A not-exactly-sober Native American woman in her sixties, dressed in street clothes and clearly unwashed for some time, is getting off the 55 at 2nd & Columbia. "You're so freakin' nice," she mutters to me, stumbling in and around her friend as they come up to the front to exit. She had gotten on through the back door, and had only heard my voice. Now she notices my appearance for the first time and stops and looks at me. She slurs out, "damn, you're hella cute," saliva dripping onto her jacket collar. It looks like she's thinking it over for a brief nanosecond, and then she yells out, "I'M AVAILABLE! I'M AVAILABLE!"
On the 7, two first-generation African men in traditional clothing board at Dearborn. I greet them with an enthusiasm that comes from an unknown place, like I knew them in another lifetime. They smile wide, and the first shakes my hand. "It's nice to see anotha brotha!" he says in accented English. I have no clear idea what he means, but hey, I'll take it. He's happy to be here.
Kids at the Franklin High School stop swaggering onto the bus, outbound. This particular group excites me. Not all the kids are like this. Their faces impart an awareness and perception that we forget to associate with ghetto youth culture. All of them return my "hey's" and "how's it goin's." None of them have headphones in. They are present. Neutral expressions, ready to smile, open to the world around them, a world with people other than simply them. In between the oversized starch-black denims, hoop earrings, sagging insignia-laden backpacks, hands hidden in sweatshirt sleeves- don't forget to notice the depth in their eyes.
Downtown. Two young American girls, probably also high school age, dark-skinned with ponytails and sweatshirts and tight pants, are walking an older, slow-moving blind white woman to my bus. "She needs your bus," one of them says. "We walked her all the way over here from McDonalds." I'm floored when people are nice to each other. For some reason I am simply unable to get over it. These are gestures that never become tiresome. "You guys are amazing," I say, staring. One of them smiles. The other is still guiding the blind woman onto the steps. "Wow," I say. "I'd buy you guys lunch if I didn't have to, you know. Drive the 4." They laugh, some pleasantries are exchanged, and they drift away into the whirlpools and eddies of the CBD.