Uber passengers

Uber Tooth Fairy

 

Unknown-1The call came from Pacific Coast Highway, from a place that’s not so easy to pick up an Uber ride. “Nicky” was standing in the far-right lane, blocking cars from slamming into me.

He jumped into the passenger seat, announcing “Today is a perfect day. A good day. Want to know why?”

I slid the destination across my screen . . . Nicky was headed to Mission Viejo. He was just short of wired, in a natural way, looking as if he might jump out from his torn-off jeans.

“Why?” I asked. Sometimes I wonder why I do this. Oh, I’m a writer. Or just curious.

He leaned as far as he could, almost in front of my face, and said “To get new teeth.” He grinned, without teeth. Not one tooth peeked through his lips.

It was one of those cases that I hoped for a proper response. One came from experience. I am a Sharks Hockey fan. His smile looked like the shots of the team in the game program, with or without their smiles fixed. I had a crush on Mike Ricci . . . now in Arizona.

“You played hockey?” I love rhetorical questions. On medium Uber rides.

“I used to, when I was younger.” He couldn’t have been more than 30, but without teeth it was hard to nail a year, let alone a decade. “I’ve spent my life pushing the edge. The older I get, the more dangerous my quest. Boogie board, shredding into nothing, climbing up cliffs one isn’t supposed to, but I live.”

“Except without your teeth,” I said. “Maybe your teeth have gone to outer space and you’ll get them back when you visit that last place that takes your life,” I have no idea why I said this. The ‘wired’ was contagious.

“Ah, you know, then. I figured it out, you have an old soul.”

“No,” I said. “I think this is my first time on earth.”

“No. You’re 5,000 years old. Been here many times. I know. I think I saw you land. It was on a ship, just south of the nuclear power plants, San Onofre.”

“I didn’t land here. I arrived in Seattle.  I am certain,” I said. I was at the off-ramp, to a road taking us up to the medical building.

“You take care,” Nicky said. “I’ve had this dream about America. You will survive. Many won’t.”

I was going to ask him about what would happen to him, but he jumped out of the car and dashed across the parking lot. He turned, at the door, and pointed to his mouth. He was smiling.

I could swear he already had his teeth in.

Sleeping Babies on 20 January

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Uber encourages drivers to ‘get out there because riders do not want to be wet’ when it rains. This is a golden opportunity, as it’s been five years since the wet stuff fell from above. This was Inauguration Day, Friday and a great opportunity for me to keep my mouth shut.

Which I did not. (more…)

California, I love You!

If you live in California, and are breathing after January 1, 2017, you will be able to

Have one free beer while having your hair cut in a barbershop or beauty salon – this will make a bad new-do appear better.

Wear your Denim with pride as it’s the official California fabric – rest easy, my 1960s high school superintendents who wouldn’t allow patten leather shoes or Levis.

Companies with 25 or more employees will pay $10.50 per hour, up by 50 cents – this will put me out of business, as I am my boss and go shopping too often.

Drivers for Uber or Lyft can’t have a blood alcohol level of 0.04% or more – wish some of my passengers had the same content rule.

Ban on Text While Driving now includes searching for Pokemon Go characters – who does this?

A program providing electric-car rebates will now only be available to people making $150,000 or less – The X P90D starts at $109,000m so I could spend my savings and get $7500 income tax credit and in California, at $2500 tax rebate, which would mean I could drive 24 hours a day for Uber and eat once a day.

Every autographed collectible sold in California must come with a certificate guaranteeing that it’s not a forgery. Thanks Mark Hamill of Star Wars who must have had a real challenge with documents that came from far, far away.

If you see an animal trapped in a heated car, you may break the window – after calling law enforcement – do they ever come when you need them?

MOST IMPORTANT, getting ready for the 2018 election . . . you can legally take a selfie of you and your BALLOT. I needed this in November.WalkCake.jpg

Uber Gas Buddy

priceofgas

 

 

My late afternoon ‘ping’ passenger was down the hill from my house, in the industrial park. “Patty” jumped in my backseat without entering a  destination.

“Where are we going?” My usual question, before my passengers offer “How long have you been driving for Uber?”

“I can’t say, that’s why I didn’t put a place in. We do have to make one stop, before that,” she said. “I ran out of gas, somewhere on the I-5. Don’t worry, we can find it. But a gas station would be the first stop.”

We headed to the first gas station. I say ‘first’ because that station had run out of gas cans. It was only Thursday and the cans were gone. Not a good sign. The second station had one. Then, off we went down the I-5. [Or, is it plain I-5, without the ‘I’?]

“Where do you think your car is?” I thought I’d get a wee idea of the area. I-5 runs smack dab into Camp Pendleton, one of America’s largest Marine base, hugging miles and miles of scenic California coast.

We passed the last south of San Clemente exit, passed Trestles beach and kept trucking south.

“What brand is your car?”

“A little Fiat. ”

A little Fiat. On the northbound I-5.

“Yes. I was late for an appointment, so I thought I’d just get to San Clemente, but when a Fiat gas gauge registers “E,” it’s empty, no leeway.”

Camp Pendleton covers both sides of the highway. No way to turn around, unless sneaking through the Highway Patrol turnaround dip, after the INS Stop-and-Desist installation.

NOTE: Mr. Dictator: We do not need a wall, not with those guys who peer into your car when the INS system suspects a breach.

At last, I could see her car, three miles further toward Mexico [I’m a writer. Instead of saying ‘south’ I thought the reference to Mexico is stronger.] I was surprised that her car was still there. Someone could have come along with a truck and shoved the wee car into the truck’s belly and disappeared..

I urged the car off the highway at the first off-ramp, did a U-turn and headed north. I turned off the Uber fare as soon as I pulled up behind her car, parked a car-length behind her, put on my emergency signals and waited for her to fill her car with the gallon of gas. Of course, the thought that we both could be smushed flashed through my mind. I ignored it.

It took ten minutes, but she got every drop of gas into her tank, came back to the car, picked up her purse from the seat, then handed me $10.

“This is cheaper than AAA,” Patty sold software for a living. She’d figured out the trip and expenses. She’ll go far.

I don’t think Patty will run out of gas again.

I looked at my gas tank. One eighth of a tank. Now, that would be a great ending, but my S-Ca-Pay is like an old VW, and would get me back to San Clemente, another 20 miles, unless I was attacked by illegal aliens, running down the hill, escaping from a band of Marines.

“Would you be interested in . . .”

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When I get a ‘ping’ to fetch people from a hotel, especially in Fashion Island, Newport Beach, I know it’s a trip to see John Wayne in all his iron fantasy in Terminal #A.

The Islands Hotel has a limited entry way. The first man, John, came out very fast and leaned down by the passenger window.
“Don will be here in a moment. Don’t know what’s taking him so long?”
John started to get into the passenger seat, then jumped out.

“He should be here by now. I wonder . . . ”

I could see pal Don coming down the driveway, dragging two luggage pieces.
“Oh, my God. I forgot my luggage,” John jumped out. I opened the rear boot door, got the luggage and men into my car, then started toward John Wayne Airport.

“You’d be better after having a beer or something,” Don said

“Yup. What a couple of pals here, suffering from two  hangovers, we have,” added John.

I tried to change the subject. Many times, I’ve thought I should have aspirin or a cool beer to tame the wild, hairy dogs of morning-after withdrawal on Sunday morning Ubers.
“What airline are you taking?”
“We’re going to Salt Lake City, yes we are.”
“Oh, Salt Lake. What airline?”

Without missing a beat: “Excuse us, Ma’m. Do you have a moment to talk about Jesus Christ?”

This is new.
“You’re not wearing white shirts! Where are your badges?“ Then, I remembered the show. I sang, the first few bars of “I Believe . . . I am Mormon!  .  . . ”

“No, we have heard about it.” They even talked in unison.

“You must be the only Mormons who haven’t seen the show.”

“Oh, we’re not Mormon.” The boys again in unison, sounded like a mini-Tabernacle choir.

“I thought so. With hangovers . . . “

“Good clue. We’re the only two residents of Salt Lake who are not LDS. Most definitely not.”

“Except for cousin Josh,” Rob added.

“He never was, even before he turned 13,” said John.

I like to think that life is better for that Utah state, now that the two have returned to Salt Lake City.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How Many Cenks at LAX?

 

The Young Turks

Most of the time, my Uber celebrity experience means that I’m the only soon-to-be-famous person in the car.

Not so, late one Friday afternoon.

The name on the ‘ping’ was unusual.

“Couldn’t be,” I muttered. It was awkward. First time picking someone up at LAX. I’d waited 12 minutes before, got a ride who cancelled [do NOT cancel when you’re ordering an Uber at LAX. It takes 20 minutes to get back to the holding pattern!]

So, the second time, I waited 15 minutes.

Pick up at Terminal Three. I called, just to make certain. And to let him know that my car wasn’t black. It is silver grey. The shot of my car on Uber isn’t right. Many times, people don’t see me.

Even though I recognized the name, he didn’t sound familiar.

I lurched into World Way then pulled up toe Terminal Three. I went past him; called again and this patient man sat down in my back seat. I turned around, just to check if this person were the one I thought it might be.

It was. The Cenk of The Young Turks!

I think I scared him. “Oh my goodness! It’s YOU!. You’re The Young Turk of the Turks! I’m on your list. Get twitter feeds all day long from TYT!”

“So, we’re working for each other, here.” Yes. An Uber driver who thinks Cenk Turks is something that everyone should listen to. Why? Because, I was a Young Republican. For many years, standing alone for capitalism, working hard to get more work, figuring out how to get myself out of danger, then getting back into it. Not so since GWB took a huge bonus and destroyed the Middle East . . . but you know all that.

Last year, at Politicon, I’d met Newt Gingrich. Tried to get an answer as to why he never responded to my letter of resignation to the Republican Party. If I’d seen the light, where were anyone else with a brain?

“Where is everyone else?” I would ask myself, after I’d realized that the [R] didn’t stand for Abe, Ike or anyone with a heart anymore.

Now, in my back seat, was another one. Only famous and noteworthy as a spokesperson.

We talked of current events, most notably the Turkish upheaval into right-wing camps. And, the one we have here, with the [R] party’s final – they’ve been working on this since Nixon – take into the realm that begins takes on 20th century fascism.

He also told me about where he asked his wife to marry him. Not far from where I grew up.

At the end, he shot me in my grey car, and I heaved a sigh of relief. I’d gotten him home, while engaging in a decent conversation.

That’s what Uber-ing is all about. Oh, check Cenk and the rest of what the world needs to hear at The Young Turks!

 

Uber La Bohème.

Sunday coming

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.