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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.