​It’s a waxing gibbous tonight, yellow, a sense of possibilities from high overhead. I’m done for the night– or almost done, seconds away from putting it in park and shutting off the lights, ready for the sound of the motor cutting into silence, the way the bus seems surprised you’d ever want to shut it down.

I turn the double-length articulated coach onto its lane assignment, the last turn of the night, and why not do it with a little pizzazz, keeping alive the freshness that got me through the day? I even have an audience. There’s a colleague, walking the walk of having completed the day. She’s coming from one of the buses parked up ahead, further up the line.

Even if you’re the last coach to park on a lane, there’s still enough room to square it off perfectly, so you’re not bleeding over the striping with your back tires. Go a little too deep, as deep as you can before you start the turn, hard right, then you overcorrect left after you’re a little too far right, the bus changing its mind, and you’re thinking about your middle wheel and turntable now, taking your time. You’ve got the real estate on your left side to reposition the front, and here’s the back wheel sliding in perfectly, straight as an arrow on the last second. Not half bad, you say to yourself, allowing yourself a little hop off the front step, the skip that wants to tap your heels together.

She’s caught up to where I am now, and we finish out our walk back to the Base together.
“Were you just drivin’ that 7?”
“You know it! Such a great night.” I change my voice halfway through, realizing I probably sound like I’m bragging. I’m just happy; the exhilaration of a completed shift.
She says, “when did you start driving that thing?”
Pause. Putting it together. “I first did the 7 in, ’09.”
“And you just stick to it, huh?”
“Well you know you just find something you like and you kind of get in a rut, you know? In a good way.”
“I know tha’s right,” she grins, with a smile that stops you from calling her middle-aged. “That’s how I am with the E. People look at me–”
“Me too! I love the E!”
“And I have a great time out there!”

I look at her. I don’t know her, but I do now. Different race, age, gender… never mind all that. I call it kindred spirits. I say, “well probably ’cause you got a great spirit, and people can feel that!”
“‘Cause respect has such huge currency out here on the street, and if you put that good energy out there,”
“‘Hi,’ ‘good evening,'”
“People notice that. They appreciate that in a big way.”
“Sometimes they’ll start doing their little thing,” she admits.
“And I’ll say something.”
“And they’ll stop.”
“‘Cause they know you from before, that goodwill! Sure, it’s a couple days out of the year that are pretty tough–”
“It happens.”
“It happens.”
“But man, all the other days? It’s beautiful!”
“And I’m just gonna keep doing it!”
“You and me both, friend!”

I felt the expansion of the moon and stars, a heady exhilaration beating in my chest, the confirmation of common secrets, known and shared. There are a lot of like-minded, positive drivers. I’ve had variations of this exchange before. What about this conversation made my heart rise with such particular joy?  

It was the ready acknowledgement even if our approach doesn’t work all the time, that doesn’t make it worthless. Because it works ninety-nine times out of a hundred, and usually still helps in the remaining percentile. Your working method isn’t dashed if you have one bad trip. It happens. It’s okay if things fall apart spectacularly after you’ve done your best, as they sometimes do. No single approach solves every moment. You work on it, think about what you’ll do next time, and breathe. The main thing is, you’re getting the overall. You didn’t escalate things. Don’t beat yourself up, don’t question your good-natured outlook just because it fails once or twice. 

It’s just the world. 

In this crazy place, going home happy most every night is something worth celebrating.

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.