Precious Cargo

I spend a lot of unhappy hours in my car throughout the week.  People are annoying, traffic is terrible, and it’s tedious to always be worried if you’re going to make enough money to survive, without getting into an accident.

From time to time, I’ll get a request where the person wants me to deliver an item rather than give someone a ride somewhere.  They always frame it as “Hey!  This is a real treat!  You don’t have to deal with people!”  What they don’t realize is that I am aware of how much more expensive a messenger service is.

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But hey, a ride is a ride.  Knowing that it is against the terms of service, I’m willing to do their bidding under two conditions:  1) I get to act really dramatic like it’s really putting me out while they explain it, and 2) there absolutely has to be a person standing outside at the receiving address, because I’m not driving around looking for parking for a “Thanks so much!”.  It’s the one of the reasons why I don’t do Postmates or any food delivery.  It’s not that I’m above food service, it’s just that I am.

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So one day, I’m all the way on the West side of town on a Friday afternoon.  To get back East would take well over an hour, so I rolled the dice and hoped I would get something in that direction.  Miracle of miracles, I did!  Because everything is terrible, it was an UberPool trip, which means it’s going to take 17 hours instead of 1.  No worries, I’ve only been on the road for 10 hours already.

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When I showed up at this guy’s house, who we’ll call Glen, he took a while to come out.  As a driver, when someone orders a cheap pool trip, I pull no punches.  I won’t do a U-turn to get to them, I don’t answer when they call, and I definitely cancel after exactly two minutes.  Glen waves at me from his place and I pretend not to see him, and he comes over to the driver’s side window.  I motion for old Glen to sit in the back, but Glen comes over to the front passenger side window and motions for me to roll down the window.  I can see he’s got a huge ziplock bag with many smaller ziplock bags in it, and they’ve all got something in them.  Oh, Glen.

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I roll down the window and confirm his name, and he says, “Yeah, that’s me.  I’m not coming.  You’re gonna take these to a testing facility on the East side.”  Oh, am I, Glen?  Am I really?

I am always blown away at the inconsiderate and entitled nature of this abuse of service, but to do it in an UberPool, where this trip normally is an hour?  How fucking cheap can you be?  Also, what in the fuck am I transporting?  Is my life about to become a reboot of Orange Is The New Black?  I am way too fragile for prison, so if I’m going, it’s because I murdered my roommate.  Not because I was an inadvertent drug mule for a cheap Westsider named Glen.  GLEN, FOR FUCK’S SAKE!

I asked if there would be someone outside at the testing facility, considering that for starters, I don’t want to get out of the car and waste my own time, but when you do that in a pool, it inconveniences everyone else in the car who has also paid for a trip.

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Also, lest we forget, I don’t even get a percentage of what this guy pays.  I get a flat, shitty mileage rate.  $0.57 a mile on Pool trips.  Why the fuck am I bending over backwards for old Glen?

Nobody would be at the receiving end waiting.  Do you think he cared?  No.  Do you think I felt like risking my job if he wanted to complain to Uber?  No.  Do you think I was in a good mood for the next hour?

…Actually, yes.  

I realized I could just turn off the app and take the longest-mile route on the way home, maximizing what I get paid for the trip, and avoid the hassle of picking up more people.  This is actually kind of a nice ending to the week.  Winding down stress-free.  But it wasn’t smooth sailing just yet.  I put on my favorite podcast and rolled down the windows, hopped on the freeway and immediately sat in gridlock Friday afternoon traffic.

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As I’m sitting there, curiosity got the best of me. What was in that bag?  I grabbed the big ziplock bag as I sat in a sea of brake lights, and looked more closely at the little bags inside of it. I see that they all have little clear vials in them, with red liquid sloshing around.  They were all labelled with different peoples’ names on them, a few alphanumeric codes, and the words “BLOOD SAMPLE.”

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Too late to turn back now, I suppose.  What was I going to do, drive back to his place, throw a bunch of blood at him, and end the trip?  By this point he would’ve been charged something, which means he can rate me as a driver, and file a complaint.  And if you don’t know, Uber would do anything to not lose a customer.  Even a terribly cheap one like good ol’ Glen.

So what could I do but pull out my hand sanitizer, drive for what felt like months, and enjoy the most recent episode of Comedy Bang! Bang!  When I finally arrived at the facility, there was nobody outside.

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I parked the car and got out, huffing and puffing the whole way.  I almost wish I could’ve watched this on tv, because it surely must’ve been a fun sight if you had no emotional investment in it.

I went in and saw two receptionist desks, both with employees that had no sense of urgency to greet me.  In the most distant, irritated demeanor I could muster up, I said “Hi, I’m delivering these for Glen.”

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“Your guess is as good as mine.  I’m an Uber driver, and he was too cheap to order an actual delivery service.  But he insinuated that you guys would be expecting his delivery, sooo…. Here’s some blood from Glen.”

“Um, ok.  Thanks?”

I got back in the car and went home, took a few baths in bleach, cursed humanity and hit up a bar with some friends.  After so many unhappy hours… It was finally happy hour.

RIDESHARE TIP #0-NEGATIVE:  Your driver is not equipped with a HAZMAT suit, so obey the golden rule:  NO MEDICAL WASTE!

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Bucket List

Can you remember a time before cell phones?  All conversations you had were in the privacy of your own home, which posed a problem for some people after they made the switch.  For a while, you could be walking down the street and overhear someone’s private conversation about an STD or a cheating husband or their roommate’s incontinence.

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Eventually, people realized where to draw the line.  The next learning curve seems to be happening with the way people talk to an Uber or Lyft driver.  With taxi drivers, you often would never exchange a word with them unless you needed a recommendation in the city or wanted to know how long it would take to get to the airport the next day at 7pm.  Nowadays, when people use a rideshare service for the first time, they feel compelled to talk to the driver, sometimes with great self awareness and other times without it.

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But where does one draw the line between small talk and getting too personal?  Is it about sex?  Or money?  Is it religion?  All of these can cross a line, but these days, the biggest one seems to be politics.  Shocker!

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The week of the election, you know – THAT election, proved to be a difficult one for me.  I’m a Democrat, and I live in LA so it’s pretty easy to know my audience, and pretty easy for my customers to know theirs.  But it didn’t stop a lot of people that week from trying to get me to listen to their views on how we should give the new President a chance.

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So after a week of having some terrible people in and out of the car, I had had enough.  It was hard enough for me to simply go through life at that point, knowing the impending removal of the rights of myself and my friends.  But I reached a boiling point, where I was picking someone up at the airport and it was going to be my last ride of the day, no matter how far from home it would take me.

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So a woman gets in the car, and I’m downright miserable.  She’s alone, and needs help with her luggage, and I’m immediately thinking, of course she does!  Ugh!  I get out and help her, and she sweetly says, “Thanks.  Oh, I love your shoes!” and I angrily think, Yeah, me too, lady!  That’s why I bought them!  Ugh!  But within a few minutes, her kindness makes me realize I’m being a baby.  I need to open up and accept the positivity she’s putting out there.

So we start talking, and she says she’s never been to California before.  I immediately inquire as to what brought her here.  Work?  Vacation?  Family?  She tells me hesitantly that she’s done with work for a while and needs a vacation.  Don’t we all, honey.  It’s been a week.

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She tells me she’s from Arizona originally but has been traveling a lot for work for the past year, year and a half.  It’s kept her mainly in New York but she’s really been all over the place.

“What kind of work do you do?”

She pauses, with her eyes closed.  I wasn’t sure if she was in extreme pain, or was tired of explaining her job to people, or both, but she was bracing herself for something.

“I was a… campaign manager for Hillary Clinton.”

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I’m immediately both speechless and ugly crying.  I tried to get words out about how I wasn’t supposed to cry today and she said, “Listen, I’m there with you but I just don’t have any more tears to cry.  I’m hitting the reset button and then turning this into power and change.  In the meantime, I wanna see my family, I wanna see the ocean, and god damn it, I want to see a celebrity!”

I told her she’s got quite a lot of that accomplished already.  “You’re staying with family.  Check.  I don’t know if you know where they live, but they’ve done quite well for themselves.  Two blocks in from Ocean Avenue.  So, I think we can check the ocean off of your list too.  Celebrities are hard to spot in Santa Monica, though.  You usually have to go up to Malibu, but they’re hidden either in private beaches or in giant sunglasses and hats.  Take a day and head inland to Beverly Hills, you’ll see somebody.”

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We reach her destination and I get out to help her with luggage because, as you may remember, I am a nice person.  She gives me a huge hug and tells me we’re going to get through this together.  I’ll be honest, I needed that hug more than ever.

Just then I notice something in front of my car.  Someone is crossing the street to go into their car.  I recognize the woman immediately but play it coy.  I put my finger over my mouth so my customer would know to be quiet, and I motioned toward the woman in front of us, and she just couldn’t keep a secret.  She starts screaming, “JULIANNE MOORE!!! OMG!!!!  IT’S JULIANNE MOORE!!!”

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If it’s 1% of payback for all the hard work and heartbreak she’s gone through, she checked everything off of her vacation bucket list in the first hour after landing in LA.  I’m sure she’s turned that pain into power by now.  (For the record, I’m not there yet.)

RIDESHARE TIP #45: Be nice.  And keep your eyes peeled for celebs at alllllllllll times.

You Seem Fun.

Monday holidays in LA are always a reminder of why I don’t work driving at night.  My main problem is that I don’t deal well with drunk people when I’m sober.  No poker face whatsoever.

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So I stick to my morning routine to avoid the drunk bar crowd.  I wake up early and I get lots of airport runs and people in a hurry to go to class or to work or wherever people go during the day.  (Let’s not kid ourselves:  it’s LA.  They’re all going to brunch.)

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So on President’s Day, which is on a Monday, I wake up early, completely forgetting that to some freelancers, today is more like Sunday morning.  And their Sunday mornings typically tend to be a very late Saturday night.  I immediately see that there is no surge pricing and realize that my day is going to be a lot slower and longer than a typical Monday morning.

My first call is a guy named Steven.  I show up at his address and he comes mozying down the hill slower than a turtle on Nyqil.

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He gets in, and between the smell and the incoherent, delayed nature of his speech pattern, I can tell he hasn’t gone to sleep.  Also, it’s 6am and he asked how my night was going.  This guy has been partying all night long and is using UberPOOL to get to the next stop on this bender.

He tells me in microbursts (between very pregnant pauses) how his night has gone until now.  Opens up about his ex-girlfriend, who’s going to be at the address where he’s going.  (His initial mention insinuated that there was a party happening there, but then he admits that he’s going there to see her alone.  Gross.)  A few minutes later, he thanks me for the ride, even though we’ve got a solid 12-15  minutes ahead of us.  At least he’s trying to be polite.  I’ll take it.

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He then starts giving me directions that are completely incoherent.  “Turn left on 6th,” even though 6th Street is parallel to us, so that is literally never going to be possible.  I follow a few directions here and there until he asks what street we are even on.

“We’re on Fountain,” I tell him.

“Shit, I literally don’t even fucking know where we are.”

Then stop fucking giving directions to the guy who is sober, has the address, and is running two GPS’s, trying to get you out of his fucking car.  I politely request that he let me do my fucking job.

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That’s when he backpedals (of course with another pregnant pause).  “Hey man.  Thank you for this.  You don’t gotta take me all the way there.  I know you probably got shit to do.”  Wait, can I really kick this drunk idiot out of my car?  I’ve been literally counting the seconds until the ride ends!  

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I’m a little put off, and I ask if he wants a different address or something, and he says, “No, I just really appreciate this.  You’re too nice.  What’s your name again?”  I tell him my first name and he asks for my last.  Then he repeats my full name back to me and tells me that he loves me.  Not awkward at all!

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I ask his name, because we’ve still got 6 or so minutes and I’m like “Do I say I love him back?”  In a split second, I let it roll around in my head and settled on “It’s nice to meet you, Steven.”  Which felt a little like a burn, whether or not I meant it to be.

He’s quiet for a minute or two and then talks about the punk band he’s in, tells me he’s surprised that the shitty music I’m playing sounds good (#tactful) and after a second of realization, asks if I know Elena (?).  I do not.  He’s a little puzzled.  “Did I meet you last night?  Or are you friends with Chris?”  

Oh God, he doesn’t fucking know that I’m an Uber driver. 

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I tell him, “I don’t know you.  You ordered an Uber, and I’m your driver.”

“Oh.  That makes way more sense.  But I think you’re really nice anyway.”

I dropped him off and wished him good luck with whatever the hell he was doing with his ex.  Just hoping they use a condom, because if she’s dumb enough to have sex with that idiot, I can’t imagine how few functional brain cells their offspring would have.  I realize fully that this could’ve gone much worse, however I would’ve much rather taken a sober person to the airport.

RIDESHARE TIP #1745: While ordering a car seems safer than driving when you’re wasted, you’re still at risk from making your driver wreck the car on purpose.  For best results, keep the conversation to a minimum.

Hey Baby, What’s Wrong?

There are few things that irritate me as much as waiting outside someone’s house during rush hour because they’re not ready.  I’m kidding, there are plenty of things that irritate me that much.  Everything irritates me.

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So I’m picking up a woman in mid-city (just the thought of mid-city makes me mad!).  I’m about to cancel because I’ve messaged her to no response and it’s been almost five minutes.  She finally comes out and slams first the door to her house and then the door to my car.

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I don’t say anything, but sometimes I don’t really need to.  You know that feeling when you just know someone’s angry?  That’s largely the same feeling I try to exude when I drive for Uber.

Her destination is a bank on the West side of LA, which isn’t a terribly long drive.  I assume she’s going to work.  I fire up Waze and we get on our way.  That’s when she begins giving me directions.  “It says to take the 10 but don’t take the 10.”  My favorite type of California right here.
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It was a short trip, and as much as I felt like arguing, I didn’t do it.  Just then she asks for a charger.  Bitch, you just came from your HOUSE.  Don’t they have chargers in mid-city? Again, it was a short trip so I lent her mine.  But then she makes a phone call, but since my charger is the one that came with my phone, it doesn’t extended very well to the back seat.  So she starts out by just leaning forward almost in my ear having a conversation, and then leans back and switches to speakerphone.  So no matter what, I’m gonna know the details of this call whether I like it or not.  And it sounds like it’s a fight with her boyfriend.

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He was barely saying anything, because he was clearly gaslighting her about something.  From what I gathered, he’s insinuating that she’s having an affair with her boss.  He can tell this because the passenger’s seat of her car was moved when he went to use it.  She explains why this is ridiculous:

“Babe, I work 18 fucking hours a day.  And you get to stay home and sit on your ass while our kid sleeps.  It’s 8am and I won’t get home until after 2am.  The fact that you think I have the fucking energy to consider cheating on you is insane.  Do you know what I fucking gave up to be with you?  And after you cheated on me anyway?  I would not do this.  We have a child together, and another one on the way.  You know I would never do this.”

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She starts explaining how her boss moves her car for her every day so she doesn’t have to pay for parking.  And that her boyfriend (husband?  fiancee?  future murderer?) knows this.  The reason the passenger seat was moved was because he took someone else to their car because they were done with their day, as opposed to this poor woman who would have a whole second job ahead of her once the shift is over.

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The idiot guy just talked in circles and repeated his insinuations and insisted she didn’t care about his feelings, but wouldn’t listen to her.  She begged him to trust her, to listen to her, to have faith in their relationship and her dedication to him as a part of their family.  She says when he gets like this, it makes her feel like he’s cheating again.  Please keep in mind that I am silent and just driving, as I’m not a part of this.

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She hangs up the phone because they’re not getting anywhere, and asks for my advice.  She explains the situation that I already understood, because she doesn’t realize I’m an excellent eavesdropper.  “What would you do in this situation?”

I told her my honest advice.  That right now, it doesn’t make sense to engage about it, because emotions are running high and people have a difficult time listening to reason when that happens.  But also, her suspicion of him seems spot on.  I told her that while I know nothing about their dynamic, it seems like he’s trying to blame her for something that didn’t happen, to deflect blame or guilt on his behalf.  18 hours a day at home with a child that can’t speak to tell you what he’s seen?  Seems like the perfect opportunity for a scumbag to cheat.

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I told her I’d wait a few days until things were more calm, and set a list of goals for the conversation before starting it.  Ensure that his feelings are valid and get to the root of why he doesn’t trust her.  He clearly doesn’t trust her, and he is very possibly cheating, and she deserves better than that.

“You’re totally right,” she says.  I was engaged to a really rich guy when I met him.  He doesn’t have a pot to piss in.  But I fell in love, and I was set for life with my ex.  He took me to the fanciest places, we’d fly all the time.  I gave it all up for him.  You’re totally right.  I do deserve better.”  She grabs the phone to call him back again.  “Carlos, I’m leaving you.  Have your shit packed by the time I’m home tonight.  Don’t try to leave with my son because the cops will be escorting me home tonight.  I gotta go, I’m at work now.”

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She completely misinterpreted my advice!  I wanted the family to stay together but I wanted her d-bag man to clean up his act!  Did I just break up a family?  At any rate, I feel like I could’ve said anything at all, and she would’ve pieced together a way to leave her man.  It seemed like that was her plan all along, which I totally respect.  You can only take so much.

“Thanks for the advice, I’ll be sure to give you five stars.”

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You’ve done some great work here today.  This is a breakthrough.  I’ll see you the same time next week?

RIDESHARE TIP #90210: Your driver is not your therapist, but please know you’re a strong intelligent woman.

Scream, Queens!

Driving around in a city like Los Angeles, you see celebrities fairly regularly.  I came here from a small town, so for a while it was quite shocking to me.

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My very first week living in LA, I saw someone in Beverly Hills walking down the street, and bigger than life – I knew him!  What are the odds?!  I thought to myself, “Wow!  What a small world!  I drove 2,000 miles to get here and in the first week I see an old friend!”  I slowed down and couldn’t place where I knew him from.  Was it high school?  Were we friends in college?  Did we work together at some point?  Oh, no.  It wasn’t an actual friend.  It was Aaron Paul from Breaking Bad.

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Maybe in my mind we were friends, but not in real life.  So one morning I was flying down South Santa Monica Boulevard in Beverly Hills, near all the super-fancy shops of Rodeo Drive).  I was keeping up with the somehow smooth, fast flow of traffic.  If you’ve ever been around this area, you probably will find this part of the story to be the least believable.

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But it’s true!  Anyway, I’m marveling at the rare and wonderful treat of moving quickly in Beverly Hills, and there’s an older woman on the sidewalk coming up from where the shops are.  She’s got short gray hair and is trying to make a call on her phone, but it’s clear that she’s not getting great reception.  She’s doing that thing where she’s holding it to her ear, then pulling away to look at it, and realizing she can’t see that well because she’s old and needs to have it further from her face to see clearly, then putting it up against her ear again.

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We’ve all been there, right?  Where’s the Verizon guy when you need him?   I continue flying down the street when this woman, completely lost in her struggle of trying to complete a telephone call, walks RIGHT OUT INTO TRAFFIC.

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I slam on my brakes and slam on my horn as loudly as I can, and she immediately realizes what she’s done, backing up onto the sidewalk, nonverbally apologizing.  That’s when I recognize her face.  Jamie Lee Curtis, is that you?!

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I’m a huge fan, but really, you need to take better care of yourself!  I realize how badly that could’ve gone, and go about my day with thankfulness that I did not kill international film star Jamie Lee Curtis.

Several months later, I’m on the West Side in Santa Monica very early in the morning and have to pick up someone closer to Malibu.  If you aren’t aware of the social geography of LA, Malibu is more posh than posh.  Private beaches galore.  I rarely have pickups in Malibu because a lot of those people have their own drivers and couldn’t be seen living like one of the plebeians who uses something so cheap and common as an Uber!  Aka the opposite of me.

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I adore making sweeping generalizations, so I’ll tell you that this place is largely a bunch of 1% d-bags.  Filthy rich people who only care about themselves.  This was illustrated perfectly as I tried to enter Malibu on surface level streets.  They are tight in some spots, near the hills of the Pacific Palisades, and at one point a two way street was down to a single lane because a moving truck was sitting there unloading.  I was heading in, but it was rush hour, so everyone else was heading out towards the city.  And every single person went right past without any regard for me at all.

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I got angry, I swore, I saw red, but the bottom line was that I needed someone to do the right thing.  Just one single person in this sea of pricks to look out of their Tesla roadster through their Gucci sunglasses and see that there is a human being in need of some help.  Just a simple act of, not even kindness, but civility more than anything.  That’s when my savior appears.

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Some really fancy car, but I honestly couldn’t tell you what kind, as my mind was foggy from every Mercedes, Maserati, Ferrari, Bentley and Porsche that passed me over those several minutes.  The woman driving slows down and stops traffic, leaving room for me to go around the truck, rolls down her window and waves me in.  I give profuse thank-you waves, and literally say it out loud, even though she can’t hear me.  And as I pass her up close, I recognize her face.  OMFG IS THAT JAMIE LEE CURTIS??!

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It was nice to know that after our last encounter, she didn’t hold any bad blood against me.  Considering it was her fault anyway, I felt like maybe this could be interpreted as her making up for her little misstep near Rodeo Drive.  On days like this, LA drivers could all stand to be a little more like Jamie Lee Curtis.  LA pedestrians on the other hand, not so much.

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RIDESHARE TIP #177:  IF YOU ARE JAMIE LEE CURTIS, WATCH WHERE YOU’RE GOING.  BECAUSE LA TRAFFIC CAN’T AFFORD TO LOSE YOU.