In the Beginning
If you've made it all the way back here, I appreciate it. Or if you've decided to start from the beginning, I appreciate it. As I've said before, I didn't know what to expect when I signed up to be an Uber driver back in January, when I still lived in Hartford, Connecticut. In fact, I didn't even start writing about it until April, when I officially returned to Knoxville, Tennessee. Below is a travel log of my early "Uber Nights" entries.
4/21/16: Hour No. 2 of the Uber shift, best line thus far (via drunk frat boy): "You're not the deaf Uber guy I had last night?" Me: No, sir, I can hear you. But what are you saying, exactly?
4/22/16: Only one college kid attempted to hurl. But she looked up from the plastic bag and said to me: "They might call me Low-Key Lauren. But I'm a tank."
4/22/16: UT law student to me on Uber ride: "I'm biracial, bisexual, and one badass motherf***er." Me: It's a wonder they let you use the bathroom round here.
4/25/16: Post sorority formal, three girls and a guy, poofy dresses/frills, a tux. Crying girl, the inhale sob: "She told me she was so disappointed in me, that I never drink this much. I mean (deep sob) I made it to the trash can." Consolers: "She cut you deep." Dude in front seat, to me, under breath: "What the f*** am I doing?"
4/25/16: Four grown men (pick up location: The Hilton): "No effin wives tonight! Bet you Uber kids know all the hook ups, don't ya!? Bet you know where we can score some of them gummy bears with pot in em!?" Me: I reckon I don't. Four men: "OK, best ti**y bar!?" Me: Now they did give us a class on that.
5/11/16: Last stop of the shift, three guys on their way to a strip club. Guy 1: OK, so who's gonna be the f***in guy graduating from med school? Guy 2: What happened to accountants from South Africa? Guy 3: Yeah, I looked up the company in Kingsport and everything!? We say we're visiting HQ and s***! Guy 1: OK, but better idea -- I'm CFO, you're COO... Guy 2: Wait, what's COO? Guy 1: OK, like I said, who's the f***in guy graduating from med school? [Guy 1 looks at me] Amirite? Me: Plastic surgeon or Gyno?
5/12/16: Reckon I ought to pause here and say that these nightly slices of life are all in good fun, that I'm glad to get folks safely from A to B. And that they aren't all soused or headed to the strip club. Most are the kindest you'll meet, like a lady tonight, who used to be a caregiver but got so close to the woman she kept, who died of cancer, that she finally had to give it up. Now she takes the bus across town to help new companies set up credit card machines -- and she likes to get lost in Anime, of all things. "No one's ever bothered to ask why, but I just can't get over the pictures," she said. And I guess that's the lesson, isn't it? Everyone has a story to tell, if we just slow down long enough to hear em tell it.
5/13/16: Guy: Well, well. I didn't even know they put leather in Civics. Me: It's faux leather. Guy: Still. I mean, I love my car's leather seats. It's real leather in an Audi -- diesel, 600 miles to a tank. Me: You oughta drive Uber. Guy: Honey, I TAKE the Uber. Me: Where we headed? Guy: Not a gay bar, in case you were wondering. I love men -- I hate gay bars. Every convo ends with some Rico Suave thinkin he can come home with me. Can you imagine? Me: Can't say I've got that kind of game. Guy: Maybe you're playin for the wrong team. Hole to the stick, honey. Me: Golf's a fun sport.
5/19/16: Like many a cabbie before me, complete strangers have no problem shooting straight. I picked up a gentleman at 8 o’clock who, when asked his occupation, replied, with a slur: “I might only meet you oncet, so I oughta be honest—I chose beer and a bowl over the wife-and-kids kind of happiness. And I’m just fine with that.” Then there was the young, attractive woman who had just returned from an audition in another city (to be a vampire, no less) and who wound up on a date with a man she knew wasn’t available. “Well, no harm in dinner and a movie,” I said. “Oh, no, he cheated,” she said. “He cheated BIG time. And that’s on him, don’t you think?” I also had a father tell me how much he wishes that his 8-year-old son lived with him full-time. “He still sleeps with me, and when he’s gone to his momma’s, I have to put a pillow next to me. Guess I’ll have to learn to sleep alone again soon.” The way I’ve got it figured, we’re all just hoping that we’re not alone in this, that someone can surely relate to these feelings we feel. Funny thing about this gig, the mirror can also get held up, if you aren’t careful. I drove a ballroom dancing instructor [can’t make this s--- up] who lives in Manhattan but whose parents retired down here. He pushed me on my story, my former life at ESPN, the fiction I’ve published but downplay. “You’re running, aren’t you?” he said. “The self-destruct type, who gets what he wants, only to then have the epiphany that it’s not, and then want what this or that person has...” I smiled: “Is this my ‘Good Will Hunting’ moment?” He replied: “What would we be without our ‘Good Will Hunting’ moment?” A rhetorical question, sure, but I’m the a—hole who always has an answer: “I reckon we’d just keep painting by someone else’s numbers—and who really wants to be f---in Bob Ross anyway?”