What a dumb idea this was.
Halfway through the week it occurred to me that I must be giving off the appearance of someone who is miserable. I wasn't, but what else are you to make from watching a young, bleary-eyed fellow who doesn't say much, mechanically says hello, who talks in a flat and tired voice and stares into the middle distance at red lights?
From riding the bus often, I know that the mood of the driver affects everything. When your driver puts his head on the steering wheel and sighs heavily (as I once witnessed), it's hard for you, the passenger, to continue having a great sunny day. There's a guy five feet away from you who's obviously miserable, and it's infectious. I certainly wasn't going to that extreme, and was probably still happier-looking than most operators, but for my own standards, I was getting too close to that precipice. I was a non-singing, non-dancing lackadaisical route 2 sourpuss. What was up? Retardation, that's what. For lack of a better phrase.
Many of the commendations I get make a point of the driver being present. "This guy makes eye contact with everybody," they'll say. It makes a difference to them. He is there, he is open and present with the people. I thought to myself, in Quiet Route 2 Mode, am I in a time machine? Is this how I'll be ten years from now? No! I can't allow it!
I once told a passenger a couple years ago, on the 43, that if they ever saw me in ten years, and if I was a grump by then, that I wanted him to punch me in the face, and remind me of this conversation. I forget who the guy was, but I'm holding that passenger to his word, and I don't want to get punched!
On the next trip I decided to make an effort, actually live a little, and return to the standard Nathan self. I looked people squarely in the eye. In your frontal lobe are what are called "mirror neurons-" they respond in kind to what's presented before them. It's why a depressed person around you can make you depressed, and why you yawn when other people yawn. I projected out positive energy- not just "how are you" or "hey" but "hey" with conviction- and it started to come back in spades. Eye contact. "You're so cheerful," said a nurse, excited.
I decided to talk with the older regular who'd sat there before, about the wire, trolley buses, smooth driving, wondering why the bus was so empty, where he was headed. We laughed about flying out of bus doors (how the conversation got to that point I'm not sure; you'd have to have been there, I guess). I quieted down a screaming young lady who was embarrassed at having to go the ER. Bringing it back to a better place. That look, that double-take where they notice how happy- or is the word present- you are.
On another trip we were "late, crowded, and fun," as I like to put it, having a conversation with the front of the bus, myself and a couple older ladies riffing about local companies engaged in rackets involving business attire that's loaned out for interviews (the things you end up talking about). Wonder if that pretty girl in the back can hear us. More than that, I wonder, or rather I hope, that they all take something away from it, walking into the mid-morning air, energized in a small or big way, happiness growing larger, expanding them to their potential.
Whether or not it affects them, I know it energizes me, and I feed off that energy in a way much more useful and fulfilling than my original "energy in reserve" idea. Here, I'm making the energy as I go along, building it with myself and others, and the tight 2 schedule doesn't matter anymore- I'm taking my break while doing the route, just hangin' out with my people.