Driving the 3/4 south on Third. A young black American guy and his buddy got on at Marion, and the second one was silent, probably never been on my bus before, but the first guy knows me, fistpound, and he's happy to be in my arena. I'm preparing to turn left, thinking about how acknowledgement builds as it goes both ways- I had greeted them first, leading to the one returning that greeting- but the autopilot part of me is thinking about driving, and notices that the poles didn''t switch onto the turning wire, meaning I have to go out there and fix the poles.
I split the lanes and stop, thinking, there's no choice in the matter, I have to get out there. You may not really want to get out of the seat and run into the street and wrestle the poles back onto the correct lane of wire. But you have to. The only other choice is to sit there all day blocking Third. Gotta do it. I twirl the orange vest on in one slick motion- becomes second nature after a while- twirl it the way you put on your dinner jacket- simultaneously yelling out, "gimme one second folks, I be right back!" Quick check for cars and I'm running into the street. I like to run back there and do it- let them know you care about their time, that you can hustle.
Out on the street Greg (that's the old African-American fellow we read about here) is on the sidewalk, with a buddy, and he yells out at me, "Whaaat? My friend don't make mistakes!!"
I say, "I don't know what happened!" as I maneuver a pole. Each pole has 40 lbs of air pressure pulling it towards the sky.
Greg: "You musta been thinking about HER!'
I play along, yelling back, "Apparently!!"
I wave a 'have a good one' to him as I run back, bounding onto the coach. That good feeling of knowing people inside saw you yelling with Greg, having a good time at work. It's nice to have friends walking down the street. When those two dudes get off, the second guy is still silent but his silence is receptive. Yes. We're bringing them over, one by one, step by step. One day he'll make eye contact, and soon he'll say 'hi' back to me, and shoot, someday we may even have a conversation. Low defenses, high expectations.
The first guy, the fistpound fellow, says "thank you sir!" There's an enjoyable quality to his "sir," like an actor who you can tell is enjoying himself, caught up in the moment. He's Geoffrey Rush in the first Pirates of the Caribbean, hamming it up and enjoying himself immensely. He's into it, this idea of courtesy. Confucius once said that saying pleasantries does not make one a better man, but it does maintain the goodness you already have.
Later, Leana (a regular) and I are talking about how she once worked at Jack in the Box on Thanksgiving night.
"They were coming in on Thanksgiving?"
"What were they doing?"
"They were getting the Jumbo Jack."
"People were getting the Jumbo Jack on Thanksgiving night?"
"Yeah, they all came in and got the Jumbo Jack."
"I hope I'm never in a position where I need to go to Jack in the Box on Christmas to get the Jumbo Jack," I say. Can't rule it out.
A mixed-race teenager and his girlfriend get on, and he's excited by my happiness. They're a good-looking couple. She's dressed casually in a pink sweatshirt and tight jeans, and he's got athletic clothes and a hoodie but a clean-cut look about him, close shaved bald. Seventeenth Avenue.
Now Leana and I are talking about her days working at Jamba Juice. We've moved on from Jack in the Box. She used to work there at at 5am, opening the place at 5:30, and she says, "that was crazy, who wanna get a smoothie at 5 o' clock in the morning!?"
Without thinking I say, "BRAIN FREEZE!" and the teenager laughs, behind me.
Soon he asks a question about where I'm stopping, they're going to Ezell's, and he says, "I love your enthusiasm!" and I say "Thanks, man. It goes both ways. It's good to have people smilin' on the bus like yourselves, people talkin' to people...." He compliments his girlfriend, saying "how could I not be smiling with a girl like this!" She blushes hard, pinker than that sweatshirt she has on. I laugh without commenting. I mention that I havent been to Ezell's in a while, and he hasn't been out here "in a minute," talkin about how good it is- I interrupt his rhapsodic descriptions of beans and coleslaw with "makin' me hungry, man! The temptation! I can smell it but I can't see it!"
I explain why I haven't been to Ezell's (I don't want to become rotund). He says you've gotta live it up, we're only here right now! In his exclamation I hear echoes of myself. I know I've said the same to others, albeit not with respect to fried chicken. I concur, saying this could all end today, before we even get to the end of the block. I tell him about a friend of mine who had a roommate- this roommate was a health nut who worked out, ate the best foods, shopped healthy, rode his bike every day, worked long hours, and lifted weights- until one day recently, when drunk drivers killed him on one of his early-morning bike rides home. Our friend on the bus doesn't respond to this- it's a conversation for another time. I'm ambiguous about the lessons of the story myself. Right now the important thing is him taking his girlfriend out on the neighborhood. A crowd of other people are getting off, but he hears my voice in the melee, and he responds, saying, "you too! Have a good night!" Acknowledgement.