Picture 2


Triangle Park, across from the Frye–the very same “it’s-not-the-Frye-unless-there’s-an-ambulance-out-front”–right in the heart of upper Pioneer Square, is not known for harboring commuters with an urgent need to catch specific buses to outlying destinations. Especially not at midnight. Nevertheless, tonight a runner streaks out of its dark recesses toward my stop at Prefontaine, right as that famously short light turns green. As I’ve said before, I’ve noticed many runners are “impulse riders” who don’t actually need your specific route. They just need something going up a few blocks. But you just never know. His eager smile and hustle convince me to tarry–African-American man, bald, in a huge black sweatshirt with some sort of red lettering.

After some pleasantries, we’re rolling. I’m curious. “Did you need the 49, or are you jus’ goin’ up the street?”
“I needed the 49. I just missed the 66.”
“Well shoot, I’m glad you made it.”

This man didn’t just need the 49, as it turns out, he needed it clear to the end of the line! And, would you believe it, he ended up being a Metro employee! He cleans the buses every night, and we talked shop and life for the rest of the ride. I never would’ve guessed, him flying out of Triangle Park like that. Today was a double shift for him, and he mentioned in a complaining tone that upon arriving home, he won’t be able to get to sleep instantly.

“How come?”
“‘Cause my kids, man, they gon’ ask how my day was….”
He says it in a tone indicating he knows he shouldn’t be complaining, buuuutttt….
I cut in, exclaiming, “that’s ’cause they love you, man!”
He grins, relaxing.
“Yeah, dude!” I continue. “They’re gonna say how was your day, they gonna ask whatchoo did, you’re gonna ask what they did, they’ll probably show you some stuff, and it’ll all be beautiful! It’s the great human condition! You know!”

The girl sitting behind us, with the wavy auburn hair, smiles as she listens.

Article Author
Nathan Vass
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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, 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.