Picture 3

Read more stories from the bus at nathanvass.com.

“Whuhjjoo pick?” What’d you pick? It’s the question we operators all ask each other, right after “Pick-” that thrice-yearly event in which we have an opportunity to choose a different route. It’s all terribly exciting, and not unlike a total job change- you might be in a different part of the county, with different coworkers and passengers, shifting your schedule to accomodate new hours or days off…. I was at the 4 terminal at Center Park, and eagerly asked the question of Keith, the driver of the bus in front of me. We’re both from LA. Warm sunlight held on our faces, glancing through the burgeoning leaves of late Spring.

“I picked 7s,” Keith announced. He sounded disappointed. Oh no, I thought. Was I hearing a little of the old Picker’s Remorse?

With buyer’s remorse, hopefully you can go back and return your item. Picker’s Remorse is a little more extreme, because what you pick for the shake-up cannot be changed. It is binding. Sometimes you feel it moreso precisely because of this permanence, even if you’re not actually sure how bad the work will really be. I like Keith, and I didn’t want him feeling the weight of the old P.R. When you feel the Remorse, you see everything through a damp lens. He’s at heart a positive guy to begin with, and without really thinking about it, I naturally wanted to steer him back to himself.

I said, truthfully, “man, I wish I coulda picked 7s!”
“I always see you smilin’ always on that 7.”
“I love that thing. The 7 in summertime, that’s one o’ my favorites. Back and forth on Rainier Avenue, stays light out in the evenings, nice big Breda, takin’ the workin’ people home, movin’ the people around… it gets hot though.”
“Yeah it does. It be burnin’!”
“It bakes. But it’s like, it’s one a those things we’re gonna tell our grandkids, you know, like, ‘when Aaahh was young the bus was a hundred degrees!'”

Something awakens in him in that moment. He registers a sea change, a new perspective smiling out: “Yeah! yeah, you’re right!”
“Is’ part a the journey, you know, we all goin’ through these parts a life,”
“Yeah yeah. I dig it. See man, you got the attitu.'”
“Aw, I don’t know. It’s just part ‘ of that journey, you know how you hear the old folks talk about back in the day… and right now today, this is our time!” Today’s complaints will be tomorrow’s nostalgia. How’s that for bizarre human nature? “And we got to enjoy it today, you know?”
“Yeah man, them old folks, they went through some stuff, man, I’m tellin’ ya. Some uh these young folks nowadays,”
“Got to look out for the elders.”

“Check this out,” he continued. “It’d be this old lady ride up with me every time I do the 2, goin’ up Queen Anne area. Her name was Miss Bonnie, and we’d get to talkin,’ she always be on there, and I got to know her a little bit. And she always take a long time get on the bus, she had her walker, carrying her groceries, everything. And one day she be getting on and her wallet falls out. And out comes a roll of hundred dollar bills.”
“What?”
“No joke, came right outta her wallet, fell on the floor. Five, six, seven hundred dollar bills.”
“Right there on the floor.”
“Yeah. and you know whuh she said? She said excuse me, I think I dropped some bills. And I put my hands in the air said it’s okay Miss Bonnie, I’m gonna get that for you, you go ‘head get yourself situated. We got you covered in here. And I picked up the bills and she sat down and I gave the bills back to her. She trusted me to do that! You think that would go down between two a these young folks today?”

I can’t give up hope. “The thing is though, there will always be old people tha’s rude, old people that’s polite, young people that’s rude, young people that’s polite. For me, I get so excited when the young folks are polite. Sure, it don’t happen all the time, but it does happen.”
“Oh yeah!”
“And that moves me, man! It does somethin’ inside. Cause those kids are the future.”
“Man, iss been a pleasure rappin wit’ you. I got to go get in this number 4 here.”
“It’s gonna be a beautiful night!”
“Yeah it is! Always!”

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Nathan Vass is an artist, filmmaker, photographer, and author by day, and a Metro bus driver by night, where his community-building work has been showcased on TED, NPR, The Seattle Times, KING5 and landed him a spot on Seattle Magazine’s 2018 list of the 35 Most Influential People in Seattle. He has shown in over forty photography shows is also the director of nine films, six of which have shown at festivals, and one of which premiered at Henry Art Gallery. His book, The Lines That Make Us, is a Seattle bestseller and 2019 WA State Book Awards finalist.