Picture 16

 

This guy’s smiling, let me tell you. I thought I smiled a lot. He walks up at Pine southbound, first stop on the 7, not rushed, no stress, just happy: a white man in his craggy early sixties, deep lines around his eyes and a balding pate. His pants are scuffed and too short, exposing his ankles, making his shoes look oversized and Chaplinesque. In fact, his whole outfit reminded me of Charlie Chaplin- destitute, dark layered rags with holes, frayed fabric, sun-bleached blacks and grays. In place of the famous mustache was a scraggly, scruffy thin beard, words which described his form as a whole. Almond-shaped blue eyes radiated from his pale skin, entrenched in a seemingly permanent smile.

He greeted me with, “Good afternoon. How are you doing today?”
“I’m doing just fine, and yourself?”

“Terrific,” he beamed, positively glowing and rendering his slovenly appearance totally irrelevant.

“That’s a nice-looking chess set.” I’m referring to the large box under his arm. He and a man next to him begin discussing chess. This set goes for $147, and the bishops have capes on them.

As I turn from 2nd Extension onto Jackson, he says for no discernible reason, “thank you, bus driver.”
“You’re quite welcome!”

“Thank you.”

“Oh, my pleasure.”

Periodically he’ll thank the people around him, just for being nice. Or he’ll wish them a good day. He offers to help a woman with her bags, but she declines. He scoots out the way for a walker. Asks the people across from him how they’re doing, all in a gentle voice and kind demeanor. I watched him in the mirror with curiosity and gladness, thinking, I wish everybody was like this.

“It’s a game of logic,” he’s saying to his fellow passenger, a thin middle-aged man with a hat. They’re discussing the chess set.
“Logic and strategy,” I interject.
“Logic and strategy.”
“That takes a brain,” replies Thin Hat Man. “I don’t have one of those.”
“Oh, don’t say that!” I exclaim.
“Hey. That’s what happens when you fall 6,000 feet from a helicopter.”

And I thought I had things to complain about. Not true, I remind myself. Not true at all. That Mr. Hat Man had the grace and patience to nod and make eye contact when he got on, let alone wish me a good day as he left, stupefied me. That’s what I call a modern miracle.

Chess Man thanks me profusely again as he steps out at 39th. On the sidewalk is a stroller being pushed by a mother in her thirties, well-dressed and put together. “Good afternoon,” he says to her in the same kind voice. She avoids his gaze, hurriedly walking past. Probably thought he was crazy. Is he crazy? No, everyone else is. I hope one day his attitude becomes the new normal. I spend the rest of the shift greeting people as he did.

We hope you loved this article. If so, please consider subscribing or donating. The Urbanist is a non-profit that depends on donations from readers like you.

Previous articleThe Eastside Rail Corridor
Next articleWhat We’re Reading: Hop On the Bike Train and ST’s LRP Update
Nathan Vass has had work displayed in over twenty photography shows, designed a book and three album covers, including two for Neil Welch. His “My Favorite Things” tour at Seattle Art Museum was the highest-attended such tour there. Nathan is also the director of eight films, four of which have shown at festivals, and one of which premiered at Henry Art Gallery. He owns a photography business, Two Photography, with Larry Huang, and has photographed a dozen-plus weddings. Born in South Central LA, he holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the University of Washington, and is also a prolific writer and sometime painter. Formerly a Hollywood resident, he still contributes film reviews to Erik Samdahl's site, Filmjabber. In addition, he holds a side job as a public bus driver, which he enjoys almost as much as directing films- if not slightly more so! He is a two-time winner of Metro’s Operator of the Month award and holds a record number of commendations.