The View From Nathan’s Bus: About the Gesture

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This was before the pandemic, when getting on through the back was frowned upon. These two teens tumbled aboard through the middle doors anyway, a rough’n’ready young couple jumping in at Rainier and Othello.

The boyfriend was already stalking toward the back, casting about for his favorite seat. She was also African-American, with tight jeans and an athletic sweatshirt, her hair in long, tight multicolored braids. She looked at me through the mirror and paused.

“Could we have a ride?” she called out to me. 

They were already onboard. Of course I was going to say yes—but that’s exactly why I was so touched by her question. She knew she didn’t have to ask. The only reason to do say anything at this point was out of respect. And it was important to her to offer the gesture. I assume she knew me from previous rides in the general sense, as a genial part of the neighborhood, the person who won’t give you trouble and whom you get to saying hello to.

“For sure, thanks for asking!” I replied.

At the end of their ride, I looked up as I prepared to open the doors for them. Usually it’s me who calls ‘thank you,’ preemptively, and I get excited when I get any kind of reaction. Especially from the kids. 

But these two.

She spoke first. “Thank you,” she called out, turning toward me as the bus slowed to a stop. Then she added, “Thank you for driving late at night!”

Who’s gonna tell me no youngsters care? Who’s gonna try to convince me there’s no one out here who puts themselves in another’s shoes? 

Magic happens. We have to recognize it when we see it, and hang on to it. Put it in your pocket for later, as a reminder during more frustrated times:

There are some great attitudes out there.

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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.

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