"YOU'RE FIRED," notes another regular passenger at 5:04am. It's a running joke. He's a young fellow, with the look of a man who could be ex-military but isn't; he works 16 hour days seven days a week, and he has to take it out on somebody. Thankfully he does so with humor.
One of my favorite parts of the route is making the left onto James off of Third (I've said that before, I know, but it bears repeating), and seeing the bus zone that's there come into view. That's where the seething masses await! The unending swarm of humanity lives there. The zone is literally occupied continuously all day; the moment a bus pulls away, more people walk up. The 3/4 is the only route with 7 minutes headways all day. The masses are ready and willing to somehow fit onto your already full bus. We make it happen.
A multitude of "hey's" and "hows it goin's" and "welcome's" as all of us enter the vehicle, doing our best to become an American version of a sardine-packed Chinese subway. We try hard, but somehow people here just don't cram as close together as they do in the far East. An African-American man who may have been a passenger comes up the outside of the bus to the front door and faces me on the sidewalk, putting his hands together as if in prayer, and says to me, "konichiwa," with a huge smile on his face. I smile back, returning the prayerful gesture, and he strides off, waving and saying 'have a good day' to the back half of the bus through the still-open back door. I smile at the randomness of his goodwill- I'm pretty sure he didn't know anyone back there.
(I've since run into Konichiwa Man several more times. That is his trademark greeting- at least to me, though he now knows I'm Korean. With him once was a very thin, young woman who moved slowly with a cane. Her words were slurred, but her smile wasn't, being clean and true and big as life. We took turns saying hi in several languages.)