Why do I love scruffiness, when I am not scruffy?

Because these are the strangers who are consistently nicest to me, who treat me plainly, as an equal and fellow human. We feel the leading-edge bruises of the immediacy of life together, and we don’t make a big thing about it. Vulgar, a word we apply to street folk from time to time, didn’t used to have the negative connotation it does now; it merely meant common, lowly, humble. Unvarnished. 

Is that so bad?

I was taking them all to the night shelter. For three or so stops, the southbound 21 is disproportionately stacked with beleaguered souls. A middle-aged fellow seated at the front piped up after watching me work for a spell.

“I give props to you, mister bus driver. The driving part’s gotta be the easy part compared to…”
I knew what he was going to say. “Some of these people, man!”
“They’re crazy out here!”
“They can get kind of exciting, huh?”
“You know it. I’d love to drive one of these things. But the people, now that I don’t think I could handle!”
“Yeah, I guess they can be a handful sometimes.”
“Man, we had this one lady on the other day she was saying fuck this, fuck that.”
“Oh yeah,” I exclaimed. “I think I know her!”
“Ha!”
“Ha.”
“Well, oh well,” he sighed. “God loves everybody.” A comedian’s perfect pause, before adding: “I think.”
“Ha! I hope so!”
“Yeah, I hope he does!”

That pause was my favorite moment of the night. In it lived the need to laugh and live in counterpoint, to hold the vast size of existence in all its beauty and horror and simply accept. Accept, and thrive. Accept the unruly and the cruel. Accept the question of God and good, in stride. Accept the wisdom of the power of the word maybe. The sageness of laughter and forgetting, and remembrance too.

Accept the world in front of me as is, without wanting it any other way.

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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.