“That’s a nice flower,” I said. She held in her hand a single long-stem rose, light pink.

“Thanks!” she answered, cheerful and animated. I remember large brown eyes and flowing auburn hair. “A stranger gave it to me!”
“Oh! That’s kind of excellent!”
“Would you like it?”
“That’s so nice of you! Thank you!”

I set it on the dashboard, draped over the dials and toggle switches. What a perfect addition to the driver area. What made them ever stop designing things with such aesthetic touches? Why are there no fleur-de-lis and gargoyles on this bus? I grinned inside myself, feeling new and warm and validated. A short while later another young woman came forward, a student here at UW, with rippled blond hair and an Eastern European accent.

I said, “how are you?”
Ask it brightly. Watch a smile form on their face, as you mirror each other’s best side.
“Good!” she said, suppressing a laugh at my enthusiasm. “I like your flower,” she said.
“Thank you! A passenger gave it to me!”
“Aw!”
“Do you want it? You should have it!”
“Me?”
“Yeah, yeah. Happy, uh, Tuesday.”
“Ha! Thanks!”

I asked about her day. We talked of school and work, and workstudy. She tossed her hair back. She was in the sciences. I asked what she liked most about her field. I like hearing people expound on their passions. Don’t ask her name, I told myself. Don’t say, I hope I see you again. I want her to know the flower is real. That it comes with no agenda. This is about strangers being lovely to each other, and paying warmth forward. I’m sure her conception of individuals whom she knows is fairly positive; but I want to be part of her positive conception of strangers.

My mind returned to a note I was once given. A woman about my age handed me a folded square of paper. I didn’t catch her face; too busy trying to stay on the wire on the pesky purple bus. I caught only a glimpse of cigarette pants and long black hair dashing into the twilight. I put her note in my breast pocket and continued along the route. At the terminal I unfolded it. It said endearing and adorable things. It also had no phone number.

Which is how I knew it was completely genuine.

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 articlePolice Shootings And The Livability Agenda
Next articleWhat We’re Reading: Yes, Gentrification Is A Problem
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.