Shakespeare Takes an Uber

Last night I picked up two young couples and one young 5th-wheel at the Inner Harbor and drove them to their dorm at Hopkins. The 5th-wheel paid for the ride, of course.

The women couldn’t even walk a straight line to the car, which would have been funny if it hadn’t been so sad. The 5th-wheel — we’ll call him Front Seat Man — sat next to me in a posture I am more than familiar with. “This dude is going to blow chunks,“ I thought and stepped on the gas.

Hurrying up 83 the couples in the back talked and laughed wildly while Front Seat Man looked worse and worse. “Paula,” he said quietly and I figured the girl in the back named Paula didn’t hear him. “Paula,” he said again and after a beat I wondered, “wait… is he saying ‘pull over’?”

My suspicion was confirmed when he began heaving, trying desperately to keep his mouth closed. No worries, I’ve been trained for such things.

Quickly, I reached for the seatback pocket to grab my medical grade vomit bag. Unfortunately, the woman who wasn’t named Paula was in the way, her knees redirecting my hand from the seatback pocket to between her legs and up her skirt. “Excuse me,” I said, “can you move for a second?“ She did, I grabbed the bag and handed it to Front Seat Man who, by that point, had a mouthful of his own vomit.

Snatching the bag he filled it without a drop landing on my upholstery. Everyone had become silent, as if this embarrassing display was an audition for minor part in a morbid Shakespearean play.

After his shockingly long and rather revolting audition, Front Seat Man sat back and breathed with relief. “Feel better?” I said. “Yes,” he replied and the communal jocularity ensued once more.

My refreshed and quite sober sidekick told me what a great guy I was when we arrived at the Hopkins’ dormitory. The two couples agreed, patted my shoulder, showered me with accolades and promised to give me 10 stars as they Fell out of the car and stumbled toward the building door.

I’m still waiting for the stars — and the possible sexual harassment claim from the woman who wasn’t named Paula — but at least my car smells of nothing. Especially not vomit.

Proof of Poo

I
I drove a theoretical cryptologist from Towson to the airport who quite excitedly explained Zero Knowledge Proof to me. That’s some cool stuff (thank you, Waldo, for making it understandable). I wonder how many other areas of life it can be applied to. 

II
Two 30-something, opposite sex friends were slurrily discussing the appropriate amount of dates/hookups one must have before it’s acceptable to crap in their SO’s bathroom. Four seemed to be the magic number.

After four it’s even expected: “No, dude, it’s been four times. You can’t leave, you have to crap here. You’re stuck.”

It was so real I laughed the whole time, though I don’t think they noticed.

A Proper Job

This college dude got in the car last night fresh off the stick. The pot he’d smoked was so strong I was getting high just from the fumes coming off his clothes.

In other news, I start my new job at Subaru Monday morning. Not very glamorous but my white collar business days have been long over.

Feeling a little caged-in already. For the better part of 12 years I’ve made my own schedule and done my own thing. During my short lived tenure at the restaurant this past summer I at least had 12 acres to roam around in occasionally.

This will be a small warehouse in a not so big building. I’ll make less there than I do Ubering so I’ll continue to Uber on weekends to make up the difference. Back to nine hour days Saturday mornings and 10–12 hours Saturday nights into Sunday mornings!

I should get stock in Starbucks and 5 Hour Energy.

In other, other news, it’s incredibly gorgeous out. Looking forward to driving tonight. After dark, of course, because the growing crack in my windshield is hard to see in the dark. Out after last light, back before first light. I feel like a frickin’ vampire. 

Louisiana

Arund 4:00am Saturday morning I picked up a pipe layer who’s in town from Louisiana to assist BGE in laying pipe. He climbed into my car at one hotel and we drove to another. “I won’t lie,” he said unsolicited, “I was with a woman.” That was pretty much all l understood on our short drive from the woman to his temporary home; he was drunk and, well, from Louisiana.

I did, however, manage to discern a few other things:

  • a one month job with BGE had turned into 3 months with no end in sight;
  • he hates BGE — “they don’t know what the f*ck they’re doing!” — and he’ll never work with them again;
  • Miller Light is his favorite beer;
  • his plans for the next hour were to drink a beer, shower, drink another beer and head to Silver Spring to start his 12 hour shift.

Mind you, he hadn’t slept in the last 24 hours. Louisiana.

Arriving at his hotel he said, “want to come in for a beer?”

“Thanks, but I’ve got a lot more driving to do tonight.”

“Oh, come on… you’ve got time for one beer.”

“Really, I can’t, but thanks.”

“How about a joint?” Same response from me.  “Take it with you, smoke it in the car.”

“My next riders would smell it. I might get in trouble.”

“Damn,” he said, climbing out of the car, “you northerners sure are uptight.”

Perhaps we are.

F X

I despise Comcast, or “Xfinity“ as they’re billing themselves now. You see, they have a monopoly in Baltimore. They talked to the government and have managed to keep Verizon from installing FiOS throughout the city (that’s called “free market” if you didn’t know).

Here’s what a monopoly does for you:

  • Xfinity: 25mb = $75 + $10 router rental = $85/mo. 
  • FiOS: 25mb = $40 and free router = $40/mo. 

Both are introductory offers, both are internet only.

I despise Comcast/Xfinity.

Numbers

1. The College Girls
Three college freshmen sat in the backseat late one weeknight discussing politics, world events, Plato and the way dads dress (that did not reflect well on yours truly). Do you have any idea how refreshing it was to hear that conversation from those women? 

Typically, the college crowd I pick up are already drunk or high before they head out to the bars, the men talking about women in demeaning terms, the stranger who let them lick cheap vodka off her breasts at the bar and the women talking about their last hookup and other women.

2. The Loyola Dude
The well-spoken young man who corrected me when I asked “So how is Towson treating you?” “Sir,” he said, “I go to Loyola,” as evidenced by the fact that I picked him up at the Loyola dorms. Sir… can you believe that? My kids won’t call me “Sir” (I stopped barking up that tree ten years ago). Refreshing.

3. The Business Man
Lovely conversation with a business man from Philly. As we fought our way from Harbor East to Penn Station we shared our work experiences. “You mentioned you were uneducated,” he said.

“Yes sir, just a high school education, a C student at that.”

“I never would have guessed that.” He continued, “You’re well-spoken, articulate, intelligent, knowledgeable of current events, obviously well read… I thought for sure you had a higher education.”

“No sir, just high school.”

“I never would have guessed that.”

4. The Attorney
“How was your day?” I asked at 9:34pm. She’d just finished her long days work, first at her place of employment then her (mandatory) pro bono work at the courthouse where she deals with bail bonds.

After a particularly harrowing story of a 19 year old charged with multiple felonies across state lines she’d said to him, “What the f*ck were you thinking? You’re looking at 30 years prison time!”

5. The Psychiatrist
“People are so f*cked up…”

I love my job. I think it’s because many of the people I drive are so real, so raw. My background in a super-conservative religious school was so abominably laced with anger, pretension and fakery that these real riders — good, bad and ugly — are like breathing the salty ocean air.

Perhaps that’s why the drunks are my favorite. We rarely get more real than when our inhibitions are at an all-time low.

Don’t get me wrong. “Real” can be overwhelming and discouraging at times, but real is real.

Laurie

There was a woman sitting outside the Royal Farms on 41st and Falls where I'd stopped for one of their horrible wraps and awful coffees. She looked right in my face as I passed by but said nothing.

She didn't seem like a panhandler. Her cloths weren't dirty, she was wearing Keds with blue jeans rolled at the ankles and there was a composition notebook on her lap. She had a pretty, weathered face with a causal haircut that framed it well. I put her at about mid-forties.

With horrible Royal Farms wrap and awful coffee in hand I walked back to my car.

"Are you waiting for someone?" I asked as I passed her.

"No. I'm just a really bad panhandler," she said, deadpan.

I laughed. "Because you didn't ask for anything?" She nodded. I gave her what little money I had and got in my car.

I got back out of my car. "Do you want half my sandwich?" She said "no" and something else I couldn't understand.

I've read that we form first impressions in less than half a second — a conversation in and of itself — and having met several thousand people this year I think my First Impression-ometer is rather well tuned. But I couldn't understand my impression of her.

It wasn't bad or negative, but rather… I still don't know.

As I drove away she was writing in her notebook and smiling, and I was wondering if I should've sat down with her for a while. I had no interest in "saving" her — I can't even save myself — or "making a difference" in her life. I felt neither badly for her nor sympathetic toward her. She was there, I was there; she's a person, I'm a person… so why not sit and talk?

I'm not convinced she was a panhandler. To me she felt more lonely than poor. It also felt like something more was going on there.

Her name was Laurie.

Who?

3:34am and a young woman staggered up to my car staring blankly at her phone and nursing the remains of a cigarette with a deep-orange filter. "Are you the black Subaru?" she asked. 

"I am. Are you C?" 

She smiled. "Yes." 

 "Then I'm your guy."

"Can I smoke in your car?" C asked.

"Where are we going?" She swayed slightly and fumbled with her phone. "You don't know where we're going?" I laughed.

She found it and slid into the front seat. I lit a cigarette. Then another young lady, D, slid into the backseat. She introduced herself and asked, "should I start smoking, C?" and in unison C and I said, "no".

D liked my daughter's music and we played it at a reasonable volume. Her commentary on the song — if that's what you could call it — was extensive and by the time we arrived at their destination she was wearing my hat and taking selfies. C was glued to her phone but I suspect that was a red herring.

"Can we drop off C and you take me out?" D asked from the back (it's ok folks… I know my role). C said "get out of the car, D," and fell through the passenger side door.  

D: "Can you pick us up again tomorrow?" 

Me: "Sure," and I handed her my card.  

D: "Is this your card? It's so cool!".  

Me: "I'm really not that pretentious, I just get asked sometimes. And I had a coupon." 

D:  "We'll be here through Sunday, and bring another hat so we can take selfies together," and she climbed out onto the sidewalk. 

Me: "If I'm available I'd be happy to pick you up."  

The door slammed and D stumbled to the front door of [the destination]. 

… 

I've given out a half dozen cards and received two phone numbers in the course of my 1838 rides. Not a peep from anyone, and that's okay. My guess is D, like the others, woke up this morning wolfing hotel eggs and hash browns and downing cheap hotel coffee, thinking, "who's this guy?"

 

UPDATE: Sunday, 3:34pm, 36 hours later

D just called me. 

 "Hi, is this Jim?"

"Yes it is." 

"I have your business card but I don't know who you are or what you do." 

"Who is this?" 

"D." 

"Ah. I drove you home [etc]." 

"Okay." And she hung up.