Last Friday evening, while looking through my Facebook feed, I took a call from my nephew. He had gotten me into rideshare driving a few months ago. In the course of our conversation it became obvious that we would both be heading out to do a little “driving” that night. Not sure why I put quotes around that word since we would, in fact, be driving vehicles. Anyway, there’s this thing between he and I. It exists because we’re guys. It exists because we’re family. It also exists because apparently we’re competitive and didn’t realize it.
“Wanna’ make a friendly wager?” he asked.
“I’m not making any bets,” I said, “but it would be fun to see who could earn more on the night.”
We agreed to certain parameters. He’s an hour ahead on the East Coast, I live closer to a major airport. These factors and many others kind of evened us out on the starting scoreboard. We agreed to a two hour window since neither of us really wanted to be out driving on a Friday night. We laughed about how we’d both much rather be at home with our wives but that they had ditched us with other plans. In his case, his young bride went out with friends. For me, my darling wife took out kids to a talent show. There was only one more word of encouragement from my nephew.
“You kind of need to hang up the phone so we can get started…”
I hit the road. Or perhaps the road hit me. Man what a bizarre night. First up:
Curry Catfish and the Quarter-mile Crawl
Alliteration is so amusing. I promise I’ll stop now. My first call was to an Indian restaurant for a food delivery. Perhaps I’m showing my racist lack of tolerance and sensitivity here but perhaps it wasn’t exactly Indian. It was some kind of South Asian. I can’t tell you with certainty. My employer won’t offer South Asian sensitivity training until 2018. I walked into the restaurant to discover a white board with the specials written on it. “Brain Masala,” it read. I know I didn’t read that wrong. And there’s pretty much nothing else that could be. After waiting ten whole minutes I snatched the food order out of Hop Sing’s hands (I promise you that was his name) and hit the “begin” button. Do you know that the lazy sonofabitch who ordered this nasty food that was going to smell up my car for the rest of the night lived across the street? I really just kind of took my time delivering that one. “Oh, I can only turn right out of the parking lot and then I have to go around the whole big block?… What a shame.” This brought me to my second ride and:
No Lines, No Waiting
The second ride was boring. Let’s skip them. As I dropped them off I discovered that I was not only near the entrance to the airport but that the airport queue looked small. My plan was to drive into the airport, park in the rideshare staging area, and grab a smoke before being pinged. I never had that chance. The queue went from 55 cars down to 1 in the time it took me to go through the toll plaza. I literally got a call as I was about to drive past the terminal where the passenger was waiting. No surge but it was certainly efficient. And she was going downtown so it wasn’t a terrible fare either. Shows what you get for planning out a smoke break. And since one airport was good to me, why not try:
Feeling the LOVE at the Other Airport
I totally didn’t just give away my location or anything. Where my last passenger had me drop her was close enough that I could see the queue for the other, smaller airport on my app. And the queue there was also dropping like the f-word at a family reunion. What? Must be just my family. I pulled into that staging area. I texted my nephew (who is an awesome guy, by the way, and I just wanted to state that here). Sent him a picture of my earnings thus far and the fact that I was waiting at an airport with an active surge. Unfortunately, my surge went away three cars before I was called but that’s OK. If I hadn’t waited I wouldn’t have met the greatest passenger of all time.
Before I put my car in gear to drive to the terminal I got a text in a warm tone instructing me how to locate him. The text described the logo on his hat and the fact that he was a big dude with a big red beard. “This is going to be fun,” I thought. Truthfully I can always tell before I collect them who’s going to be college-drunk and likely to vomit in my car (which has not happened yet, thank God) and who’s going to be respectable-drunk like he just came off a flight and he’s nervous about the take-off cycle because he’s watched too many air disaster shows and who are you to judge me!!?
This guy… Dave. Yes it’s his real name but what of it? You don’t know him. and lot’s of men have that name. Before I had left the airport and started out on a 25 mile ride (love those airport trips) Dave had told me about his flight, his reason for travel, and his job. The flight from the state capitol an hour south was fine. He taught the passenger next to him how to play blackjack. She was connecting on to Vegas. He was in town to visit his dad and his sister. I believe his mom and dad are divorced. It’s sad really. He caught her cheating when Dave was 11. It was an ugly mess. Keep in mind we had not hit a traffic light yet and this is a small airport. All the while I’m nodding my head and saying things like “Yeah, I completely understand. Isn’t that just the way?”
His job? This deserves its own paragraph. Our friend is a military biologist. I thought he was joking or I had misheard him. I was waiting for him to tell me that he was responsible for putting Jaime Sommers together after that freak accident. In reality, he told me enough about viruses and other biology-y stuff that I knew he was serious. I asked what he loved about his job. Why not? He had already discovered I was a teacher. They always ask what I do for my “real job” and I tell them. He told me “It’s so cool but we’re working on a new treatment for burn victims!” I just about fell out of my skin. This sounded awesome. I have known burn victims and it is among the most painful and horrifying things to undergo (being a burn victim, not simply knowing them). Not wanting to sound too forward but hoping he could divulge some information I spoke up.
“Is it a pill, or something topical, or…”
“Nah,” said drunk Dave.
“It’s a fuc*ing laser!”
“A what now?” I retorted. “A laser! Isn’t that so cool?” “Well, Dave,” I rejoined, “Isn’t it always the thing you totally don’t expect? I mean, someone’s skin just got crisped worse than good bacon and to cure them… let’s burn them some more with a laser.”
“DUUUDDDDD,” he said. I was really thinking he would hurl at this point but he took a deep breath instead.
“DDEEEEEEEE, I’m gonna’ be famous for this. I mean we still gotta’ get FDA approval which we might not get but you know what? F the FDA, right? What do they know? Look at all the workout supplements out there. They’re not FDA approved.”
“I know, Dave, I know all too well,” I said looking down at my pathetic arms.
A laser? Man, that just made my night. I got young Dave safely to his single dad’s house in suburbia, even made sure he stumbled up the right steps before driving away. I think he had it. The guy who answered looked just like him but older. Then I thought of my dad and wondered if he’d get a kick out of any of these stories. He’d probably ask why I’m doing this in the first place.
Then I thought of the burn victims of the world who are likely to be incinerated by the Dave-zer® sometime in the near future. Man, that’s gonna’ be fun to watch.
Oh, I beat the nephew by $4 but I really think I won in so many other ways this night. Now is where I bury something for a particular reader. A while back I shared my referral code with a friend. He admits to having driven somewhere around 19 times. If you’re reading this, buddy, take the 20th ride, for me, please? There’s a cash bonus for me when you do. You want me to be able to write more laser-curry-catfish-airport stories, don’t you?