Have you noticed how when people run for the bus, they’re nearly always smiling? Most especially when they make it onboard, but often before that becomes a certainty, too. It’s the element of the chase, perhaps, muscle memories from childhood; swatting the branches and leaves aside, during the time when laughter and sunshine ruled the world.

It’s dark tonight, southbound 15th in the U District, and they’re facing away from me, but you can somehow tell those two runners are smiling. They’re giggling with their bodies, racing my bus to the next stop.

If it was rush hour, I wouldn’t wait for them, but it isn’t rush hour. It’s 12:11 in the morning. Am I going to pull over in between stops and save them the extra block of running, speeding things up for everyone? Of course I am.

I want to see the smiles on their faces.

They’re a young couple, likely undergraduates, each bumbling into the other now in an effort to stop. They finish each other’s sentences, flowing in and out, a sprightly African-American student and his bubbly east Asian girlfriend. There is an ability among millenials to overlook race and gender differences, take them in stride, with an ease no generation prior has been able to accomplish. It’s one of my favorite things about being alive right now.

“Tight!” says one, as other finishes: “he’s stopping!”
“It’s not the bus!” the boyfriend exclaims.
I echo his statement as a question– “is it not the bus?”
“No, it’s a 49,” he yells back, seemingly for the benefit of both myself and his lady, “and we want the 48! But thank you so much for stoppin’!”
“No worries,” I holler in return with a grin in my voice, catching the rhythms of their excitement by proximity. “Have a good night!”
“My nigga! You too!”

There was an exhale of almost surprised relief somewhere in there, an effervescence in the timbre of his cry. I shook my head as I drove away, smiling too wide for a stationary face. Replaying the moment, figuring out why I loved it so. You heard the realization in his tone: that guy’s like me, another unjudging young person, who didn’t think twice about puling over for us, more than happy to do so. There are folks like that.

When we see the best parts of ourselves reflected in the person before us, we come alive all over again. When I see how this goodness lives so easily in anyone, so utterly ignorant of race and class and preferential differences, I shiver with delight at the possibilities. Let the youngsters lead the way, where we have not tread before. I love moments like this in part because they don’t happen all the time. We are not yet living in a post-racial world.

Except when we are.

Article Author

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.