I have two categories for early Sunday morning Uber fares: Uber of Shame and Uber of Fame. I try to avoid Ubering in the wee hours so I don’t have to play Shame vs Fame roulette. Last Sunday, fear of scraping the bottom of my bank account overcame the voice of common sense: “Don’t turn that thing on. Wait until noon. Give them a chance to shower.”
It’s the end of the month. Roulette won. I activated Uber Driver at 7:47 am Sunday. Ping! Wendy needs a ride.
The fare was up the hill, in a half-baked gated community. No little house with a uniformed guard and clipboard – just a gate and a call box. Wendy hadn’t texted the code to me by the time I arrived. I had to call.
“Hello.” A low whisper, the don’t-wake-up-the-baby-kind.
“Hi, Wendy. This is Jean. Your Uber driver. I need the code for the gate to get in so I can pick you up.”
“There’s a gate?”
“I should have texted,” Now, I’m whispering.
“No, it’s all good . . . ” I could hear a man’s voice, close to the phone.
A car cut in front of me, the gates opened. “Hey, Wendy! A car just went through the gates. I’m sneaking in.”
One minute later I pulled into a driveway and parked facing three garage doors. I waited four minutes then began to worry. Was it the right house? Had she been strangled? Just as I was about to call again, the center garage door began to rise.
Like an exhibition at an exotic car convention, the door slid upward revealing the rear of a black Mercedes Maybach 600. A couple was embracing by the driver’s side door. The woman was barefoot, on her toes, holding her sandals in her left hand. Her right arm was resting across his shoulders, her fingers digging into a crop of black curls.
I’ve played this scene. It’s not an ordinary goodbye. It’s a new category of goodbye – for one, an aloha; for another, simply good, bye-bye. If it’s aloha on both sides, it’s magic.
Wendy turned and nodded to me. I gave her the thumbs up. It was like browsing the Bodice Ripping novel section at Barnes and Noble.
She extricated her arm from beneath the curls, then headed toward me. He took a step, touched her shoulder, she turned and they embraced again. Before he kissed her, he peered around her, pointed to me and said something. I couldn’t read his lips, or hear him.
Seconds later, Wendy was in the rear seat. “Let’s get out of here. Thank god you’re here. I’ve been trying to get Uber since 7:30 am . . . before he woke up. But he did and wants to fix me coffee. Wants to fix me breakfast. I don’t want breakfast. Where am I? It’s pretty here. I just want to go home.”
We headed up to I5. I could hear her iPhone message ringtone. Little train whistles.
“Oh god, he’s texting me. Oh god. He’s Italian. I’m Italian. Where am I? I went out last night with my pals. He was with his pals. Somehow, we all ended up at his house. Then, everyone left, except me. Nothing happened, except for the tour of the indoor pool, the paddle ball court, the five bedrooms and pool hall. Oh god, he’s texting me again. Did I tell you he’s Italian? I’m Italian. All Italians talk with hands and eyes, but he yells. I’m loud, but he yells. Didn’t you hear what he told you?”
“He wanted you to know that nothing happened. And, that you are to get me home safely.”
My universal mother thing kicked in. “I think you’ve got a live one.”
“A LOUD one. He yells. ‘Why are you going?’ ‘I could fix breakfast for you.’ ‘Don’t you want some coffee?’ ‘Please don’t go.’ I can’t listen to all that yelling.”
“Maybe he’s deaf. Or, has wax in his ears?”
“No. It’s his voice. Now, what? Oh, here’s another text. He wants to know if we’re still on for dinner on Tuesday.”
We were almost to her house. I turned off PCH and headed up one of those 45-degree Laguna hills. “Are you going to dinner with him?”
“Maybe. Right now, I just want to go home.”
The mother thing again: “Wendy, I’ll bet your the only woman who has ever jumped up, called Uber and left him on a Sunday morning. You’ve hit him in the male-ego-furry parts.”
One more thing: “If you do go out on Tuesday, I suggest a restaurant with the acoustics of the Hollywood Bowl.”
PS. I now have a new category: Uber La Bohème.