And, forgetting about the fact that it’s me they’re talking about, I feel excited and proud of a publication that recognizes the little people. It’s not just a list of old and new money. There are people on that list who are doing the difficult work because they care, and the element I was most thrilled by in talking with my fellow honorees is that they weren’t doing what they were doing to get noticed. I certainly am not. You don’t go into bus driving to get famous!
It’s just in the DNA of who we are, and probably who you are: you have things you care about and you act accordingly, whether or not anyone notices. To make a difference. Attorney General Bob (my personal hero among several on this list, as you can probably glean from my rapturous writeup linked above) does so in large-scale fashion; I do it in my own way, which some describe as small, others as large.
I continue my work on the streets instead of ascending the administrative ladder because the contribution is direct. Unadorned. Elemental. Without intermediary. It’s me, smashed up against the face of the world, on a tightrope with a gift: the opportunity to make someone feel human. Acknowledged. Respected. A face that might stick in their mind and be a kernel of motivation months from now. Or at least something to feel good about.
I love being out there in the trenches, and sharing dispatches with you on this blog. To hear the degree to which it’s inspired people– operators, passengers, others– quite simply brings me to my knees in gratitude. I’m not even going to get into it. I’m thankful that the powers that be at Metro and King County support me as they do, and create a work environment where I can do the work with this focus; they don’t box me up behind a driver’s shield, for instance (THANK YOU). I dearly hope they never do. They recognize it’s about more than shifting people around. I’m grateful for Seattle Magazine and so many other outlets for recognizing my work.
Last week a man came up to me at Third and Cherry. Fifty-something black American man, mid-length tall and tired from work, a face from long ago. He must have recognized me from years past. He grinned.
“You still drivin’?”
“They can’t get rid a me!” I joked in reply.
He chuckled. “Right on. Iss the other ones they gots to get rid of! You and Juan, man…”
“Thank you!” I exclaimed. I’m trying to get better at actually accepting compliments, instead of just turning them around all the time. But he meant it as more, and continued with force:
“Man, it ain’t no thank you. I’m telling you the truth!” Troof. “How you greet the people. And you don’t just tolerate the crazy assholes, even though that’s what you’re supposed tuh do in a public service job, they’s gonna be crazy assholes and you know it, and you just know to ever let that bullshit affect you personal, never let yoself take that home which you. But I’m gettin’ sidetracked. Bruh. You don’t just tolerate. You engage actively wit the community. You know people. And man, you got no idea how much good you’re accomplishing just by bein’ yoself on this bus right now, every night. Straight up.”
Would you believe me if I told you his words meant just as much to me as getting honored as one of the city’s 35 most influential people?
You better believe it!
I’m taking a two-week vacation from November 1st through 16th, and will also be taking a break from the blog during that time. I’ve been running ragged for a while now. A book, a show, the last darkroom, film editing… please understand my need for a short breath away from everything. Time to recharge!
For now, I've updated the link for new operators with a few more elements. It's not the easiest gig, but it doesn't have to be the hardest one either. Like so much in life, it's all about state of mind: For New Bus Drivers: Thoughts, Tips, and Stories.
Coming from Seattle Magazine and new to the site? Welcome! Here's a fun introductory link: Nathan Vass 101.
Love you all. I’ll be back on the street and back online come November 17th!