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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And IIIIIIIEEEEEIIIII Will Always Be Terrified Of Youuuuuuuuu

One Sunday morning, I pick up a woman in Echo Park headed to downtown LA.  I immediately think of how slow downtown is going to be, and how I’ll likely have to waste gas headed back to a crowded area to get my next ride.

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The woman starts making small talk with me and tells me it’s going to be very busy downtown.  Does she mean traffic, or Uber business?  Both?  Either way, I’m certain she’s wrong.  On Sunday mornings, downtown LA is a modern urban ghost town.

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So as we approach downtown, she explains herself a little, as I actually do see some traffic ahead.  She’s an executive for AirBnB, and they are having their second annual convention for their hosts and giving out awards.

“We’ve got thousands of people in LA for this.  Cool things all over the city.  Bands playing, movie screenings, you name it.  It’s pretty cool.”

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So I typically lock my doors between customers, because you never know what weirdo is going to try to hop in.  But I got my next request before even finishing the first one, which threw off my rhythm a little.

“See!  I told you you’d be busy.  And look at this traffic!”  She genuinely seemed so excited to be right, that I didn’t even bother pointing out how very annoying the gridlock Sunday morning traffic was.  She gets out of the car and I have to pick up a woman named Whitney, just four blocks away.  Reality never meets your expectations yet I still wanted this to hop in my car and brighten up my Sunday:

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Now Whitney is only four blocks away, but with this current bumper to bumper traffic situation, it’s going to take ages.  Ten minutes pass and I’ve only traveled two of the four blocks, and I’m not stuck at a red light that has cycled through a few times and I can’t go anywhere.

I’m worried that Whitney is going to cancel.  Then I’ll be stuck, directionless, in this traffic.  Then before you know it, I get a new request and have to go a different way.  Then that person cancels.  It’s a vicious cycle that’s giving me anxiety just thinking about it.

The thing a lot of people don’t realize when your driver is taking a long time, is that they’re not going slowly to be funny or just to annoy you.  They’re going slowly because they’re in a car and there are other cars, and even people, in the way.  Sometimes order a car on your phone and  watch the map thinking “Why is my driver turning right at that intersection?  He should’ve gone left!”  Sometimes we get requests when we’re already in a turning lane, so calm your tits, Brenda.

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Whitney doesn’t cancel.  But as I’m sitting at this red light, I see this random goon on the sidewalk.  Some insane looking white guy, possibly homeless, total methhead look.  He’s covered in face tattoos and neck tattoos, like a tight paisley print all over him that looks to be at least a few years old.   He’s got on sloppy sweat clothes with holes and stains all over them.  Aaaaaaaaand he’s looking right at me.

I panic for a second and white knuckle the wheel and stare straight ahead.  If I just ignore him, he won’t see me and he’ll go away and nobody will die.

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Just don’t make eye contact, and everything will be ok.

Except I’m an idiot, so I made direct eye contact with him after that thought.  He starts walking out into traffic directly toward me, and I still look forward, praying that the light changes and the traffic disappears and I can go.  It doesn’t, so he taps on the window and says, “Hey man, roll down your window.”

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He knocks on the car and starts almost shouting at me.  “Hey man, are you fucking deaf?!  I said roll down your fucking window!”  And I’m panicking a little, just trying to bide my time until traffic clears.  I don’t want no beef!

I tell him, “I’m sorry, I’m working right now,” and motion toward my phone.  “I don’t have any change.”

Now he’s irate, straight up punching my car.  “DID I FUCKING ASK FOR MONEY, DICKHEAD?!!  I SAID ROLL DOWN YOUR FUCKING WINDOW!!!”

At this point, I need to comply because next he will break the window for sure.  So I roll it down, about half an inch, just enough to technically have rolled it down.  Surely this will appease him.  With his fists balled up in the pockets of his hoody, he pulls one out and I’m like, “Oh God.  This is it!  He has a gun and I’m being carjacked but I haven’t got a huge will to live, so I’m letting him kill me over a 2016 Kia Soul!”  He pulls his right hand out and in it is…

His phone.

“I’m Whitney, you fuckin’ asshole,” and gets in the car.

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Now all my de-escalation training from my previous career comes into play.  It’s best to just be calm, take the blame off of sweet Whitney, and get him where he needs to go as calmly, politely, and efficiently as possible.

“Sorry about that,” I politely say.

“Yeah, what the fuck, man?!  This is ridiculous.  You’re like the fourth fucking driver I had.  They keep cancelling on me.”

“You know what it probably was?”  I’ve got a laundry list of obvious reasons but don’t want to aggravate the guy.  “The address you put in was still a few blocks away, so I didn’t think that was you.”

Also, you fucking ingrate, has anyone ever told you that you’ve got *kind of* an intimidating look, what with the face tattoos and all?  Also, you don’t super-duper look like a Whitney to me.  Also…. if you’re trying to inspire any amount of confidence for the driver to let you into the vehicle, TRY TO DO LESS PUNCHING/SCREAMING/SWEARING AT HIM!

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He said he had to start walking toward me because I was taking so long and he had “to go to work.”  We’re calling our drug deals ‘work’ nowadays?  Cause you’re not going to any other job in stained sweats with holes in them.

I politely informed him, to avoid the headache in the future, to just use the “contact” feature in the app and you can text the driver and describe yourself to them:

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I apologized for the delay and said we’ll be at his “work” in less than 15 minutes, and prayed to God silently for some mercy from this cruel, wicked world.

As we approach the address, I ask him if it’s a regular street address or if it’s located in a plaza that I see on the right.  I wanted to make sure he didn’t have to walk far or be unsafe, because God knows he would probably stab me if things didn’t end perfectly here.  That’s when he gets a little weirder…

“I think it’s the place on the right?”  Ummmmm… It’s your fucking work, and you *THINK* it’s there?  Oyyyyy…

It was one of those ghetto burner cell phone places.  Everything but a sign that said “Stolen phone?  No problem!”  And he confirmed that was definitely the spot.

…Which was precisely the moment that I realized, I didn’t have Whitney in my car.  I had the guy who stole Whitney’s phone from Whitney, in my car.

I drop him off and let Uber know about the situation, but doubt that anything will get done.  I hope the real Whitney is fine, wherever she is nowadays.  And I hope for God’s sake that she has a fucking passcode lock on her phone these days.  Not to blame the victim or anything, but your whole life is in that phone.

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RIDESHARE TIP #666: HAVE FACE TATTOOS?  TAKE THE BUS INSTEAD.