"So you make a left on uh, Forty-Fifth?"
We work out the details. He wanted to go further than my route could take him, and I apologized in mock agony, throwing my hands in the air. He laughed.
There's a texture to small talk I find valuable. The placeholder words, the repetition, the way ideas come forth haltingly, together. The great speeches of our time will exist in perpetuity, as will the eloquent or fiery dialogues of film art and literature; but what of the mundane, the banal and comfortable normalcy of the everyday exchange? Who is writing those down? I am, that's who. Our banter continued a bit before growing into meaningfulness, but I include it all so our histories don't just contain the anomalies of life, but the workaday moments too.
He was crisp and casual all at once, an educated man in his thirties wearing a collared button-up and jeans, neatly combed dark hair parted on one side. I couldn't place his accent. I said,
"How are you today?"
"Not bad. Tired and,"
"Yeah. Time to go home?"
"Sleep-deprived and all this thing. I had to like uh, sort of entertain a friend who is visiting Seattle? And lots of things to do,"
"Okay running around, going everywhere,"
"Yeah walking around, Downtown and Cap Hill,"
"That's nice of you. Today's a perfect day to show people the city."
"It was nice. It was nice. She had a good time."
"Had she been to Seattle before?"
"Cool. You got to be, anytime she thinks of Seattle, she will also think of you, you know?"
"That's a good thing!" He reflected, and then asked, "how is the night for you?"
"Great. It's really good, yeah. I like this job."
"It's fun, you know? Talking to people, for eight hours…!"
"I always wish, I'm sort of an office person sitting in the office all day, and I always wish I had a job that like… a little interaction, something, I don't know!"
"It gives me life, you know? It gives me energy, the people. Something different every day. This is my corner office!"
"But yeah, very satisfying to get to talk to people, or help people, or listen…"
"Every person has something to, like, not that their story is especially important or useful, but when you look at yourself through them, you learn something."
"Yeah! It makes me a better person you know, there's so much to think about. And when you're driving there's lots of time to think!"
"What sort of office work you do?"
"I do research!"
"Excellent Like in a lab–"
"Cool. I like the binary quality of math, very clean."
"Exactly. You know something is correct– or not."
On that note he bid me farewell. I smiled to myself, alone in an empty bus now, and went back to thinking. There is indeed solace to be found in math, for modern life is such a sea of grey areas. In adolescence we learn there are no easy answers; in adulthood we discover there are questions which simply have no answers. There is peace to be found though, and a measure of understanding. It occurred to me he'd hit the nail on the head with respect to the point of this blog.
Today marks for four-year anniversary of The View From Nathan's Bus. The stories I share here are not simply to point out that which is bizarre or humorous; nor merely to offer entertainment to transit enthusiasts, or documentation of everyday conversation for linguists, or to explore the world of customer service, highlight issues of social justice and urban living, celebrate interactions between strangers, or offer an armchair window at ground level into the city's crazy central vortex. Nor even is its sole purpose to offer enlightenment on misunderstood lives, to celebrate the worth and vivacious color of marginalized peoples. Nor too is it only a reminder of all the good, the beautiful positive moments which take place daily everywhere, a reminder for we who live in a culture doing its best to have us focus only on the negative.
I hope the blog performs all of the above functions to a degree. But at its core, it is something more. True stories add context to our conception of life and personhood. As our friend said above, we learn about ourselves by hearing these stories. We are the real subject here.
Every one of us is going through this journey of life for the first time. Til our last breath we are learning how to think, gazing out and upward as children, reflecting. If we can learn a bit about ourselves and those around us by reading this blog, and perhaps feel a little better along the way, it will have achieved its purpose. Thank you for reading, and for making this a bigger enterprise than I ever could've dreamed of.
Share it around!