It's time to let the homophobe on. He's older, black American, identifiable less by his twisted feet and crutches then by his steadfastly negative attitude.
"I need the lif,' man, get the lift out."
"I'm'a get the lift out for ya."
"Yeah, I want the lift out."
"I got you covered."
You can say anything to this fellow, and he'll find a way to see the bad in it. He's creative that way.
Me: "You got new shoes!"
Him: "Don't do me any good."
"Good to see ya!"
"No, it's good for me to see you. I'm the one who needs the bus. It ain't good for you to see me, it's good for me to see you."
"Alright man. That works."
"I wanna get the out, driver, I need the lift."
"I'm gonna get the lift out."
"I need the lift."
"I'm'a give you the lift."
"Too many sissy gay guys in this city. Ain't no real men left in this town."
"Is that right."
"Yeah. Gimme the lift."
At this point I'm tempted to say, "hang on. Do you need the lift?" But I refrain from amusing myself so.
"There it is," I say instead. "Have a safe day now."
Once he rode out to the end of the 43/44 in Ballard. I let him stay on the bus during the layover, and took my break outside the bus, stretching and reading and talking to the wonderful lady who works behind the counter at 7-11. She always calls me "Baby Bus Driver," in a motherly way, and has since shortened it to just "Baby." She asks when I'm going to get married and have kids. "Not today," I say. I gotta go drive the 44 first.
I walk back out to my bus and drive another trip, with our friend the homophobe still on board. (His homophobic tendencies are a little more in check today). He is silent for the duration. When he finally gets off on Pacific, I heard him say something I couldn't believe:
"Driver, I need the lift."
"That sounds good."
"I need the lift at the next stop."
"Alright now. Have a good day."
YOWZA!, I think to myself. To what do I owe this great honor?! I conceal my surprise at the statement, but I am floored. It is the first positive statement I've ever heard from the man. Him saying 'have a good day' is- well, it's the tectonic plates shifting into a newer world, is what it is. I remember a passenger once getting on my 4 to the Central District. After a simple and pleasant interaction with me, he sat down and said, "Man, to me, what just happened, right here, was a miracle." He was blown away by the intimation of trust and respect, of people dealing with each other on an equal plane. I forget the nature of our interaction; it's only defining characteristic is that it was positive. But I wonder if my attitude towards that man was as unexpected as that of the homophobe in this story was to me, and I can understand the impact it must've had for him to call it a miracle. Homophobe Guy saying "have a good day" certainly felt like such.