He was asking if I turn into the 7. I explained the details, and he listened with those crystal blue eyes of his. They shined through the grime and matted grease of his disheveled exterior like pearls; never mind the life-encrusted Raiders jacket or the jeans, starched and shredded, and not from fashion. "Thank you, sir," he said, politely. The contrast between appearance and voice was a surprise. I was further taken aback by his farewell: a mellow voice, the kind you had to strain to listen to. "You have a beautiful night."
Beautiful isn't a term you hear often in street parlance.
Such politeness. It wasn't the first time a street person has been polite to me (as readers of this blog know only too well*); respect has enormous currency out here, and it reciprocates easily. It wasn't the first time, but it was the right time. Did he know he was balancing out the universe for me, reminding me there is always a lighter half?
He couldn't have known that only an hour earlier I'd been berated by a man in a very different mental headspace. This fellow was also on the down and out spectrum, but he'd set the humanity I'm sure he has aside in favor of a different approach: he wanted to be in the U District, and was furious that we were in the U District. Somewhere in there it all made sense. He stomped off with the tantrum of a child's temper, the frustration we hide behind when we know it's our fault. I hope he figures out his story.
But here's this other guy now, still a twinkle in those silvered-out baby blues, like some sort of messenger from the universe, reminding me of the great bus driving balance of things, a balance one veteran operator long ago amusingly summed up to me as:
"There'll always be somebody who loves you, somebody who hates you, and somebody who wants to know how to get to Everett!"
*New to the blog? Welcome! Here's a quick "greatest hits" overview with links and highlights.