I was doing the weave on Third, inbound, looking at the bus in front of me. It was another 358, my leader. His hulking, dirt-spattered 2300 dominating my field of vision, both of us bearing that infamous route number that blares the message out out for all to see- we have just come down from the mountains of madness, and we have passengers we want to share with you.
358. 6. 359. The numbers have lifetimes behind them, and going through downtown there's a similar feeling to driving the 7- you're at the top of the pyramid, commanding a moving what, hotel, insane asylum, living room...but you're making it happen. Mentally there is so much being asked of you- in this respect the job is almost exactly like film directing- it feels like a hundred jobs at once- and you're doin' it.
In fact, you're doin' it handily, you pro, you reigning overlord of Aurora Avenue, you benevolent wrangler of Club Cuckooland. You're keepin' it smooth like it wasn't any big thing, even though it is.
That's what I would think to myself riding the 359 (the old version of the 358) or the 7 as a youngster. I was in awe of those rare guys and gals who absolutely had it, those drivers who possessed some ability to be at the top of their game in what was obviously the tough gig in town. They were filled with life. I still look up to those drivers, and aspire to reach their lofty heights. What I never guessed was the massive satisfaction I would get out of being here.
Briefly we were side by side, my leader and I, and through the bars and windows I saw him wave- an easy full-blown grin, his arm laughing at the insanity of it all. He's a skinny Central American guy, older, with a rich smile- and the sense of outsized camaraderie accomplishes multitudes. Only another bus driver could grasp the full measure of what this hysteria is like, and we're both surfing on the exhilaration.
I've just had a ridiculous trip into town, filled with lifts, conversations, questions, laughter- an avalanche of sensory stimuli, all of it needing a response, and most of it having the importance of life and death, or at least peace and badness. The 358 in front of me has probably had something pretty similar- nothing's quite as exciting as a 358 that's more than ten minutes late- but here we are, laughing about it. What else can you do? We ricochet down Third, buses everywhere getting out of our way. When you're doing the 358, other routes give you a lot of room.
Respect. You don't need it to be happy, and it can vanish in a moment, and it's not at the core of why I'm doing any of this- but boy, it sure feels good while it's there. I'm humbled and grateful. And exhilarated.