If you’ve read this, you won’t be surprised at my reaction to Seattle Magazine choosing me as one of their 35 Most Influential People of 2018 (!). I feel outrageously, ridiculously humbled. Let’s put it this way: I’m no Bob Ferguson! (Read my in-depth praise of Bob’s actions in 2017 here).

And, forgetting about the fact that it’s me they’re talking about, I feel excited and proud of a publication that recognizes the little people. It’s not just a list of old and new money. There are people on that list who are doing the difficult work because they care, and the element I was most thrilled by in talking with my fellow honorees is that they weren’t doing what they were doing to get noticed. I certainly am not. You don’t go into bus driving to get famous!

It’s just in the DNA of who we are, and probably who you are: you have things you care about and you act accordingly, whether or not anyone notices. To make a difference. Attorney General Bob (my personal hero among several on this list, as you can probably glean from my rapturous writeup linked above) does so in large-scale fashion; I do it in my own way, which some describe as small, others as large.

I continue my work on the streets instead of ascending the administrative ladder because the contribution is direct. Unadorned. Elemental. Without intermediary. It’s me, smashed up against the face of the world, on a tightrope with a gift: the opportunity to make someone feel human. Acknowledged. Respected. A face that might stick in their mind and be a kernel of motivation months from now. Or at least something to feel good about.

I love being out there in the trenches, and sharing dispatches with you on this blog. To hear the degree to which it’s inspired people– operators, passengers, others– quite simply brings me to my knees in gratitude. I’m not even going to get into it. I’m thankful that the powers that be at Metro and King County support me as they do, and create a work environment where I can do the work with this focus; they don’t box me up behind a driver’s shield, for instance (THANK YOU). I dearly hope they never do. They recognize it’s about more than shifting people around. I’m grateful for Seattle Magazine and so many other outlets for recognizing my work.

Last week a man came up to me at Third and Cherry. Fifty-something black American man, mid-length tall and tired from work, a face from long ago. He must have recognized me from years past. He grinned.

“You still drivin’?”
“They can’t get rid a me!” I joked in reply.
He chuckled. “Right on. Iss the other ones they gots to get rid of! You and Juan, man…”
“Thank you!” I exclaimed. I’m trying to get better at actually accepting compliments, instead of just turning them around all the time. But he meant it as more, and continued with force:

“Man, it ain’t no thank you. I’m telling you the truth!” Troof. “How you greet the people. And you don’t just tolerate the crazy assholes, even though that’s what you’re supposed tuh do in a public service job, they’s gonna be crazy assholes and you know it, and you just know to ever let that bullshit affect you personal, never let yoself take that home which you. But I’m gettin’ sidetracked. Bruh. You don’t just tolerate. You engage actively wit the community. You know people. And man, you got no idea how much good you’re accomplishing just by bein’ yoself on this bus right now, every night. Straight up.”

Would you believe me if I told you his words meant just as much to me as getting honored as one of the city’s 35 most influential people?

You better believe it!

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Nathan Vass has had work displayed in over twenty photography shows, designed a book and three album covers, including two for Neil Welch. His “My Favorite Things” tour at Seattle Art Museum was the highest-attended such tour there. Nathan is also the director of eight films, four of which have shown at festivals, and one of which premiered at Henry Art Gallery. He owns a photography business, Two Photography, with Larry Huang, and has photographed a dozen-plus weddings. Born in South Central LA, he holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the University of Washington, and is also a prolific writer and sometime painter. Formerly a Hollywood resident, he still contributes film reviews to Erik Samdahl's site, Filmjabber. In addition, he holds a side job as a public bus driver, which he enjoys almost as much as directing films- if not slightly more so! He is a two-time winner of Metro’s Operator of the Month award and holds a record number of commendations.