Othello II




A twenty-something couple approaches the front, late at night at Othello Street. They’re about to deboard.
“Um,” says the girl. “Hey, can we ask you a,”
“Are you gonna ask how old I am? Every one asks that.”
“Haha, well, you do look really young. No, we wanted to ask, how are you so happy all the time? ‘Cause every time we get on you’re always in such a,”
“I don’t know! That’s a great question, I,”
“-Sure you don’t need a pee test?” the boy asks.
Cackles of laughter all around.

“I don’t know what it is,” I continue. “‘Cause I’ve thought about that a lot, you know. A lot of people ask me, but I feel like if I was to discover what it was, it would vanish, like a whisper, you know? Like it’s some magic secret thing and it would go out like a candle.”
“I got choo. Yeah.”
“I think it’s just, i really like the people, being nice to the people, something… they give me energy. The people give me energy.”
“That’s so great.”
“I love being nice to the people.”
“That’s great,” she says. “Especially on this route, which is not always, uh,”
“Oh, it’s an adventure! And I looooove it!”

We laughed in each other’s gleaming faces, sharing in the buzz of my euphoria. They could see I meant my words. I didn’t make clear enough in the earlier “Othello” post that I happen to really like these people. As I recently told another operator, I choose to drive the 7, the 358 and others not because they’re the most dangerous routes, or the “most coolest,” but because the passengers are the folks I genuinely most want to spend time with when I’m at work.

I don’t mean to ignore that some of them, like you and I, make ugly and terrible decisions, but here more than elsewhere I feel loved. Gestures of kindness echo with greater resonance. I learn from them, about compassion, appreciation, perspective, actions and consequences. Lessons are stronger at the leading edge of life, on ground level, where things are played out in a high key. These two instinctively got all this, without my having to mention it, let alone try to explain it. They knew, as I continued by describing the 7 as “freaking awesome,” that the silliness in my exuberance was borne of something deeply rooted, something they knew the language of too. Who besides us actually likes this stuff, being out here in this crazy maelstrom, riding high on the everlasting wave?

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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.