That Escalated Quickly

So in a city as busy and traffic-plagued as Los Angeles, people don’t always think ahead of time about how easy or difficult a time their driver might have picking them up on a busy street.  They’re not always ready and waiting, and we’re not always able to stop.  This problem is made worse when they have luggage.  People get a little testy in LA traffic when you stop in the middle of the street and put your hazards on and wait.

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As has been established in previous posts, I am a kind person.  I will help with luggage if I can safely get out of the car to do so.  But also as has been established, it is not a requirement of my job; just a suggestion of my pseudo-midwestern upbringing.

So this morning I get a request on Franklin Avenue in Hollywood, right by Cahuenga, which is a very busy street that runs right off of the 101 Freeway.  I look at my map and see that I’ll be picking up my customer just after Cahuenga, but I see that the address is actually blocked off.  There’s a huge sinkhole on that street, and it’s been blocked off for more than a week.  Let’s see if ladyfriend has the good sense to contact me or be at a convenient spot.  If history has taught me anything, she’s an idiot and will not be partaking in either of those.

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Traffic is almost at a standstill, and that’s when I see her.  Squinting at her phone and then at me.  Standing in the middle of the goddamn street.  With two huge suitcases.  This gargantuan Australian woman, she looks like that cartoon with from the old 60s cartoons, Broom Hilda.  The lady who sips on sludge.  And she’s waving me down.

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Even though my car is slowing down to a stop (again, because of traffic), I can’t stop everything and go through the production of getting her and her belongings into the car. I’m frantically motioning for her to walk to the nearest curb, about 60 feet away.  I could pull over there.  Hell, I could even get out of the car to help with her luggage!  She opens the car door and gets in and says “That’s my luggage,” insinuating that I needed to get out of the car and get it.  I told her I could get a ticket for stopping in the middle of traffic and getting out (Not sure if that’s true, but it seems legit?  A risk I don’t feel like taking for a number of reasons.).  “Jesus Christ, you’re not gonna help with my fucking luggage?”  She slams the door and takes care of it.  Meanwhile people behind me are losing their minds, swearing and honking and giving death stares.

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She finally gets in (In the front seat, mind you.  THAT IS WEIRD, GUYS!  DON’T DO IT!!), and I apologize but explain how dangerous and possibly illegal that was, and that under normal circumstances, I would’ve helped.  She tuts for a minute or two but eventually decides that is was a misunderstanding and that we’ll move forward in a positive-ish way.

That’s when she starts humming.  Loudly.  And then singing some song I don’t know.

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Thankfully, she’s just going downtown.  This is maybe a 15 minute ride.  I can handle 15 minutes of this, I think.  I think.

We have polite small talk about Los Angeles and Australia and the weather and I point out local landmarks that she asks about.  It was the annotated tour of the 101 and the 110 South.

As we approach her block, I see it’s directing me to the alley.  I ask if that’s correct, because about 1% of the time, it is.  She shrugged her broad shoulders and said, “I don’t know.  You’re the one who lives here.”

That’s right.  And when you live in a city, you know the ins and outs of literally every single building in the entire fucking county.

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I figured it’s probably the front of the building, so I drive down the actual block.  I’m not sure which side of the street it’s on, so I’m looking back and forth to see if I can spot a number telling me which side is odds and which side is evens.  I find one, and learn that she needs to be on the opposite side of this very very skinny street.  I could go around the block, but in DTLA, that could mean another 15 minutes.  She tells me to do a U-turn, despite a sign right in front of me prohibiting it, a police car several cars in front of me, probably ready to enforce it, and the fact that it is a tight little street.

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I tell her I can’t do that, and she starts bitching and moaning to me about how I’m an idiot and how I just need to do it.  The thought of another minute in the car with this woman is enough to make me risk it.  I pull a way-too-fast, super unsafe U-turn and it becomes apparent that she’s going to the Ace Hotel on Broadway.  It’s a single lane at this point, and I’m waiting for a taxi to leave so that I can pull into his spot but he’s really taking his time.

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I’ve got my turn signal on, and people are beeping at me to just keep moving.  That’s when she just gets out of the car, right in the middle of traffic.  Again.

She stands up, with the car door open, and says “Ya gonna fucking help with my luggage this time?”  And I half laughed because it really felt like she was being funny.  She wasn’t serious, right?

“I can’t get out of the car here, I’m really sorry.  I was trying to pull into the hotel curbside!”

“You really are a fucking prick,” she says as she slams the car door.

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She opens up the hatchback and just as she gets the last of her stuff, I hear between honks from angry drivers behind me, she has some parting words for me, with a big fake smile on her goony cartoon-witch face.

“Goodbye, faggot!”

Ummmm…. Excuse me?

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“Goodbye, faggot!  I hope you die of AIDS!”  She smiles, slams the hatchback shut and waves as she wheels her luggage away.

I contacted Uber about it, and they insisted that this is a very serious incident, they’re “sorry that it happened” and that someone from their team would be reaching out to talk to me about it.  I wanted her to be deactivated from the platform, but the best they could offer is that they would “do their best to see that she is not matched with me again.”

Big shoutout to Uber for caring about their drivers.  The number of people who reached out to me personally from their team?  ZERO.

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RIDESHARE LESSON #26:  SOME SERVICES UNAVAILABLE IN THE MIDDLE OF THE GODDAMN STREET.

 

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“It’s Not A Human”

During rush hour, people are in more immediate need of a ride.  Everybody needs a car, so the service bottlenecks completely.  Not enough rideshare drivers on the road, plus traffic is terrible.  Prices soar and patience often plummets.  If you’re in a rush, you’re likely to order a car at an elevated rate and really expect it to be there PRONTO!

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If you order a car and find that it’s too far away, you might cancel it in hopes of finding one that’s closer.  But the driver you just cancelled on may have turned his car around upon getting your request.  They may have gotten on or off of a freeway to start making their way to you.  He or she is probably very aggravated at you right now.

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One morning in particular I had three or four of these cancelled calls in a row, where I was bordering on 20 minutes of wasted time, gas, and emotional energy.  I finally get a new request and get off of one freeway to hop on another headed toward my customer, Barbara.  That’s when I receive a phone call from an unknown number, presumed to be my customer.

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A female voice, A BRITISH FEMALE VOICE, is on the other end.  She begins the niceties of how I’m doing, who she is, and why she’s calling.  This of course means that this will likely not be a regular pickup without complications.

“Well, I’ll be there to meet you but I’m in a bit of a hurry.”  Girl, everybody is.  It’s 7:45am  Calm down.  “The thing is, the customer you’ll be picking up, isn’t a human…”

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Really, Barbara?  And what exactly will I be picking up?  That giant thing from Stranger Things?  E.T.?  Wall-e?

“It’s our pet rabbit.  He’s fallen gravely ill, I’m afraid.  What you’ll be doing is picking him up in his carrier cage and taking him to the veterinarian’s office.”

Oh, that’s what I’ll be doing, is it, Barbara?

“My husband’s just popped off to work and I’ve got to take the children to school.  There’s usually parking in front of the office, and if not, you can probably get away with the employee lot, since you’ll only be in there a short while.”

Oh, cool.  So now I’m taking unpaid time during rush hour to handle your dying rabbit, and risking a parking ticket.  Fan-freaking-tastic.

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“I’ll text you the details. See you soon,” said Barbara, completely certain that this was all fine.  Now comes my dilemma.  Do I trust that she understands what a gaping imposition this is, and that she’ll pay me some lump sum in cash for this outlandish, ridiculous errand? I think at this point I was 0 and 1,203,538,092 sooooo… I cancelled the ride.

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That’s when the texts came through, giving me the address, the veterinarian’s name, her family name, and all the details.  Ending multiple texts with one huge statement that could’ve changed it all:

WE WILL PAY YOU IN CASH OBVIOUSLY FOR YOUR TROUBLES, THANK YOU SO MUCH!

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Needless to say, I felt quite sheepish after reading that last one.  But learn from Barbara’s cautionary tale.

RIDESHARE LESSON #386:  If you have a ridiculous and complicated ride situation that requires consideration on behalf of the driver and you are going to offer a cash compensation, LEAD WITH THE FACT THAT YOU ARE OFFERING CASH COMPENSATION!