I forget her name, but I remember the enormous Barnes and Noble Booksellers that once stood here, inside the Starbucks of which she worked. Someday people won’t even remember there was a Barnes and Noble here. But today was before present became past, just another day in Westwood Village, as I dashed into the store while on break from the 5/21. I knew her through her boyfriend, a Jamar who’d taken my 49. Before that they both knew me from the 7. 

She saw me and glowed. She probably glows for anyone who walks in. My kind of people, I thought. I was glowing myself, having just heard the news, and had to tell her:

“Hey. Did you know, Seattle Magazine just named me one of the 35 Most Influential People in Seattle!”
“Yeah! It’s ridiculous! I’m just the bus driver!”

She paused, thinking about it, unable to keep from grinning. “Um no. That’s not ridiculous. You totally… Nathan, that’s like the lowest honor they could give you.”
“No way.”
She shifted the stance of her hips, the better to emphasize her point: “Okay. Do you realize you make getting on the number 7 bus… Pleasant??”
“That is not an easy thing to do! That’s hard! And you just… Whenever I would see the driver had curly hair, I knew, I was like okay, today’s gonna be a good day.”
“You, this makes my day! My week!”
“I’m so glad I could make the Maker of Days’ day!!”

She would shortly move to another state, off to a new start with her partner. I imagine I’m only a footnote in what seems, on the basis of her consistently ebullient attitude, like a rich and fulfilling life. Does she know I still remember this exchange? That it comforts and inspires me? 

You have to understand, when someone tells you you’re the most influential person in the city, you don’t believe it. Who would? But when someone tells you the specifics of how you elevate their day, their life for a brief moment, that reads differently. It carries further into you, freed as it is from agenda and committee, one person to another telling how they bring the light. 

Would m that I had the adroitness of mind to tell her how similarly she brought me up after my long trips on the 5. To walk in and see a smile like that; you like who you are all over again, in the presence of such people. I don’t remember your name, or where you were going, and if I saw you again I’d recognize you from your attitude, not your appearance. Thanks for giving that energy out to people.

It means more than you know.

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.