Would he mind if I said he looked like an older James Taylor? I don't think so. I think it's a fine look. The disarming bald pate, the amiable smile. Yes, not bad at all. He stretched his arms out wide at the bus stop and belted out the lyric:
"Oh, Nathan Jones, you've been gone too long, gone too long!"
I didn't know what he was talking about. In bus driver mode, you're multitasking even if it seems like you aren't. Adding more thought processes on top of that is exciting but difficult. It took me a few more seconds to understand he was quoting the Supremes song. For now I corrected him: "it's Nathan Vass!"
"I'm singin' the song, man!"
"Oh, I get it. Yeah, sing it again!" Now I'm realizing I actually know this guy. Way to be behind the times! I put it together as I go along, blurting out, "good to see ya!"
"Where you been?"
"I been right here! How's that 70?"
"Oh, it's there. It does what it needs to," he replies, finding a seat near the front. Watching me execute the wide left onto northbound Broadway, he asks, "you like this 49 more than the 70?"
"You know, I do. I like the crowd."
"Well, there's more energy here. Which I like."
That's something I do. You've noticed it before. I hate correcting people. I feel like it's almost never necessary. I do the above instead, steering them toward what I'm thinking. When someone says something that's obviously wrong, like the sky is red, you don't have to shut them down. I think it's blue. Sometimes it looks red. In conversation, you rarely need to explicitly say no. It's unproductive.
James Taylor understands my response and agrees, saying, "okay. Not those commuters."
"Those silent Amazon people!"
I've ragged on the poor Amazon workforce and the "silent 70" ridership way too much on this blog. They're a lovely bunch, I'm sure, though I'd hardly know it from driving them around. They're nicer than Microsoft employees, in that they will eventually make eye contact or say thanks if you preempt them, but they appear just as overworked– if not moreso.* The corporate giant has figured out how to make cutting edge white-collar work miserable, and it isn't so much that these young millenials actively choose to avoid integrating into any Seattle communities; I imagine they don't simply because they lack the time.
James Taylor reflects on the 49 ridership and exclaims, "hipsters, out here!"
Again, I gently correct him with, "little bit of everyone!"
"I don't think I can be a hipster," Taylor muses. "I'm, I'm, I'm I think I'm too old to be a hipster."
Someone else pipes in: "not ironic enough!"
"I think I need to be more jaded!"
That's the nail on the head. I say, "exactly, not enough irony!"
"I'm just a straight up kinda guy. You don't seem like a hipster."
That's the best compliment I've had all day! "Thank you! I hope not to be. I don't think I can be. I'm too, um. I'm too friendly!"
"You're genuine," Taylor remarks.
That's the best compliment I've received in… ten seconds! "Thank you!"
"You're genuine. That's a big check mark in my checkbook."
"Mine too. That's all there is at the end of the day."
If irony and cynicism help certain people feel more comfortable, that's fine. If selfhood through focused work does the same for others, that's fine too. I like certain things hipsters like (albeit for different reasons), and when I'm overworked I'm withdrawn too. Everyone is at all times going through something, and we each have our methods for dealing with it. But let us remember the last and final currency, after all has sung and gone, is truth. Authenticity of self, of action, of communication; that, and little else, has the power to cut through the noise.
Be bold, as you go forth. Bold enough to be genuine.
*A class divide is happening here that doesn't need to happen. A workforce 24,000 strong which skews overwhelmingly male (and white), with a positive income disparity so far above much of Seattle's income it's responsible for raising neighborhood rents twelve percent in a single year… doesn't have to be a bad thing.
Amazon, as a corporate entity, can choose to participate in solving the problems it creates. It has the capital to address issues (crucially, housing) such that it might begin to build goodwill in its own home city. The dividends of being loved where you live go far beyond the quantifiable, and if higher-ups at Amazon read this with any surprise or lack of concern, they might benefit from learning to take the temperature. As far as person-to-person interactions, millenials are a generation which care notably about others and society's interests at large. If Amazon allowed them the time to do so, I wouldn't have to listen to my female friends tell me about the disastrous brogrammer dates, amazing lack of social graces, numbingly unengaging interaction, and overall disinterest in other communities. Harsh, yes, and anecdotal, but true. I know some terrific Amazon staff. I'd love for all of us to know some more.
Amazon's workplace environment:
Amazon employee injured after leaping from 12-story building at the Seattle headquarters (Business Insider)
Inside Amazon: Wrestling Big Ideas in a Bruising Workplace (New York Times)
Depiction of Amazon Stirs a Debate About Work Culture (New York Times)
The Life and Death of an Amazon Warehouse Temp (Huffington Post)
Amazon's effects on Seattle:
Amazon’s Harmful Impacts on Seattle and Beyond (FtJ). Great starting point with a lot of links.
Has Amazon killed Seattle? One writer thinks so (Seattle Post-Intelligencer). "Reader's Digest version" of the two articles below.
Going beyond the hyperbole– some great context & research here:
How Our Success is Ruining Seattle (Jeff Reifman)
How Amazon Swallowed Seattle (Gawker)
12/29/2016 08:27:34 am
As someone in tech who works amongst the Amazonians, yet not for Amazon (another company in the neighborhood), I can assure you that I don't think their employer is the reason why so many of them are socially maladapted - though I do agree with you that there's a large number of Amazonians that display the traits you describe. The company I work for hires software devs and they're just as inept at human interaction as Amazon's devs are. While it's not all devs at every company many of them are geeks and just aren't good at the whole 'people thing' and actually being able to speak with other people the way most of us do. Lack of experience or what not - it's a geek/nerd thing.
12/30/2016 11:03:41 am
12/30/2016 01:52:29 pm
You make great points. I wonder why the MS folk weren't as receptive as the Amazon people.
12/30/2016 11:44:29 am
12/30/2016 12:32:17 pm
Sam- great to hear from you! Thanks for taking a peek at the site! Ah, the great 44. I haven't written about it since this– http://www.nathanvass.com/the-view-from-nathans-bus/after-the-storm – but I love to stop in and do it every now and then! See you soon, and Happy New Year as well!
12/31/2016 01:36:00 am
1/4/2017 08:25:35 pm
Yes Anding! I learned about that in improv, but you seem to have a natural bent for it. I've been driving the D line - people seem really nice. I am excited to meet other groups and "route" cultures.
1/6/2017 12:45:50 am
1/5/2017 12:40:41 pm
3/7/2023 12:14:33 am
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