Picture 1


Two girls are getting on at southbound Dearborn, early college maybe, coming aboard in handfuls, pulling their luggage behind and beside them. Together they form an impression of primary colors, a rush of straps and travel and quickly brushed hair, shoes built for walking. The one is asking for Mount Baker Station, no doubt interested in Sea-Tac.

As they walk down the aisle I ask, “are you about to go on a big adventure, or coming back from one?”
“We just came from a big adventure, Seattle was our adventure!”
“Oh how fantastic!”

They decide to sit up front, continuing the conversation. “Hope you guys had a good time here,” I ask.
“We did!”
“Thanks for bringing the sunshine!”
“And now we’re taking it away!”
“It’s okay, I’m willing to deal!”
The clouds had just returned. The two of them are effervescent, with wide smiles and sparkling eyes, that natural excitement which comes easily to the youthful of any age.

“How long have you been driving a bus?” the second girl asks. They speak together as one, alternately answering or listening; clearly friends for years.
“Seven years,” I reply.
“Oh. that’s a long time.”
“I loooove it.”
“Getting to talk to people all the time, to provide this elemental need of transport, to help peop- you know how when somebody needs help, and you’re able to help them, and they feel great, and you get this altruistic high of well-being?”
“I know exactly!”
“Oh it feels so great, spreading that good energy. Getting to hang out with all these folks I would never ordinarily get to hang out with…. So I see you’re flying out on a Saturday!”
“Which I think is great. It’s cheaper for sure,”
“Oh, yeah,”
“Tuesday, Wednesday, and Saturday seem to be the best. I go to LA a lot, and it’s all about Tuesday through Saturday. Doesn’t cost ANYthing,”
“Why do you go to LA?”
“I have some good friends down there. It’s my hometown. Where are you going back to?”
“Columbus, Ohio,” says the one.
“And I’m going to North Carolina,” says the other.
“Just a hop skip and a jump away!”
“Yeah, shouting distance, you know!”
“North Carolina, excellent. By Durham?”
“Close.” She explains a town I haven’t heard of in the vicinity. “About twenty miles away.”
“I’ve never gone out there.”
“You should come!”
“And Columbus, Ohio, where I have also never been.”
“You should come!” says the other girl, in laughing repetition.
“So many new places to add to my already long list of places to travel! Now, how is it that you two know each other if you’re from completely different places?”
The answer involves particulars of going to school together, one formerly living in Ohio, and so on. They explain the banalities with a bubbly energy we all seem to be building together. You know that sensation, talking to someone new at the party about hardly anything at all, but you’re both so excited.

“I have a question!” I suddenly say.
“Were people in Seattle friendly?”
“Oh good. The answer to that question seems to vary dramatically depending on where people are coming from I think.”
“Oh yeah, people were great. well, not everybody, of course. but yeah. You’re friendly!”
“Aw!” Brief pause. “Did you have a favorite thing you saw or did here?”
“Just up the street here, on Rainier, we went to Humble Pie. It was the best! We went there four times in two weeks!”
“Oh my goodness, I’ve been there zero times in fifteen years! Clearly you guys have the jump on me!”
“You’ve gotta go! What’s your favorite thing in Seattle?”

Thinking on my feet, fishing for an answer– “Oh my oh my hmm, that would take too long to answer, there’s just so much! My mind is going crazy just trying to think of an answer!” Pause. They wait for me to come up with something.
“Right here, right now, driving the bus,” I say finally. What else is there, after all, besides the present?
“Yeah, seriously! This is my favorite route.”
“The 7?”
“It’s the only one we took.”
“Well, if you were gonna take just one route, this one would be it! It’s the most popular one, and it goes through Columbia City, which is the most diverse zip code in the United States.”
“Oh wow!”
“Yeah, that’s why it’s my favorite.” That and a host of other reasons, but I’ll spare them the details….
“So here’s Mount Baker, on the right, and over there well, you can see the stairs,”
“What’s your name?”
“Nathan. And yours?”
“Azalia,” says the other.
“Cool name!”
“Have a really great rest of your shift!”

A Latino man stands and comes up to the front. Baseball hat and black work clothes, a jacket flung over his shoulder. I’m not sure how much English he speaks, but I decide to engage him as well; being silent after all that chatter with the girls would be its own statement, and too easily misinterpreted negatively.

“How’s your night going?”
“Good! How about you?”
“Great. Good people,”
“Yeah, I saw you talking to those nice girls!”
“I like talking to people.”
“I work at a resaurant too,”
“Oh, you understand! It’s the same!”
“Yeah, it’s the same. It makes the day exciting.”
“To hear their stories, listen to all these different lives, be part of it….”

The solidarity I felt in the short interaction with him was just as satisfying as the chat with the ladies. They were enjoying being privy to something new to them, but Latino and I were sharing in something we both already know we love. Joy, expressed and explored in different ways. I drove away through the dark overhanging trees at Walden, thinking, it really is true. For this moment, right now, being lucky enough to be driving this 7 down Rainier Avenue really is my favorite thing in Seattle. Yes, you can call me crazy!

We hope you loved this article. If so, please consider subscribing or donating. The Urbanist is a 501(c)(4) nonprofit that depends on donations from readers like you.

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, KING 5 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.