I hail Fred on the 7, and he tells me he's been called a bitch five times today. Since when did anyone call Fred a bitch? He's Fred, for Pete's sake. Guy's awesome. He's brave enough to give out his full first, middle and last name to people. I can't even do that. A Caucasian man on the street drapes upon me a blanket of racist remarks, which I shrug off; a well-to-do, educated commuter on the 303, first passenger on in the morning, her face and gestures a perplexing mask of anger; she's intensely repulsed by my good attitude, and asks me to stop. I'd driven the route the morning before and she "just couldn't stand it." Elsewhere, a dear friend of mine, in mourning because his dear friend died; I see people laughing at a disabled boy, setting off a verbal tic in him that he's unable to stop, and you can sense the pain he's experiencing, helpless to defend himself; a cop and a black man at Northgate, having the "because I'm black" argument. Everyone stands around, watching them, though they've all heard the conversation before. As for myself, typically the only people who are rude to me are (occasionally) the mentally unstable and the wealthy upper class; but today, we even have a bona fide street type asking me to cut down on the niceties. At least he asks kindly.
I'm not complaining. In my book these are non-events, excepting of course the dead friend. The commonality the other incidents share is that they're all concerned with people's perception of others, and as we know, giving credence to such opinions- allowing them to affect our happiness and self-worth- is a debilitating, endless black hole.
But- why are they all happening this week, right now? Am I simply hyper-attuned to them, creating a trend where there isn't one? I tend to place minimal importance on trends for this reason, and for the fact that most trends are transient..I just finished reading a massive book about people's preoccupations with perception of and by others, so maybe it's no surprise that I'm noticing all this. Typically the streets are always the same, and I tend to believe the themes we pull out of them reflect ourselves much more than any actual trend taking place. If I have a bad day on the road, it's almost always because I have something going on in my private life, and my mechanisms and strategies for dealing with the road are down; it isn't because of any actual incident on the part of someone else.
Or maybe there really is a stirring of sorts taking place. I can't help but think so. There is the incident in Connecticut on the national consciousness. There is the newly intense cold here; there's the stress and madness of the holidays, the push-pull between a desire for good times and the reality of what holidays are for many people, conflated with the national mood. Who knows.
What do we do? We identify these periods for what they are, and we work to right ourselves. The human animal is vulnerable this week, perhaps. It is beset by woe, and it, the great collective, has manufactured a response in a great many infinitesimal ways.
By knowing the human beast is off-kilter, for whatever reason, we can accept such behavior with greater tolerance. Our friends are simply going through a phase, as it were. It isn't one's own fault.
We may not understand the reasons for these bouts of lashings and sharp edges, but we can understand them for what they are- a mere buck on the seismograph, ultimately indicating nothing. Certainly not a trend.
Let's top off all this serious talk with just what it needs-
I'm walking back to my 358. I've been hanging out at 5th and Jackson, reading my book, walking around and eating my apple. I shake hands with a 7 passenger who thought I didn't remember him from a year ago, and was flabbergasted when I recited his website. Strolling back to my bus, and- whaa? Who- what is that?
It's a man, it's a man in a dirty green jacket, but what is he doing? He's climbing around on the front of my bus, clambering on the bike rack, and arching his body towards the glass, because he's attempting to enter the the bus by pushing slowly through the windshield.
I don't think it's going to work!
I'm unable to control myself from laughing. "How's it goin,'" I say smilingly. "Oh, pretty good," he responds, clearly not looking it; apparently he'd just been on my bus on its previous trip, and had left his wallet. I reach for the door release. Every teenager in King County knows how to open a parked bus, but this man's no teenager, and the poor guy steps down from his awkward perch on the bicycle tiedowns. "Come on in, let's take a look-see. I think the door works better for getting inside."
I love discussing such wild absurdities in regular, level tones of voice. We find his wallet. He's saved from trying to defy physics. He's good to go.
PS- What is that photograph? It's a still I took for a 48-Hour film shoot a few years ago. More stills here.