I'm putting up my leader's poles at 21st & Jefferson (trolley drivers look out for each other!); a call comes over the radio as I step back in, warning of an African-American woman wandering around the train tracks at Martin Luther King Way.
"Can't beat that light rail, nigga," says a teenager behind me to his girl, in funereal tones, the two of them in dour agreement over the unequal odds in a rail accident. They're discussing a recent collision, blood everywhere and so on. Something about them makes me smile; perhaps it's the the colloquial nature of their discourse being paired with such severe subject matter. "That's how fool's be gettin' cooked," says the young lady, with an expression so austere it'd be right at home in a Fra Angelico painting.
The description of the woman comes over the airwaves: "Please don't let this individual on your bus. She's African-American, late thirties early forties, very belligerent..."
Oh, no; is it her? Are they talking about you-know-who?
"...around 180 pounds..."
Good. Not heavy enough. Not enough poundage to be the great LSB-Dub. She may indeed be belligerent, but I wouldn't want her to get hurt; she fills a void that is indeed part of the world. Where else will I encounter such completely non-sensical statements such as what she once told a bearded friend of mine: "Wanna make out? You look like Osama Bin Laden. Let's make out so I can check off Osama Bin Laden off my make-out list!"
Recently a fellow bus driver friend called me, leaving a message that left me smiling for days. "Ooohh Nathan, somebody you know...was on my bus," she said in a singsong voice. "I'll call you again. Oh, man. You're gonna love this," she chuckled into the voicemail. She was referring to the passenger in question.
There wasn't a hint of malice or fear in my friend's voice, just the high-energy joy of a perception enlightened, one that doesn't seek to control, but simply to coexist, to vivaciously continue alongside all our human brethren. I was thrilled.