Northgate Way: "You got a license to drive this thing?"
"Hell no, just a learner's permit!"
A dark-skinned young man, styling himself as an aloof badass, saunters off at 90th. Inwardly I hesitate, wondering if I'll get a response, but I go for it anyway: "Have a good one."
"You too," he says in a tone of mild surprise. Oh, I love it. I love it.
We move further and further out, deeper into the dark knight. Water splashing on the roadway, windshield wipers marking a rhythmic time. Sometimes the sheer mass of humanity moving up and down this corridor astounds me- each with their own lives and stories and loved ones, with their complaints, their sorrows and joys.
"That's where I lost my leg," a man says to his friend, pointing to the intersection outside. "Lady in a Mercedes, crashing through with not a care in the world." For some of these guys to say they're doing well, to tell me and others that they're happy to be alive- that's an easy thing for me to say. But they say it and mean it. That puts you in your place. I'm thankful that they even tolerate my ebullient energy, let alone enjoy it.
"Hey man, how's it going?" It's the guy who was hitting on Ozzy Osbourne. He's perhaps 40, with long hair. "Are you half Asian?"
"Yeah, wow, how did you know?"
He doesn't answer. He has other designs: "I'm giving you this card 'cause I'm into 16 year old boys."
Wow. Just Wow. I don't have a response prepared for that. Did I "forget" to take his card with me when I finished my shift? Yes, as a matter of fact, I think I may have.
"Thanks for the epic adventure," a passenger says at 170th.
There's a wheelchair that gets on northbound at 192nd. He's in a manual wheelchair, not an electric one, and he goes to the YMCA every day to work out. His being in a wheelchair is a new development- it's been less than a year. He has a drive to get out of that thing that is tenacious. The guy, at least 70, logs a full 8 hours at the Y, lifting weights, getting in the pool. There is a shame, too: he believes he was made for more. He is actually going to 185th, which is just one stop south of where he gets on at 192nd. Why is he going north, the opposite direction?
"I feel like an idiot, wasting the bus's time by getting all strapped in just to go the one stop. I can't wheel myself up there because it's a huge hill, but I can't bear to bother everyone, the driver, the passengers to only go one stop, so I go all the way up this way and come back down the other way."
"My friend, that's ridiculous. I'm happy to take you one stop. That's why I'm here. Forget about the other people, man. If you see me, I'm always happy to take you up the street. The time, I don't care about the time, it doesn't matter."
He's thankful for the consideration, but his desire to get out of that chair is overwhelming. He purposefully chose a manual chair to stay in shape. I'm inspired. Hopefully I can write on this blog a year from now that he walked onto my bus without a care in the world.
For a long section of the route there's a woman at the front seat asking questions that are vaguely unpleasant. Sometimes moreso. She doesn't realize how annoying she's being, and I field the conversation as best as I know how, keeping things civil and friendly. The conversation was a bizarre one, at times funny for me, definitely a test, and I had intended to write it down here when I got home. But I discovered a curious thing- I couldn't remember it.
Then I was reminded of something I and a driver spoke of a few years ago: "I say, hang onto every little positive thing that happens. Let the negative stuff roll away. Don't take it in and internalize it, just let it bounce off you, like refracting light. Learn from it, decide what you would do next time, and then, man, just forget about it. When you go around telling people bus stories, don't just talk about the bad stuff. That makes you remember it, and you forget all the great things that really do happen out there."
"But everyone only wants to hear the bad stuff."
"Well, what I mean by bad is, I don't mean people throwing up or breakdowns or other weird crazy stuff happening. I consider those good days."
"Because they're an opportunity for you to be at your best. A bad event is people embarrassing themselves- by threatening to kill me, or some guy sitting there bragging about all the women he's beaten up- I'm not gonna learn anything by harboring that. It's interesting only because it's morbid, 'cause it's a dead end."
I still feel that way. "Let it [bad stuff] go;" "Don't take it personally-" these are phrases we're familiar with. I used to be terrible at it. I was happy to discover that, for the life of me, I really couldn't recall the details of that lady's unpleasant conversation. For myself, I feel like it's possible to do even more; I suggest considering the implicit flip side of these phrases we hear so often. As in, Hang on to the Good Stuff. Don't depend on it, but retain it, and let it inform your worldview.
PS- A shoutout to Mark McLaughlin, assassinated Nov. 26 fourteen years ago while driving the route down Aurora. He was one of the friendly drivers.