why the sky is blue? It's because in our answer we've only given them the how).
The world is my great love, I realized later. Not her, not particular age or demographic groups, nor any one person. I think I just love everybody, the whole collective.*** We all have fervent passions inside of us, and some of us are so good at channeling all that feeling into one person. I marvel and admire that, but I'm wired differently. That would for me be missing something huge. To turn away from these strangers whom I adore, in whom I see bits of myself, to be told I couldn't embrace the masses as I do, that would be akin to... well, cheating on the world! I once watched two men beating each other up in Pioneer Square, and was nearly brought to tears. You guys are my friends, I thought to myself. My human friends. You're so much better than that.
*A friendly face who's been roaming the streets for only slightly less time than I've been driving the bus. You might recall her from this writeup on the 70. She's the girl sitting in the back.
**Naloxone, the opiate antidote.
***One of the reasons I love Terrence Malick's The Thin Red Line, which unlike most films which are built around protagonists as individuals, considers humanity as a collective.