"Pretty cool-lookin' vacuum cleaner, man," I tell this Belltown Buddy. He's dressed in rags, and is hauling around a primeval beast of a cleaner, a vacuum that has seen better days- an earlier time when it hadn't been battered by the elements.
"You gonna clean the bus for us? 'Cause you can, if you want. We'll just plug it into the, uh, plug it into the steering wheel here..."
Later on, as another passenger gets off, she marvels at how I like the 358. Even with all the crazies, she asks? I tell her, they're my buddies!
Driver Nancy ("Queen of the 358"- she picks it and only it, and has an attitude to top most humans I've met in my life) once told me something similar, explaining that "oh, I love the people. They're fun. You're not going to have more fun on any other route. And plus," she said, leaning in confidentially, "these people are all my neighbors. I have to be nice to them." She enunciates her words with that smoky, gravelly voice of hers in a way that makes me smile. The attitude has origins in considering strangers in a way not too dissimilar from how one thinks of friends and family.
Once I was at North Base, standing around the table in the bullpen area, holding a plate with a slice of pie. There were no forks. Nancy saw me. "Do you need a fork?"
"I need something, I guess."
"I don't have a fork, but I'm almost done with this spoon. Here, let me wash it." She gives it to me. "And when you're done with it, just put it in my locker."
"Which locker is it?"
"It's in the first aisle. The one that says 358 on it."
Nancy is not young and naive. She's been around for decades, and this trusting, level approach towards humanity works for her. With her, you can't pull the usual line- which everyone uses on me- "wait till you've driven xx, or been alive xx years," et cetera. No. The flaw in that thinking is that it ignores that everyone's different, and processes experiences differently. Sometimes I'm not sure what I believe. But-
When I started they told me, "you'll be burned out after six months." Six months later, when that hadn't happened, it was, "wait a couple years." "Wait three years." "Wait till you've driven the 7." "Wait till you do the 3 and the 4, all day." "And the 358, don't get me started..." I've done all of those things. I just got my five-year plaque, and for the past three years, nearly all my picked work, by choice, has only been the 3/4, 7, or 358. I've seen people do things I've never even thought of! And yet. And yet...
Real Change Willy is waving his papers in that special way he does, but today, for the first time I've ever seen, he flubs and drops the papers. I lean out the window and yell, "Willy! You're better than that!" He shrugs and says, "doesn't happen too often." He walks over the bus for the red light and we chat about how his school is going. If you haven't had a chance to talk to the guy, I recommend doing so. Talk about a good attitude. Three years clean and sober, cleaning up a rough life. He's by far the most visible and well-known Real Change seller, and is attending Bellevue College, taking classes far more difficult than the ones I coasted through at UW- and he has a smile for everyone. Resilient. There is much I can learn from the guy. If he can stay in a good mood out there all day, well, I have no excuse!