"You Saved Me"

Just dropped off the most sh*tiest-facest rider to date.

  • I was the only car on the street; he was 15 yards behind me and couldn't find me.
  • He literally fell in the car.
  • I had to put his seatbelt on for him.
  • "The bars closed at 2:00am; it's 4:00am. Where've you been, dude?" (Reflective moment) "I don't know."
  • He was soaking wet from standing in the rain, ostensibly for two hours.
  • Conversation consisted of him muttering, murmuring, "Thhhanks man… you saved me", talking to his blank phone screen, laughing, gurgling, "you're awesome, man" (repeat)
  • I had to help him out of the car.
  • I had to help him to his front door, no easy task; he was a hefty dude and didn't want to stop looking in the window of his 175,000 mile red truck in the driveway.
  • He told me he loved me.

I love these people.

Being Kissed by a Stranger in the Dark… in an Uber

Being Kissed by a Stranger in the Dark… in an Uber

Ubering brings me into contact with scores of people. In the last four months alone I've provided over 1100 rides for complete strangers. The riders commonly consist of two people, sometimes three and the occasional foursome. Which means I've probably met over 3000+ people since the end of December. That’s amazing, isn't it? 3000+ people. I’ll usually ask or say something open-ended to see if there’s a conversation to be had. Sometimes their response is followed by a conversation, often not.

But something disquieting happens when a ride is viewed as a whole, from “hi” to “thanks for the ride,” what sometimes seems to me a juxtaposition of the shared human experience and the dehumanization of the same.

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Strap In

Earlier this evening I picked up a couple just a few years my senior in Canton and made a gutsy move to get us from A to B. "Finally," the wife said, "an Uber driver with some balls."

A moment later, while cruising down Boston St., she said, "Jim, I love your balls, but I'm putting my seatbelt on if it's all the same to you." Her husband and I burst out laughing.

(That is a phrase which any woman can say to any man in nearly any circumstance and it will make his day.)

Nothing

Tonight I drove a well oiled gentleman from The Red Room on the Block ("don't judge me based on where you picked me up") to Lil' Phil's Tavern in Fells and we found ourselves pondering the kids walking, stumbling, dancing and cartwheeling around (without ever looking away from their phones) on the corner of Aliceanna and S Broadway.

"Youth… it's wasted on the young," I said. "That is the truest f*cking cliche ever," said The Oiled One.

As it happens, I was considering this very phrase earlier in the day. "Okay, Jim," I thought, "what is it about youth that's being wasted and how are they wasting it?"

I made a list.

Then I thought, "Alright… let's put you in a 20–24 year old body while retaining the experience and knowledge you have now. What would you do differently than they?"

The answer didn't take long: "Nothing."

I'm still contemplating what that may or may not mean.

Naked Yoga

Naked yoga? Seriously? Hasn't anyone ever watched Seinfeld?

Ok… on the face of it I can see the appeal, much like Jerry and company saw the appeal when he dated the woman who didn't like wearing clothes. And it's all skin and games until someone needs to open a pickle jar or do sun salutations.

Yes, Jerry has shown us the way, and the way is clothing. Thank you, Jerry. Thank you.

Tentacles and a Box of Crayons

Here's how it works:

  • The Uber Driver app overlays a heat map on its normal map to tell us drivers where there's demand for rides.
  • The heat map goes from Light Orange to Blood Red to Really Damn Red depending on the demand. (Yes, Really Damn Red is a color. Check your jumbo Crayola box.)
  • More demand = greater probability of ride requests and surge fees.

E.g., Friday and Saturday nights after 2:00am, Charles St. in Fed Hill is Really Damn Red — and blocked off by police so the kids don't get run over — weekday mornings and late afternoons go from Orange to Somewhat Red (also in the Crayola box) in Fed, Fells, Canton, Towson and Essex.

Except this week.

This week the heat maps don't exist. At all. Nowhere. Not even in Towson, usually an ever evolving orgy of orange/red.

(No, there is no Orange-Red Orgy in the Crayola box. I checked.)

Monday afternoon–evening I received 6 ride requests in 4 hours. Yesterday morning 4 in 4 hours. This morning 0 ride requests in 3 hours. Actually, there was a Light Orange spot on the map somewhere up 95 when I left the house but by the time I exited the Tunnel it was gone.

I drove around 695 to 83, 83 to Fayette, Fayette to Charles and Penn Station, to St. Paul to the harbor to Fells to Canton.

Zilcho (also not a color in the Crayola box). In fact, even the city traffic itself has been ghostly in comparison to its normally frustrating, hellrific self.

All of which adds up to No Money. No Money is bad. Spring Break is killing me. Perhaps I should have driven to Florida for the week, or wherever the kids exorcise their primal urges these days.

So what does a boy do when he makes no money? A boy spends money, of course! On a consolation latte at Starbucks, in this case. Truth be told, I had enough stars for a free drink so I spent my consolation money on an Old-Fashioned Doughnut.

A boy also occupies himself with cataloging various apartment names throughout the City. You see, the City is frantically gentrifying itself, part of which includes repurposing those grand old buildings with many being converted to apartments or condos of one kind or another. I'm curious to see what they look like on the inside and I want to look them up on the interweb.

So I would say aloud, "Hey Siri…" (Siri sound) "…make a note." (Siri sound) "OK, I can do that. What would you like your note to say?" (Siri sound) And I would say, "1201 North Charles Apartments" or "Equitable Apartments dot com". And then Siri would say, (Siri sound) "Ok, I've made your note. It says 'Equitable Apartments dot com'", etc.

The last note I told Siri to make before my consolation latte/doughnut was "Tindeco Wharf dot com." (Siri sound) "Ok, I've made your note. It says 'Tentacle Porn dot com'".

I nearly drove off the road.

Round Up

Most asked question of the week:

"So what do you (really) do?"

Most interesting comment of the week:

"I've been taking Uber for weeks and you're the first guy to give me a ride that isn't Nigerian or Spanish. Hey! There's a prostitute! We must be on Calvert St."

Kaitlyn

Last night I drove a rider from the Perry Hall area to the Royal Farms Arena in Baltimore. Waiting to make the left off Saratoga onto Liberty I saw a terrified looking young woman run up to the car in front of me and try to get in. The light turned green, the car took off, she ran up to my car and I said to my passenger “Sorry man, I have to stop.” I rolled down my window to ask what was going on but she jumped in the backseat and buried her head in my passenger’s chest.

He was cool, thank God, and tried to console her — she could barely speak through her sobbing — then got the hell out of the car at the Arena box office.

I gave her my hand, which she latched onto fiercely, and tried talking to her but the near-hysteria remained. “I’m going to get in the back seat with you and we’ll talk, okay?” which I did and gave her some water to break the sobbing cycle (it mostly worked).

“Let’s start at the beginning. My name’s Jim. Whats yours?” Between quick breaths I got a “Kaitlyn”. “How much have you had to drink tonight?” “I don’t drink.”

Then she buried herself in my chest, clutched on to me like she was drowning and said my name a couple of times between unintelligible words.

“It’s okay, honey, it’s okay” I said.

“Where were you tonight?” All I could make out was “basketball.” “Okay, who were you with?” Then she started whispering so low I couldn’t hear her even with my ear an inch from her mouth. All I could make out was “girls.”

“Kaitlyn, if we stay here someone is going to call the police because we're not supposed to be parked here. There’s a Royal Farms on Key Highway where we can stop and find out what’s going on. Let’s get in the front seat (I was afraid she’d jump out of the car in the backseat) and go there, okay?” “Okay” and she climbed through the car to the front, but landed in the driver seat. Somehow she slammed her hand in the driver side door trying to close it (I’d left it open) and the hysteria started to ramp up.

I tried to help her into the passenger seat and that’s when she lost it. It’s also when I realized how unhinged she was, called 911 and asked for the police and an ambulance. Unfortunately, I couldn’t recall that I was on Liberty — “I’m at the box office of the Royal Farms Arena between Lombard and Baltimore” — which seemed to be unhelpful to 911.

She laid on the horn, perpetually, revved the engine, turned the steering wheel, I guess trying to get away. I reached in to take the keys from the ignition — “No! No! You stop it!” — but it wouldn’t come out: somehow the gear shift was in reverse. Thank God the emergency break was on.

“No! No! Get away!” she screamed and tried to close the driver side door where I was standing. Then she grabbed what she could of the keys and dove out the passenger side. The car key was still in the ignition but my other keys were nowhere to be found.

(During all this not one person stopped to find out what was going on)

Kaitlyn ran north on Liberty to W. Baltimore, tried to get into other cars and threw herself at whoever would stand still. I was still on the phone with 911 giving them a blow-by-blow and Kaitlyn started screaming at me “No! You stay away! You stay away!” A security guard turned and looked at me. “The police are on the way,” I said, which was good enough for him.

Then, in succession:

  • An ambulance roared by
  • Kaitlyn started walking east on W. Baltimore, just south of hysterical
  • I lost sight of her
  • A detective called and I gave him the short version
  • The detective arrived and I gave him the long version with a description of young Kaitlyn: mid-twenties, about 5’ 7”, husky, dirty blonde hair with two braids in the back, black short-sleeve shirt open in the front, blue jeans rolled up at the ankle, fare skin, a few freckles on her nose and cheeks, called herself “Kaitlyn”

“She may have been drunk” the detective said. “I drive for Uber and have drunks around all the time and I didn’t smell any alcohol on her. I think she’s either traumatized or high. My guess is traumatized, but I don’t have a lot of experience with high people.” He assured me they were looking for her and helped me find my keys.

Where we are now:

  • I left a message for the detective asking him to let me know if they found her and if she’s okay. I don’t expect a response.
  • My driver side car door closes but it doesn’t want to. No idea what she could have done to it.

***

Listen, don’t tell me all the things I did wrong or should have done. It was my first time with an hysterical person who, at first, I didn't realize was hysterical. And, after reflecting on the night, both what I did wrong and what I should have done are quite clear.

I’m just telling you all of this so that, if you think of it, you can say a prayer for her. She was pretty messed up.

Small

After a particular ride last night the following feedback showed up in my Uber app:

  1. Cleanliness problem, meaning either my car was dirty, smelly or I have a hygiene problem
  2. Navigation problem, meaning I don't know where I'm going and/or can't read the app's nav
  3. Pick up problem, meaning I didn't pick the rider up in the right place. 

Uber doesn't tell me who left the feedback, but as I said it came in after one particular ride. 

As it happens:

  1. My car is spotless—save the grime that accumulates from riding around the city—smells like nothing and my hygiene is fantastic. 
  2. I've been to the bar before. I was coming from a different direction than usual and I thought the Uber nav was sending me the wrong way down a one-way street—as it has a tendency to do—and drove right past the proper street. 20 seconds around the block and we were at the bar.
  3. When someone requests a ride, Uber sometimes tells them "go over there and meet your driver." Then I'm sent to "over there". In this case, I was sent to a corner four houses away from the house the gentleman exited.

So, Dude—may I call you "Dude"?—Dude, I'm sorry it took us an extra 20 seconds to get to the bar. I was temporarily fixated on the Uber app's idiosyncrasies. My sincere apologies. 

But you, with your expensive wool trenchcoat and oversized smartphone, you went to a bar named Smaltimore. 

SMALTIMORE! 

And you've got a problem with me?

May I recommend that the next time you condescend to employ use "service class" folks to ferry you across the harbor to bars named Smaltimore you remove the stick from up your ass before firing off negative feedback and one star ratings over 20 seconds.

Honestly, Dude, you're not that important.

Tru N

Drove a young African-American couple from The Admiral Fell Inn in Fells to Norma Jeans on The Block. The gentleman—ruggedly bearded—framed his obvious intelligence in jocular smack-talk which his equally intelligent lady clearly enjoyed.

Upon arrival he said, "I hope you get lots of ho's tonight, my man" and I replied, "nah, dude, I just want money."

"My man's a true nigga!" exclaimed the Bearded One. "He said 'F*ck those ho's, just gimme some money!' (that's not actually what I said). I hope you get lots of money then, my man. And forget everything you heard in here tonight."

So there you have it my friends. I'm a true nigga.

Sanitation

Last night, somewhere on Charles Street…

Dude: I like your hat, man. I said that to my friend on the way to the car but with a hat like that you've probably got knives or guns or some sh*t…

Me, laughing: l've been told that.

Dude: …and I didn't want to say anything to piss you off.

Dude's Friend: But in his defense, he is from New York City.

Dude: And my last name is Maloney.

Dude's Friend: And his family owns a sanitation company.

Dude: That's doing very, very well. Just sayin'.

June

Him: So Scott invited me to his wedding in June.

Her: Oh yeah? When is it?

Him: Um… it's in June. That's why I said, "Scott invited me to his wedding in June." You know, when all the weddings happen…

Her: Who decided that June…?! F*ck June. I hate June. F*ck June.

---

That's about all the excitement there's been this week.

Pfssssss…

First time riding an Uber, from Subaru in Glen Burnie to home. Pretty cool app.

"But Jim, why are you riding an Uber in Glen Burnie at 8:00 on a Friday night instead of driving for Uber in the City?"

Well, you remember I said I was picked up at Subaru? It was the Subaru Service Department, to be specific.

"Service department?! Oh, no, Jim!"

Yes, "oh no" is correct.

You see, I was dropping off an older gentlemen at the Hilton on Presidents Street when he exclaimed with boney, pointed finger: "no, not here, there!" So I cut toward there and smashed into the curb.

My front right tire screamed that horrible tire scream: Pfsssssss… (Which is more of a hiss, I suppose, but "scream" is more dramatic.)

"Oh, gosh, Jim! That's horrible!"

Yes, "horrible" is correct.

You see, when one tire dies on an all-wheel drive vehicle ALL tires must be replaced. Ka-ching. And if the rim is bent? Ka-ching Ka-ching. Ka-ching.

"Golly, Jim, that's a lot of ka-chings."

Yes, "a lot" is correct.

For you see, neither my bank nor my credit cards will support such ka-chinging. As such, Jack Daniel's and I are hoping for the best: the rim is fine and the tire screamed because the seal broke. Nothing more.

"Well, here's hoping, Jim."

Yes, "hope" is correct.

 

Update: 1/32 of an inch. 1/32 of an inch and they want me to replace all four tires. Getting just one tire replaced may put strain on the transmission.

I wonder just how sensitive the system is. Will it really pick up 1/32 of an inch difference in tire tread? It is a Subaru, after all, which means it's top notch. Subaru doesn't f* around with their tech, folks. 

Blarg. (that's Liz Lemon, for the uninitiated)

And I may need a front end alignment. And if I damaged the ball bearing? I mean, I only hit the curb at about 5 mph, but good God.

I've got 5 clams. Please God, under 5 clams!

Blarg.