Elementary school, off for the weekend. I was on a 358 (a brand new route at the time, replacing the old 6/359), and we had nearly completed the long trip in from the northern reaches of Aurora to downtown- but as we've noted before, it's never too late for things to go terribly awry.
Here we are at Pike, approaching the zone, everyone rising to deboard, when we realize there's a man on the floor, convulsing in the aisle. It's another epileptic seizure. Even at that age, I'd already witnessed the same on other buses (interestingly, almost exactly the same incident would take place over a decade later, at the same zone on the same route- except in that case the guy wasn't wearing pants!).
While we waited for aid to arrive, I wandered outside the coach. Passengers were still filing out, and the driver, a thin, mild-mannered white face in his fifties, was out of his seat, moving about inside as he assisted passengers. I watched through the windows. He seemed to be looking for something.
A young black man next to him, dressed in dark clothing, reached to the floor and pretended to start putting something in his jacket. Then he handed whatever it was to the driver, and they both began laughing together. The man said something, and the driver responded, and they laughed harder.
"Must be 358 humor," I thought to myself, not understanding. My elementary-age self stood there a moment longer, pondering. This I had not seen before. The seizure I could easily grasp; it was familiar. But what about this? Don't those two age-status-race-authority roles usually avoid each other, or ignore one another, or act in opposition?
I was a child. All children are born knowing race has no worth in the measure of a man. I could already see that adults often felt differently; but not these two. They were behaving just like my classmates on the school playground- which is to say, completely ignorant of race and class.
My heart beat faster, and a joy rose up in my throat. Looking at them, anything felt possible. Opposite ends closing a loop, existing in union, laughing together like a couple of regular fellows. Images like this can have quite an impact. They give shape and heft to the notion that surfaces count for little. Those two men will never know the impact their interaction had on my young self. It was only appropriate that the sun was shining.
I still feel that rush when I see such tableaus, or take part in such an interaction. The differences in culture, speech, clothing and the rest- when I see these ignored in favor of the commonalities of being human, a deep hunger is satisfied in me. It's very nearly a physical sensation, this world-affirming delight, and it thrills me unreasonably; this story is the first instance I can recall experiencing such a feeling. You'll have to forgive me the number of times I've written about people of different race or income groups interacting harmoniously. I never tire of it. In light of how often we see the opposite, I'm compelled to share.
PS- That's me in the photograph, around 12 years old, wishing I was driving that (now-defunct) 4000 series!