“Are You A Jew?”

I got a request in Culver City about a year ago.  As I drive toward it, the map shows that it’s a cul de sac of some sort, so I’m thinking it’s a giant office building or something of the like.  As I approach, I see it’s actually a senior care center.  The nurse is already flagging me down.  She seems like she’s had a few drivers already see this mess and drive away, cancelling the ride.

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In case you were wondering, there area a few reasons why drivers don’t like taking these rides.  The first being, that it’s a lot of extra work and extra time for no extra pay.  If I hurt my back lifting a heavy wheelchair into my trunk, Uber doesn’t care.  I can screenshot their response to two separate cases of this, if you doubt it.

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A second reason is that they are typically very low fares, just going a few blocks away after an appointment or something.  Who wants to take ten unpaid minutes loading and ten more unpaid minutes unloading somebody and their stuff for a five minute ride that pays $2.50?

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Another reason is, if that old person falls getting in or out of your car, with or without your help, YOU can be held financially responsible.  Which of course is ridiculous, given that we have no choice over the rides we take, nor any knowledge of the destination or clientele.

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I’m a good person, and I like to have things to complain about, so I took the ride.  As I approached, the woman says that Gerald or Ebenezer or whomever might need a little extra time getting in and out of the car.  Thanks for telling me what I already know!

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He gets in, in the front seat.  Avid readers of the blog will recall that I hate this like the South hates making wedding cakes for gays.   We drive in silence for a solid 60 seconds or so, as he’s made it evident that he doesn’t hear very well.  But he breaks the silence with a rather bold and… interesting question:  “Are you a Jew?”

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More than a little stunned, I respond, “No, I’m not.  I get that a lot, because of my dark hair and big nose.  But no, sir.  I am not Jewish.”  I’m wondering to myself if it would’ve been a problem for him if I were?  His voice seemed so abrasive when he asked the question, that I was sure there was a hint of anti-semitism in it.

He insists my name is a Jewish name, which I can kind of understand.  But I’ve had Armenians tell me it’s Armenian as well.  And bottom line, white people seem to just co-opt everything, so nothing is sacred anymore.

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Then he says something that carries a lot of weight.

I wasn’t prepared for this.

He nods his head approvingly and says, “Ah.  I was in Auschwitz.”  He pulled up his sleeve and revealed his numbered tattoo on his arm.

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I couldn’t believe my eyes.  I didn’t have words.  I did have them, I just couldn’t find them in that moment.  Perhaps there were too many words, and I knew it was going to be a short ride, so I felt pressure to sift through them quickly.

“My father was murdered in front of me.  Me and my brother were spared because we were able to work longer hours than him.”

He told me brief vignettes, and I wished that I had time to hear everything.  I did find the words to tell him that he was an amazing and strong person for surviving what he went through physically, mentally and emotionally.

He nodded quietly, seeming like he was uncomfortable with the compliment but also was used to hearing things like that.  As he got out of the car, I said simply, “Thanks for being here.  I hope you’ve found a way to share your story,” and he said “They fly me to DC once a month to tell it.”  That felt right.

I said goodbye, but this was one time that I didn’t want the ride to end.

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RIDESHARE TIP #1945: If you are a Holocaust survivor, try to go on longer trips if I’m your driver.  Because I want to hug you forever.

 

 

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We Shall Overcomb

Trump’s inauguration was difficult.  For a lot of us, it was hard to believe in a lot of ways and for a lot of reasons, and everyone processes that differently.  My grief process (yes, that is grief!) is longer than most, so it took me a long time to stop being upset and turn that into power.  The gloomy morning of the actual ceremony, I woke up and saw all the news alerts on my phone and with tears welling in my eyes, I literally pulled the covers over my head like one of those cringeworthy sitcom-y trite Meg Ryan rom-com moments.

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I eventually remembered that I needed to go to work, and if I didn’t do that, I wouldn’t have money.  And without money, I couldn’t pay rent.  And without paying rent, I would be homeless.  I’m not letting our new leader make me homeless on his first day in office!

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So I pulled it together, showered and got dressed, and got started for the day.  My first trip was an older Hispanic guy who barely spoke English, but voted for Trump and wanted to talk about it.  At this point, I think I’m well within my rights to tell him he’s a fucking idiot for voting against his own interests.

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Let’s do this.  I told him, “He’s a horrible human being, but I’m not really truly worried deep down.  He’s not going to be President for long.  Not that we want Mike Pence, the Devil’s closeted little brother.  But at the very least, he is simply only terrible, disgusting, bigoted bad policy.  He’s not a combination of that and an irresponsible child who would get a tweet from Justin Bieber and say, ‘Let’s nuke Canada!'”

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The guy in the back seat scrunches up his face, confused at the reference.  “Who?” he asks.  I’m exasperated and angry at this point and my mouth can hardly keep up with my brain as I’m reading this guy his rights.  “Justin Bieber!  It doesn’t fucking matter, it could be fucking anybody!”

That’s when the guy looks a little closer at me, narrowing his eyes.  “No, the other guy.”

“Wait, wait.  You fucking voted for Trump and you don’t know who Mike Pence is?  This conversation is over.”

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The guy gets out of the car, and I’m amazed, bewildered, saddened, and hopeless as to how stupid our society has become.  I hold back a tear and decide that I’m just going to be a driver today – nothing more, nothing less.  No conversations, just confirming names and destinations, and telling them I hope they have a good day (or at least a better day than mine).

I pick up the next passenger and it’s a woman headed to the airport.  I confirm her name, help with luggage (grrr…), confirm her destination and off we go!  A minute or so in, she seems eager to chat, so she gets started.  “I’m excited to fly today!  I haven’t been to Washington, DC in a long time.”

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I don’t say anything, but she continues.  “Thankfully, I won’t be there for the inauguration.  You couldn’t pay me to sit there through that fucking shit show.”

I breathed a huge sigh of relief as if to say, “You’re one of the good ones!” and told her about our clueless friend from the previous ride.

“Yeah, I’m actually meeting up with some old college friends and we are going to the Women’s March tomorrow.”

At this point, I had a laundry list to say to her:

  • Thank you for doing this.  It means everything.
  • Some people, like me, are too sad and emotionally exhausted to march.
  • Some people, like me, can’t even afford to take the day off.
  • Some people, like me, are worried about things getting violent at the march, like a counterprotester attacking.
  • But it means everything to know that there are people in cities across the country and even the world, standing up for the rights of the people who can’t stand on their own yet, be it out of fear, sadness, or finances.  And it’s beautiful to see neighbors in my own city doing it.

Now approximately 3-5 seconds into that speech, I start ugly crying.  I search for tissues in the glove compartment and apologize.  “I’m *sniff* so so *wahhhhh* sorrrrrrrryyyy.”

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The woman stops me, and puts her hand on my shoulder very firmly, and gives me the kindest and most empowering speech.

“Honey, first off.  Stop apologizing.  Don’t ever fucking apologize for your feelings.  Let it out.  Let it all out!  Listen, your head’s in the right place and so is your heart.  When your body’s ready, you’re gonna be out there marching with us.  In the meantime, do what you need to get by.  You’re helping in your own way by driving for Uber.”

Well if said that, it’d be a copout, but sure.  I’ll take it.

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“People need to get to these protests.  They need to get to the airport.  Without you, they can’t do that.  When you’re ready, I’ll see you out there.”

The next day, Los Angeles outgrossed the Women’s March in DC.  We had over 750,000 people in downtown LA showing their resistance.  It was another day filled with tears, but for the opposite reason.  It was the first day I’d felt hope in a long time.  I met strong women, beautiful immigrant families, and empowered LGBT people.  It was a beautiful day.

In LA, nobody meets their neighbors because if you want to borrow a cup of sugar from them, you have to hop on the 101 for two exits.  I had moved into this place several months earlier and had never seen any neighbors.  But this day, I saw people coming out in droves from the big buildings on my block with huge picket signs.  “Leave the pussy control 2 Prince!,” “This pussy grabs back,” and my personal favorite, “We shall overcomb.”

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It was a beautiful day that left me hopeful.

RIDESHARE TIP #45: If you’re political, know your audience.  And vote responsibly, you fucking idiot.

“You Know Planes Go There, Too. Right?”

One of the biggest drawbacks of driving for a rideshare platform is that you have no control over where you go throughout the day.  Every ride is a roll of the dice.  Some cities are compact, so this doesn’t matter much to those drivers, but in Los Angeles, you can really get yourself fucked over if you get stuck somewhere far away from the city.

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After a particularly busy weekday morning rush hour, I was dropping off at LAX.  Now, let me start by saying that I *DO NOT* pick up at LAX because of a real rolling of the dice.  These people can be going hours away, or they can be going five minutes away.  Both are equally annoying, as with one you can spend the rest of your day trying to get back to civilization, and with the other you can sit in the airport traffic loop for 40 minutes at a time, only to make $3 if they’re going close by.

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Now that being said, I get a request coming from the airport loop.  I was prepared to ignore it, but I saw that it was surging.  In a split-second decision, I figured it could be worth it.  If the passenger is going to the middle of nowhere, at least I’ll make better money doing it.  Sure, it sucks that I’d have to drive back to civilization with nobody in the car, but whatever.  I said it was a split-second decision!  I didn’t have time to rationalize my thoughts on a blog at the moment.

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So I go to pick the girl up, and she’s this teeny little frail Asian woman.  Probably early 30s.  She comes barreling into the car and yells that me she just got off of a long flight from China and has to teach a class and that I need to hurry.

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While I definitely don’t care, my real thought is more along the lines of, “Hello!  How are you?  Please remember that your driver is a human being.  I mean, we don’t have to be best friends or anything, but a little ‘Hello, how are you?’ goes a long way.  Also you are clearly human garbage.”

I was way more polite than that, cheerfully starting the trip and saying, “Let’s see where we’re going today.”  This is the point where I, as the driver, get to see the destination.

Her destination?  SANTA BARBARA.  As in 2.5 hours away with no traffic.  And 3 hours back, minimum.  Yeah.  That Santa Barbara.

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Hey lady… Santa Barbara in an Uber?  You know planes go to Santa Barbara right?  And you’re in an EXCELLENT place to catch a plane!

Keep in mind a few things.  I am required by Uber’s Terms of Service to take her wherever she needs to go, be in downtown or Santa Barbara.  Beverly Hills or Rhode Island.  If I refuse the ride, she can complain to Uber and I can be deactivated permanently.

Also, keep in mind that when I drop her off, I have to drive back by myself.  So by agreeing to take her, I’m locking myself into a 6 hour commitment, minimum.  Is this worth it?

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Uber’s navigation system is telling me to take the 101, which is a straight shot.  But I remember that NPR said the 101 was shut down near Santa Barbara because of the mudslides.  This was in January 2018, when the mudslides following the devastating wildfires killed over 20 people in the Santa Barbara / Montecito areas.  They 101 and surrounding area surface level streets were shut down because they were still doing search and rescue missions.  I told her this trip likely can’t be completed by car.

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She insisted that she needed to teach and that she really needs me to take her there, and I explained myself a little better.  “Perhaps I haven’t been clear.  I’m not doubting your need to be there.  I’m saying that this is not a helicopter.”  But she keeps begging, so I pull over and work some cross-platform GPS magic.  “I’m gonna check out some GPS info here, in the meantime you can research some flights out of Burbank.”  Here we go.

Uber navigation:  Take the 101.  …This system is fucking useless.

Waze:  No route available.  Things aren’t looking good, lady.

Apple Maps:  Hahaha, I’m totally joking.  Apple Maps is as useful as an asshole on my elbow.

Google Maps: WE HAVE A WINNER!

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Google Maps found a route, but instead of the straight shot up the 101, it was all the way up the 405 to the 5, all the way up until you meet the 166, take that for another 90 miles until you hit the 101, then go South to Santa Barbara.  In Layman’s terms, that is almost 300 miles, quoted as just over 6 hours at that time of day.

What is worse than that?  Is that I’ll be driving the same route on the way back, and it will definitely take longer.  So if I take her, I’m committing to at least 13 hours in the car after an already busy rush hour morning.  Do I do it?

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I hate myself, of course I did it.  I did the math and realized that while the hours would be insane and so would my exhaustion and my fuel costs, I would still make over $400 on the ride.  So I took it.  Did I hate myself every single step of the way?

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I was hoping she’d at least be chatty, because otherwise that’s 13 hours of me not talking or interacting at all, just driving.  So of course, she lies down in the back seat immediately and goes to sleep.  13 hours of me, just… gettin’ to know my brain.  Yawn.

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I definitely cried on the way home, but whatever.  I think the best part of it all was that as I’m leaving her behind in Santa Barbara, literally three minutes away, I see a sign for the Santa Barbara airport.  Whatever.  I hope she got fired for being late to her class.  Idiot.

RIDESHARE TIP #13.5:  If you can take a plane, take a plane.  If you can’t take a plane, be fun and chatty with your driver.  He’s tired too.

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!

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles

I almost never pick up at the airport.  “Why,” you ask?  Drivers often can wait for a long time to get a ride and it can be going a very short distance.  I once waited over two hours for a ride at LAX, only to have the passenger get in my car and head less than 2 miles from the airport itself.  I won’t lie to you, I cried in my car that day.  Then again, I cry in my car most days.

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Bigger than the risk of a short ride, is the wildcard of a very long ride… to the middle of nowhere.  While any rideshare trip can take you anywhere without you knowing it ahead of time, the airport is a true rolling of the dice.  Often times it takes you to Orange County, which is the kiss of death.  You can make a good 30-50 dollars on the way there, and then have to suck it up and drive the 60-90 minutes back to civilization in your car by yourself, burning both your gas and your time for nothing.

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But one morning recently I was dropping off at a hotel near the airport and they sent me a request inside the airport.  There was a surge happening, so I quickly thought to myself, “Hmm.  Even if it is going to the middle of nowhere, I stand to make pretty decent money off of it.  Let’s roll the goddamn dice.”  So I accept it, and drive into the airport.

An Asian woman gets in and says, “Please!  You have to hurry!”

Yes, this was the actual greeting that I received from a stranger who was getting into my car.

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So I politely said, “Sure, just let me start the trip and see where we’re going…”

“Please!  I have to teach a class!”

“Okayyyy…. Santa Barbara?  Really?”  Apparently she didn’t realize that she was at the airport, and that planes also go to Santa Barbara.

Now this is normally a 2.5+ hour ride, and Uber’s app is telling me about that much time, except it’s telling me to take the 101.  That would be perfectly fine, but this was literally a week after a deadly mudslide that killed over 20 people in the Santa Barbara area.  The 101 was shut down in that area, as were the surface level streets.  They were still doing search and rescue.

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I told her that I’m going to try my best to find a route here, but that Santa Barbara is sort of stranded at the moment.  They keep saying on NPR that people can’t get in or out for the meantime, and she says “No!  You have to take me!  I have to teach a class!”

Look, honey.  I’m not debating your need to be there.  I’m debating our ability to get there by car.

“I’m going to check a few different GPS apps, and in the meantime, you start looking up flights out of Burbank.  It’ll be faster and probably cheaper for you.”  Also, I hate you and want to drive the car into the ocean with the child locks on.  #worthit

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Uber’s app is telling me to take the 101, which is literally not an option (Glad I’m an informed citizen.  That would’ve been a fun thing to stumble upon two hours later, trying to do a U-turn on the standstill freeway).  I check the Waze app, and it literally tells me “No route available,” so I’m starting to sweat a little.  I download Google Maps and lo and behold, it’s found a route!

But instead of the usual 2 and a half hours, it’s a little more like…. 6 and a half hours.  I told her this and she said, “Please! Let’s go!”  Sure, you’re in a hurry.  But your trip just got four hours longer.  Who the fuck cares if we dawdle?

So we get started.  If you live in LA, I’ll speak your language for a sentence or two:  Instead of the 101, we took the 405 up to the 5, all the way up to the 166, 100 more miles till it hits the 101 then back down 60 miles until we reach Santa Barbara.  This is the equivalent of driving from Philadelphia to New York, but stopping through Chicago.

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Now, as hellishly long as this trip was, keep in mind that I have to take that same route back home.  So multiple my time by two.  I was praying that she would at least be chatty, considering that we’d be spending half her waking day together in the car.  But instead she laid down and went to sleep in the back seat.  So this solidifies my fate:  12-14 hours in my car, not talking, not engaging, not doing anything but silently driving.  Reeeeeeallllly getting to know myself.

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I dropped her off just over six hours later.  Less than a mile from the Santa Barbara airport.  Started crying.  Drove for seven more hours, crying several times, both out of exhaustion and existential questioning.  When I got home that night, I collapsed in bed and slept HARD.  It could’ve been emotional exhaustion, or a possible diabetic coma (I hadn’t eaten yet that day).  All I know is that for one very rare day, I made very good money in a day.  But my average was cut down because I slept the entire next day.

RIDESHARE TIP #451:  Airplanes are faster than cars!  I’ll see you in Hell.

 

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.

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.