An older African American gent steps on at Genessee, asking for a free ride. I'm glad to assist, but I almost retract my kindness when he blurts out, "vote Mitt Romney!" I have no idea what he's doing, in this neighborhood, saying a thing like that. Maybe he has a death wish! Another African American fellow, also older, saunters up to the bus, saying to me, "excuse me, ma'am, can you tell me how to get to Capitol Hill?"
"Sure," I say in my deepest man-voice.
He spent the rest of the ride apologizing. "Oh man, I feel like shit," he pondered, looking at his shoes. "You're obviously a dude." He genuinely felt awful, and couldn't get over it.
Holly street, inbound, getting on into the evening. No one's at the zone. As I drive past, a young guy with shades and a huge T-Shirt leans into the street, pretending to fall in front of the bus. He's joking; he must know me. We both laugh.
Turning from Third to Third South, crossing Yesler. There's a man on the corner, dark skinned 60s, with glasses and a salt n' pepper shadow. I smile and nod at him, who knows why, and he winks and points a finger back at me, the way your favorite uncle does when he says, "you're the man." Who knows what an interaction like that means, other than, simply, two strangers reaching out, their interaction scratching the surface of a still lake, each etching a mark of acknowledgement and respect for the other. The guys at the next stop don't know why I'm smiling so, but something about that little moment made me excited.
A semi-regular passenger rings the bell for Graham Street. He's a thin but tall teenager of ambiguous heritage, in an oversized shirt, oversized shorts, oversized everything- shoes, hat, and whatever else. He pays the full fare and takes the transfer I offer him. He has a kind face, but don't tell him that. "Good-lookin,' bro," he says. I wonder what he'll be like in ten years. Got a good feeling about this guy.
She's around my age, getting off at Genessee outbound, and her hair looks great. Hair is a big deal in her culture, and from looking at her you know it. Sometimes I compliment without thinking, and in that moment I said, "I like your hair!" She turned in stride to look down at me, smiling in mild surprise, and in the inflection of her response ("thank you!") I could tell that she totally got it, got the intention: this young guy wasn't trying to be flirtatious or obnoxious, but just wanted to get it said. Somebody had nice-looking hair, and I was letting them know about it. On occasion I'll compliment someone and they'll become cagey, worried that I'm a former child molester living next to them in Snohomish County. This is not the case. Here there was no such fear. I don't know how she understood that I didn't mean anything further by the comment, but she did. Her tone of voice carried with it a subdued joy, bubbling forth from beneath her sparkling chocolate-brown eyes. It was the joy of the platonic gesture, of no strings to fret over, of having no agenda. Ah, yes. There's a freedom there that's worth something.
PS- bonus points if you know where that picture was taken!!