I'm at a red northbound at Third and Seneca, and there's a 17 express in front of me. I think the great Ivan's driving it. That's Ivan Alexander, as in Ivan the Terrible, Alexander the Great. On impulse I throw on my brake and sprint up to his bus and yell, "Ivan! Heeeyyyy! I don't have anything important to say, I just wanted to say hey!" I'm high on something- life, the 4, saying hi to people. He gets it. He laughed at the absurdity of it as I sprinted back to my bus in time for the green light.
A stumbling man, at Rainier and McClellan, sauntering on, clearly intoxicated, insisting on one rule: "I want no lyin'! No lying on this bus!" I think that's a great idea, and wholeheartedly agree with his slurred wisdom. "I'm gonna stop lyin' right now."
"There's not gonna be any lyin' on this bus tonight," I declare with false seriousness. "I can't make no guarantees for the rest of the world, but in here, we got you covered."
On the 7- lollygagging down Third because I'm having conversations at the front- talking with Miranda of Wendy's, yelling a wave out at Real Change Willy, asking a passenger about his curious ringtone ("it's R2D2, from Star Wars," he explains in a precise voice). It's the feeling of getting into a slower rhythm, just sandbaggin' it, listening and laughing and chiming in, talking with the front of the bus and waving at the buses outside. And okay, paying attention to the road. There's something pleasing about this total lack of rushing, of taking the time to be there, to be present for every detail of this many-faceted moment- the timbre of the conversation, my friends I'm waving to, being safety-conscious all the while, enjoying the act of driving this route- all of it. This isn't always the case, but sometimes it's such a sensory overload that you have to slow down. Take it all in. It's the attitude of, "let them come!"
Inundating the north end passengers to the Nathan Way- these guys have never ridden my bus before. An older black man, street gent, says, "That was on. I love your enthusiasm, man, I love your take on it! Got a great attitude." An older woman, office worker or attorney perhaps, last passenger on the bus, comes all the way up from the back to say much the same, using different jargon but with the same warmth. "That was the most personable and entertaining ride...." The vernacular is a contrast, but the meaning is shared.
Then again, even though we're way out in the hinterlands, there's still people who recognize me. On my first day on the 358, I heard a friendly voice say, as I was taking over the vehicle, "on't let that boy drive this bus! He don't haaa' no license!" Incredibly, it was one of my semi-regulars from the 7. Typical. What he was doing way out here in Shoreline I'll never know. No, he didn't get off at THS.
Another man, a young father who I remember from the 4, bounds on with his daughter and girlfriend in tow. He wears an oversized heavy sweatshirt with the hood up, and sagging black denims. His glance is a smiling half-welcome, like he wants to say more. I think he recognizes me, but can't tell if I do him, and thus he hesitates. I give the 358 people the same type of ride I do on all the other routes; there's a satisfaction in getting a regular rider on a new route, where you sense that they're in on your whole schtick, they know how you roll and they like it. I see him in the mirror, looking toward me with mild amusement as I do my thing. When he gets off I say, "good to see you again!" and we devolve into a cacophony of overloud pleasantries and truisms, making fistpounds and gestures of welcome I don't even know; breathing enthusiasm into the dark night.