From All

Urban Chickenkeeping: Introducing New Chickens to a Single Chicken

Here I’m going a bit off my usual other topics, to cover in more detail what happened when we tried to introduce two adult chickens as companions for our solo adult chicken. We had a difficult experience that ultimately turned out fine, but we were unprepared for the violence of establishing the pecking order. I hope that this story will be helpful to others who want to provide companionship for a single chicken.

I’ve been keeping chickens for over seven years, though I’ve only had primary responsibility for them over the past three years or so. In May 2014, our elder chicken, Moxie, who was over eight years old, passed away, leaving Gabby, the 3.5-year-old, alone in the coop. We had originally gotten Gabby to keep Moxie company after her two coopmates, Raleigh and Q-Tip, were killed by raccoons (don’t worry, we have a more secure coop now). Gabby arrived when she was only about eight weeks old; she and Moxie got along great, and we think Moxie kind of adopted her as hers to raise to adulthood. They never fought.

So now Gabby was all alone, and chickens are social creatures. I set out to find one or two new chickens to keep Gabby company. It turns out if you ask your local urban farming co-op e-mail list if anyone has any extra chickens, you get a lot of offers. In June 2014, I decided to get two chickens from a couple who wanted a slightly smaller flock (they had eight chickens but wanted only six).

Following the good advice on other websites, I put up chicken wire in our coop so the new chickens would have one half and Gabby would have the other. Since Gabby’s side had the perches and nesting boxes, I put a nesting box in the corner and rigged a perch with a metal pole and a cinder block to use as a step to get up there. I also put newspaper up to cover the chicken wire so they wouldn’t see each other at first.

(Many chicken keepers advised putting the new chickens up on the perch after dark, saying that once all the chickens woke up together in the morning, they’d assume they were all supposed to be there and get along. I read one report where someone did this and found a chicken pecked to death by the flock within 24 hours. Since I wasn’t going to get up at 5 AM to supervise their daylight introduction after a night on the perch, I decided to go with a more gradual introduction method. I have no way of knowing whether putting the new chickens on the perch at night would have eliminated the problems we had; since we were introducing two new chickens, I think the dynamics were different from the beginning.)

We transported Pansy and Camelia home in a dark plastic tote covered with a dark towel. Chickens calm down in darkness, though a car ride or any sort of transportation is a jarring experience for a chicken. We got them home, and put them into their half of the coop. Almost immediately Gabby got agitated. She could tell other chickens were there even though she couldn’t see them, and was squawking and pacing. Pansy and Camelia were a bit shocked from the drive but got acclimated in a couple of hours, and then pretty much immediately started tearing down the newspaper. 24 hours later there was hardly any left. So the chickens could see each other. Sometimes they’d stick their beaks through the chicken wire and tap the tips of their beaks together. “Oh, that’s cute,” I thought. “They’re saying hi.”

*scary music*

In a week we decided to introduce the chickens. We put up our portable fencing around the coop and opened both doors so the chickens could go outside onto the grass. At first they didn’t notice each other, cheerfully eating grass at opposite sides. But when Gabby saw Camelia, she fluffed up her neck feathers, hurtled herself across the yard, and began pecking her violently on the head. Camelia sort of fought back, but she is much smaller and clearly at the bottom of the pecking order. Though at first we were in shock, we finally acted and separated Gabby and Camelia. Then Pansy stepped in. She and Gabby both had their neck feathers on display and were more or less fencing with their beaks, pecking viciously on each other’s heads and then dancing backward for a moment before heading in again. We got them separated too and put a fence between them. Everyone was bleeding from their head wounds. Pansy and Gabby remained rather worked up; if Gabby could even see the other two for several hours afterward she’d start pacing and squawking. We moved her in her own fencing section around the corner of the house so she couldn’t see the other two. Camelia seemed a little shocked but clearly wasn’t interested in the drama. She and Pansy continued to get along just fine.

We got all the girls back into the coop but switched the sides, so Gabby was on the side that Pansy and Camelia had been on before. I had a vague theory that this would somehow help the new chickens feel at home in the whole coop. (No idea whether this made a difference.)

A week later, I tried introducing them again in the yard. This time, I arranged the fencing so that they could be out in the yard and see each other, but not have full-body contact. Nevertheless, Gabby and Pansy went right back at each other as soon as they realized they could peck each other through the fence. Again, blood was drawn, but Camelia stayed entirely out of the way, and neither Pansy nor Gabby got quite as worked up. They went back in the same sides of the coop they had been in for the past week.

Gabby, gold-laced Wyandotte, top of the pecking order.

Another week and a half later, I put them back out in the yard with the fencing between them, and had readied myself with a spray bottle of water. When Pansy and Gabby started to peck at each other, one sharp spray on each of them broke up the fight entirely.

Now I forget at this time whether we kept them apart that day afterward, or what.  But it was either this time or the next time we had them separated that I left the fencing up, but I forgot to check that the gate on the fence was shut securely. When my boyfriend went out to check on them later, he found the gate open and the chickens able to walk between the fenced sections. They weren’t fighting and no one was injured! Instead they were just grazing around on the grass. Amazing.

Pansy, Barred Rock, middle of the pecking order. Always nice to Camelia.

We supervised them for a couple hours – sometimes Gabby would peck at Pansy or Camelia, but in a way that was more like herding or scolding them for getting in her way than wanting to draw blood.

We did one more all-together outdoor session a week later, with similar results, before deciding to take down the divider in the coop.

Camelia, silver-laced Wyandotte, bottom of the pecking order, will steal raisins from anyone regardless of consequences.

Since then, Gabby has mellowed out quite a bit more and even hangs back when treats are given rather than immediately bustling out in front. Camelia, at the bottom of the pecking order, is still routinely chased away from feed by Gabby. So we have been putting food at both ends of the coop. Pansy always lets Camelia eat with her, and Gabby will eat with Pansy sometimes but can get territorial.

Anyway, the reason for writing this is to provide another story of how introducing new chickens to your flock (or a solo chicken) might go. I can’t promise anything about how your individual girls might get along. We were just floored that Gabby could be so aggressive after the great relationship she and Moxie had had, but every situation is different, we’ve learned.

Strawberry Tree

Years ago I was at a barter and a friend bartered me some dried strawberry tree fruits. They were delicious, sort of chewy with a lot of body and a nice fruit flavor (not really like strawberry, but tasty!). Riding along the Burke Gilman Trail between the U-District and Fremont a few days ago, I saw the strawberry trees on the east side of the trail are starting to get bright red fruit – time for a harvest. I missed the harvest last year so I am determined to get it this year.

Strawberry trees (scientific name Arbutus unedo) grow fruits that are round and bumpy, and bright red when ripe. They are also rather seedy, like strawberries. The trees are native to the Mediterranean and western Europe, including the cloudy temperate climates of Ireland and the UK, so I imagine that our non-native similar climate treats them well.

By August Dominus (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
I found this delicious sounding recipe for strawberry tree jam that I will try, as well as a recipe for strawberry tree liqueur. I liked the dried strawberry tree fruits so much that I am going to borrow a dehydrator. Most sources say that the raw fruits are bland or mealy, so turning them into something else sounds like the way to go.

I was also pleased to find out that strawberry trees are in my favorite plant family, which is, of course, Ericaceae. Other tasty foods in the Ericaceae family are cranberry, blueberry, huckleberry, and salal.

Apples and Plums!

Apple tree branches loaded with apples.

All over Seattle, unattended apple and plum trees are dropping fruit (and have been for a few weeks). Your neighbors may have trees you can pick, if you aren’t lucky enough to have a fruit tree of your own. Ask! Offer to leave them a box of picked fruit, and throw all the rotten fruit in their compost. Picking their unwanted fruit is a great way to make friends with your neighbors.

Most trees bear far more fruit than one household can eat, so give extras to neighbors, friends, and family. Can or freeze applesauce and plum compote, which are excellent uses of Seattle’s plentiful tree fruit. You can also give the extras to local food banks, just like City Fruit does, as long as they are freshly picked and will keep for at least a few days. You can borrow an apple cider press (try West Seattle Tool Library, NE Seattle Tool Library, or PNA Tool Library), or go to a local harvest fair that offers a press for you to use (and feed the leftover apple pulp to your or your neighbor’s backyard chickens).

Gabby will take care of all that apple pulp for you.

My recipe for applesauce is easy: cut a bunch of apples into small pieces or slices (1-2 inches), put them in a pot with a little water, and cook on medium heat, stirring occasionally, until it’s the consistency you want. Add cinnamon and/or sugar to taste. Plum compote is basically the same. It is particularly tasty with lots of cardamom, in my opinion! Both applesauce and plum compote store well in the freezer.

(Note: Dropped fruit can carry bacteria such as E. coli, so for the most safety, don’t eat fruit off the ground, or cook it first. Food needs to reach 160 degrees F to kill E. coli, not hard to do when cooking fruits. I make no statement or warranty about any other bacteria you may subject yourself to, but I’ve eaten fruit off the ground and I’m not dead yet!)

P.S. It’s also the tail end of blackberry season. Get picking!DSCN0202

 

An Interview with Nathan Vass – Part 2

Missed Part 1 of this interview? Check it out here.

I asked Nathan about the recent failure of King County Proposition 1 to support Metro.

Nathan: It’s a complicated question – there’s a number of different ways to answer it and think about it. [pauses] There was a 2009 audit which goes into quite a bit of detail about where Metro could conserve money. Only a really small percentage of that audit is about operator wages and actual bus routes. Most of it is about the necessity or lack thereof of mid-level manager positions. And how Metro is one of the more top-heavy transit institutions in the country. And it’s a huge document but it’s worthwhile to take some time looking at, and [pauses] I think both sides of the argument have a good point – it is just not the case that Metro has the money in coffers somewhere because they really have done quite a bit of downsizing and legitimate review… The guy at the top, Kevin Desmond, is fantastic, comparatively younger guy from New York, loves transit, genuinely cares about people, and it’s comforting to know that there’s somebody with those perspectives and attitudes at the top…

In as far as the vote not passing, it’s confusing to explain to people exactly what’s going on in terms of the deficit when they’re looking at all these new coaches, and Rapid Ride. Those are from different revenue streams, Rapid Ride is actually a cost-savings for Metro because it’s federally funded. It’s cheaper to implement Rapid Rides than to not do them, if I understand correctly. And the revenue for purchasing new vehicles is a different revenue stream for some reason cannot be reallocated. And so to try to explain these political technicalities to people – it’s too complicated, people don’t think like that when they’re looking at a ballot, and so it’s not too terribly surprising that the thing didn’t pass. However, it’s really encouraging that it did pass in Seattle. I’m extremely excited for Ed Murray’s decision to put that on the ballot just for Seattle, because that’ll be wonderful.

Those four rounds of cuts, the first round of cuts is not very steep at all, I don’t think very many people would notice it, but the last three rounds of cuts are just draconian. And we all know Seattle is now the fastest growing city in the US, it’s not going to be able to maintain that, if bus service is hampered. I was speaking with someone who lives in Snohomish County, and he was telling me how there’s over a thousand swing-shift and grave-shift jobs all over the city that are vacant, because there’s no bus service for people to ride the bus to those jobs. That’s what cutting service does to the economy. It’s a valuable necessity for people who even never use the bus, because if you’re a millionaire and you own five restaurants and none of your staff can ride the bus to work, you know, it’s an issue, it increases the quality of life for everybody.

Of course, it mitigates traffic in ways that are obvious that we don’t need to talk about, but yeah, I’m hoping that, the political process can accommodate the needs of the people and that something good can happen in terms of keeping transit here. It’s just, it’s so important, I’m cautiously optimistic. I believe that enough people understand and care about the need for people to move around, I also like the proposed head tax that Kshama Sawant and another fellow was proposing, not as competition for Mr. Murray’s Seattle-only thing, but as a complementary thing – it was a less regressive thing. Anyways, anyways. I hope something really awesome happens.

And I don’t know if it’s too necessary for me to point this out, but there’s a huge range in what drivers are paid. I don’t think that the wage is excessive, because we’re living in one of the most expensive countries – excuse me, cities, in the country. And the wage needs to be comparable to that. And it’s benefits that we need to take into consideration when we talk about what operators are paid. There are a very small number of drivers who come in seven days a week, and try to get all the overtime they can. And they tend to be very unhappy, and they also tend to make a lot of money. They’re a pretty small percentage of the workforce. Most of the workforce just makes a regular working wage, and I hope people don’t confuse that small percentage of drivers who jump on all the overtime with what 80%, 90% of the drivers are paid. And there’s also a large contingent of part-time drivers who, you know, are making $30,000 a year, and it would be silly to call them overpaid because they’re struggling to pay rent. Anyways, oh my goodness, I’m talking too much about money and politics. [laughs]

For me it’s just I like coming in and driving buses. And I hope that the system can continue to grow – Kevin Desmond is awesome for one reason, because he would actually like to double the amount of transit on the streets. He has a plan for how to do that, of course, the money isn’t there, but if it ever was, it’s something that he would like to implement. He understands that the city is totally on the upswing, and it’s not enough to just cover the deficit and maintain the routes that we do have, but to like, why not just, you know, make the system completely amazing? Rather than pretty amazing…

After a period of basically being on call as a bus driver and never knowing his schedule day-to-day, Nathan now drives the 7 regularly at night.

Nathan: The 7 at night time – I love it, I love it, I love it. It turns into the 49 at night, a nice big long journey… and I like it. It’s so cool to be getting in the bus on Rainier Beach, and knowing that I’m going to continue driving this all the way to the U-District, that’s like, totally awesome to me. [laughs]

And um, in the pick room [at Metro, where drivers request the schedules they want and are then assigned], oh so, on the last couple of hours of the last day of the pick, the atmosphere in there, you know, people are frustrated and depressed and disappointed because they’re not getting what they want, they’re being forced into hours and times of day that they don’t want to drive, or days off, and I went in there really hoping to drive the 7 at night, which is the lowest seniority route in the entire system. Of course it was available. And I jumped on it – and the supervisors who were there were like, we’ve never seen anything like this before! [we laugh] I was so thrilled and I was showing my schedule to everyone and really excited. I just, I feel unreasonably lucky that stuff that I like is stuff that other people don’t like. I hear drivers talking about how it takes years and years, ten years before they finally drive the route they want to drive and I like that the 7 is not one of those types of routes.

And I don’t mean to like be bagging on drivers with bad attitudes… it might not seem like it’s a physically taxing job, but it totally is. If you imagine driving a road trip that’s 8 hours long every single day, it does stuff to your lower right back cause you’re using your brake and car pedal all the time, and if you’re not, like, stretching and exercising your knees and shoulders, and your neck – if your body is in pain, it’s hard to be mentally upbeat and friendly. And I remember riding the bus all the time to work and the driver was really kind of sour, and one day he mentioned to me that he had finally had back surgery and now he felt a thousand times better, and this stabbing pain which was there all the time before was now gone. And it was so much easier to understand – okay, no wonder he was in such a bad mood. Or there’s routes that don’t have bathrooms at the end, and so you might be talking to a driver who hasn’t used the bathroom in six hours, of course he’s going to be in a hurry and pissed off.

And for myself I try to, like, do my best to mitigate those things for my own well being and also the well being of the people equally, where, you know, I just obsess about stretching and exercising. I’m always like, I have to stand up and get the blood flowing again, and restart my metabolism at the end of every trip, you know, just get out of the seat. It’s important to me to do those things and eat healthy and get some sleep. This is one of those jobs where I’ve discovered, you just cannot do it if you haven’t slept – like some jobs you can, like, sleep for four hours and sort of make it through the day. That would be impossible on this, and so  I notice that that when I start taking care of myself, it just, oh my goodness, wow, it transforms – it makes it so much easier to be the better parts of myself and exercise more patience.

There’s this week when I was driving the 12 and I realized that I was getting irritated at stuff that usually never bothers me, and I was like, “what’s going on here?” It’s not like any of this is that much different than, you know, a month ago. And I think it was I didn’t eat breakfast all that week, and that was impacting the way I was looking at things. Usually if I have a bad day on the bus, which is extremely rare, but if that does happen, it’s normally not because of stuff that happened on the bus, but because of stuff going on in my personal life…

Erica: I don’t know how it works at Metro, but I remember when I rode your bus, the times when you were just like, oh, hey, it’s cool if you don’t have the fare, and you gave somebody a transfer, and that was really cool. Does that ever get you in trouble with Metro?

Nathan: That’s a good question. The diplomatic answer is that the rule is that we’re supposed to avoid fare disputes… An assault is very expensive for Metro, there’s quite a bit of legal costs, there’s also medical if the operator is injured, there’s the police report, there’s the time off that the driver receives for being in the hospital, so on and so forth. It’s thousands and thousands of dollars…. It’s even impractical to hire people, like fare enforcement people, to enforce the fare, because those people are going to be paid more money than the amount of fare that they’re going to be able to enforce. It’s a formality, you know, we know not everyone is going to pay the fare, and that’s okay, if most of the people pay the fare, great. The 7 has the highest amount of people who don’t pay, but it also has the highest amount of people who do pay because it’s the most ridden route in the entire system. And so we’re supposed to avoid fare disputes and to me what that means is there’s a number of ways to interpret that… I think it’s more important for me to spread goodwill and you know, spread the old Metro goodwill, as a supervisor once told me, as opposed to extorting small dollar amounts from strangers.

I asked Nathan about the differences in demographics on some Metro routes, like the 48 that goes from the generally very white Loyal Heights area to the Mount Baker Transit Center, in a neighborhood that has a lot more people of color and fewer white folks.

Nathan: The 48 has a fascinating history. It used to go to West Seattle, and when they were first implementing the route, there was this mild controversy where people were like, there’s no point to making the 48… there’s not going to be a need for black people to go to the UW campus, why are you guys putting in this route, no one’s going to use it. And now it’s one of the highest used routes in the whole system, it was a great move on the part of Metro, of course.

There has been this attitude in Metro for a long time, like, a desire to provide a good public service for people who don’t have the means, and that it’s important to stay really connected with those people. For example when the RapidRides first started getting implemented, there was some talk of having the first one be the Bellevue one, but they were like, that sends a terrible message, and it’s the opposite of what we want to do. We’re going to have the first one be the A line, it’s going to be the 174 on Pac Highway, those are going to be the people who get the first awesome RapidRide bus service. And I really like that they think like that. One of their criteria for whether or not to keep a route is if it serves low-income neighborhoods, like that’s a factor for keeping a route, and I’m really thankful for that, that Metro cares that way. The 7 runs every 10 minutes all day, it runs 24 hours, and it’s outstanding bus service. Rainier Valley has the best bus service in all of Seattle, and I’m really thankful for that…

It’s exciting to be downtown when the sort of mixture is happening [between the demographics that ride the 49 and the 7]. Like on the 3/4 [routes], on 3rd Avenue, where the Harborview people are getting off and the Queen Anne people are getting on, and for a few glorious stops, everyone’s on the bus together, coexisting.

[Sometimes] me and some street people are talking in the front, and I can tell that somebody from Magnolia is listening, and it’s exciting to me to ponder what they’re thinking, what does this look like to them. And hopefully they’re getting something out of it… Just recently on my number 2, this guy on Queen Anne who was from Montana was talking to this older first-generation African man who wasn’t having a very good day, but who was happy to be talking to somebody, and I could tell that it was a very meaningful interaction for both of them. It was so awesome. I just feel really alive doing routes like that.

Thanks to Nathan for his time. We had a great conversation. Be sure to read his blog and look at his photography at www.nathanvass.com.

An Interview with Nathan Vass – Part 1

Nathan Vass is the friendliest bus driver I have ever seen. I rode his bus on May 1, 2012, it was the 3 or the 4, and was just floored by how friendly he was to everyone, how he put so much thoughtful and positive energy out making announcements and saying hello to literally everyone as we traveled from downtown to the Central District. It was sometime later that I came across his blog and was so thrilled that not only is he working so hard on the bus, he’s also writing about the experiences he has with many different people who make bus driving so rewarding for him, so I get to keep enjoying them even though I’ve only ridden his bus once. The amazing thing about Nathan is the joy he gets from interacting with people and making their bus ride a pleasant one. Here’s a guy who turns his ordinary job, bus driving, into a real experience that’s more than just getting from A to B.

I sat down with Nathan at Cafe Allegro on June 9 and we ended up talking for nearly two hours. Here’s the first set of excerpts from our talk. There will be more to come.

Erica: Do I recall right that you’re from LA, originally? How did you come up to Seattle?

Nathan: Born in South Central LA, and my family moved up here when I was quite young, and I kind of went back and forth, and the mixture of the timelines are weird, but, raised for a lot of it here in Seattle. I really like Seattle. I moved back to LA to finish school, but then I moved back up here after school, because Seattle is amazing and it’s smaller and safer, but it’s still large, and it has a, it’s also very diverse, which is one of my favorite things about the city, but it has a, just a sort of vibrant life to it, it feels like it’s a city that’s going places rather than one in decline. And there’s a freshness to it. In LA, particularly in Hollywood, where I was living, there’s a kind of a desperation in the air, and emphasis on status and superficiality that gets really old after a while. Here you can have meaningful conversations with people, you know, it’s just ten times better. It’s a thousand times better. I could never drive the bus in LA and love it as much as I do here.

Erica: What’s it like riding the bus in LA?

Nathan: OK, that’s a very interesting question, because down there there’s definitely the sort of class stigma against buses, where buses are largely used by the lower and working class, and here, that’s just not the case. In comparison, in Seattle, everyone uses the bus. You probably know, more than half the workforce downtown commutes in by bus, a lot of the rest are carpool and rail and other options, and so it’s a very like, it feels more appropriately like, democratic or egalitarian or like this wonderful leveling plane that the inside of the bus can be, where everyone is on the same sort of level. And that’s one of my favorite things about driving the bus, because although I choose routes that are more lower class and working class because I get along better with the people, it’s hugely satisfying to know everyone uses the bus in Seattle, and that’s exciting to me.

Erica: Can I ask about your class background?

Nathan: In cultural anthropology class, they define the separation between middle class and working class as, middle class is if you lose your job, you can continue to live at your income spending level for a year. Working class is where you cannot do that. And we would definitely be in the latter. It was good to have the experience of growing up with not very much money because yeah, it just, it forces one to, as many people can understand, just have a certain perspective on the need for, the value of help received from other people, of kindness and gratitude, the importance of not putting too much value on possessions, on knowing that things are temporary and you might not be able to – It encourages being thankful and grateful, I guess, and also, forces a certain immediacy on one’s life, for better or worse, that I think is a valuable learning lesson… it’s weird to talk about these things.

Erica: Yeah, I understand. So you feel that that background, because of that background, you get along better with working class folks?

Nathan: Yeah, definitely. Because – I wonder if it makes it much easier for me to empathize with their situations, and – okay, okay, how does one put this in a diplomatic way? [pauses] The people who are the most, in my experience, the people who are the most polite to me on the bus, are the homeless, the lower class and the working class. And um, that’s probably the simplest reason for why I like spending more time with them, and it just seems, to make a huge generalization, it seems easier for them to understand the value of kindness to others, to appreciate being acknowledged or respected, and to be able to do that in like fashion. And so, I hesitate to like – yes, there are rich people who are nice, that’s just – there are also a number that are – have some, a little more, um, [pauses] preoccupied. [laughs]

Erica: Too preoccupied to be nice.

Nathan: Yeah. And uh, it’s fun to drive the 3 and the 4, because it goes from the best real estate in the city out to the worst. On the Queen Anne half of it, the bus is really quiet. The passengers definitely don’t talk to me, but they also don’t talk to each other. It feels a little more isolated and sectioned off, whereas once you get out to the Central Area, on the other half of the route, the people know each other’s names, and they’re asking how each other’s kids are doing, and talking about what happened in church last week. There’s a sense of solidarity, of community, that feels great to be part of. That’s why I love the 3 and the 4.

Erica: I ride what’s now the E, the 358, and I’ve ridden it a lot. I know, that you like driving the routes that people knock, like the 7, the 358, people say that they’re dangerous. How do you respond when people like, are just like, oh my gosh, you like driving this route?

Nathan: One, I’m so thankful that most drivers don’t like driving those routes. Because that allows me to jump in there and grab ‘em and just have the time of my life. I’m just really really thankful that the stuff that I like to do is stuff that most other drivers don’t like to do. There are – there is a small cohort, I guess, that totally like loves this type of crazy awesome wonderful energy, where you put a lot of yourself out there, and you get a lot back. So the first two years of bus driving for me, I was at East Base and Bellevue Base, where, it hadn’t occurred to me that the most satisfying thing about driving the buses is, um, interacting with strangers and this whole sort of perspective that I have now wasn’t there yet when I started. I simply loved riding buses, wanted to try driving them, ever since I was a child I loved riding buses.

So it was the fulfillment of that sort of dream of, I’m gonna drive the bus and have a good time and be nice to people. But the focus wasn’t, I’m gonna do the stuff that I do now, in terms of really caring about other human beings and the whole reason that I’m out here is to try to be positive and send some positive energy out to the folks. But after two years of driving Bellevue Base and East Base, it’s just – it’s really quiet out there, and the roads are really wide, and not very many people ride the bus. And driving the same route every day like you want it to be – I want it to be high energy, like, I want to feel like I need to be there, and that it’s valuable that I’m driving the bus rather anyone else could be driving the bus.…

The real reason I’ve stayed on these routes for so long is because the people are just so satisfying to interact with. It’s not because it’s like, I’m trying to prove something to myself, or trying to be cool by driving dangerous routes, no. It’s because the people are awesome, and to me it’s just a huge privilege to get to be in their presence, let alone offer some, some kindness and positive energy and receive some in turn from them. It’s a huge honor to be getting to spend time with the people who ride those routes. I get a lot out of it, and I hope that I’m able to offer something in return. Yeah, there’s the challenge with working with the people, there’s something about how when a – I was talking with another driver about this, when you’d almost rather have, I would prefer to have like, a street person yelling at me, because we’re still interacting as equals on the same plane, where that’s quite a bit different from the whole like, what some people call the Bellevue thing, where there’s a sort of pejorative condescension of somebody looking down on you because to them you’re furniture and you’re like the help. And that’s a energy that I don’t care to receive all the time, and maybe I’m hypersensitive to that from driving the bus, [inaudible] in a city where all class groups use the bus, but it’s something that’s on my mind a lot, and so it’s great to be on the 7, where there is just absolutely none of that, and you have a bunch of people who, for them, respect and acknowledgement have enormous currency, and when you get off the bus to help somebody with their big suitcase getting on the bus, or going out to help them with the bike, for the person who’s stuck with the bike rack, you sense this sort of approval on the part of the passengers where they’re like, okay, this person actually cares.

Check out Nathan Vass’ website, including his blog. You’ll be glad you did.