Uber | Silent Silver Passenger


“Your mission, if you should choose to accept . . . “

As an Uber driver, unless the fare is an amateur-green-at-the-gills-drunk, my mission is to give ‘em the ride they want. Period.

Sometimes I receive texts from my fares. I could be my rider telling me to wait in front of the red car in the driveway; or, letting me know he’s the big guy with the San Clemente Triton hoodie in front of MathWorks, always a good sign that the future is bright.

This time, however, I was to pick up Jason. Two minutes up the road, my iPhone dinged.Incoming text. The message was too long for me to read without causing an accident. The signal turned red. I could read it without risking my life.

 “Proceed to xxxx in the San Clemente Business Park, pick up a package from Leon, then deliver it to Josh at xxxx Company in Anaheim. Thank you. Jason.”

So, Jason, the name of the rider, was not human. Rather, a package. The directions were clear. My writer’s brain engaged my what-if gears.

What if it’s drugs? What if it’s a million dollars? The data for the takeover? Something that the sender and receiver couldn’t risk being seen transporting on the 55 Freeway?

I drove to the Business Park on top of the hill, marched into xxxx Company. Reception desk, empty. Offices beyond the reception desk, empty. Not a sound. Dead space.


“Hello, you’re here?” The man popped up from a cubicle. He had to be a computer programmer. Plastic pocket guard. Three mechanical pencils. Didn’t look like Cosa Nostra.

“You’re a delivery person? Here to get the package?”

“I’m an Uber driver. Yes, I’m supposed to get a package.”

“Funny, you’re not wearing a uniform. Very strange, sending Uber.”

“I have a T-shirt, but it’s for Uber Car Pool and that’s only in San Francisco.” I could tell this was too much information.

He handed me two square Mylar packages. They were heavy, but not heavy enough to be a bomb. Or a brick of marijuana [do they still make those?] “Sign here.”

“What’s in here? Inquiring delivery people need to know.” I squeezed the packages.

“LED lights. For an awning. On a motorhome.”

I placed the packages on the passenger seat. [Rides have the option to sit in front or back.] I didn’t offer it a lifesaver. Or  remind it to use the seatbelt.

Silence for the next 45-minutes. I kind of miss the usual . . . “So, how long you been Ubering? . . . How do you like it?”

At last, I wound my way through a forest of motorhomes, in various stages of upgrades, to the front office. I stopped the car and reached for the package.

It winked at me.

When to Believe. When to Doubt. When to Shout. When to Drop Everything and RUN.

My New Yorker Desk Calendar entry for Thursday, April 26 posed an interesting puzzler
If you put a coin in an empty bottle and insert a cork into the neck of the bottle, how could you remove the coin without taking the cork out or breaking the bottle?

This reminded me of a blog entry from “The Archdruid Report”, March 27, 2007. (Don’t you love the Internet? How would I have ever found this in the Orange County Library?)

Anyway, the Druid report tells of how a few hundred years ago, a clever Southeast Asian hunter devised a monkey trap by observing how monkeys think, He (or was it a she?) constructed a narrow-necked gourd and rope staked to the ground, with a chunk of the monkey’s favorite food inside. The monkey puts its little hand in to grab the food, but can’t get the food and hand out. More often than not, the monkey will keep trying to get the food out, instead of running away when the hunter appears. Short term goals instead of looking at the long run.

How would you get the food out?

Stop. If you’re thinking about it, you’re already deep into the nut of the dilemma. Einstein put if this way: There’s no use trying to solve a problem using the same thinking that got you into the problem in the first place.

While floundering around the Internet with this puzzle, I found several who tied attempts to solve our fossil fuel energy crisis by substitution instead of stepping way out of the box and coming up with another way to exist, to move, to create energy. In this respect, we’re no more advanced than the hairless monkeys about to be captured or, worse yet, eaten alive.

Now, how will you get the money out of the bottle without breaking the bottle or disturbing the cork? The answer is only a click and scroll away.

I have to learn these things before September 5

I went to kindergarten orientation yesterday. For my granddaughter. I won’t mention the terrifying moment when I realized that she would be five in April, my daughter 40 in August and me, well, it’s all right for me to get old.

But not my children.

The principal explained that kindergarten was not like it used to be. Well, I knew that. I can remember Miss Buckley’s school in Beverly Hills, where the snooty daughter of a movie star stabbed the palm of my left hand, leaving the tip of a Ticonderoga #2 embedded forever. I certainly hope kindergarten isn’t like it used to be.

“It’s academic,” the principal said. “It’s February and you have until September to work on some skills with your little one, to get ready.”

Skills? She will have to list and sound out eight letters of the alphabet in 60 seconds. Write her name in initial cap Upper case, then lower case. Which means no more messing around with the magnetic letters on the refrigerator door. They must make sense. She must also focus on one task for 20 to 25 minutes. This will be fine as long as she stays away from email. I think II will  try that.

Scissors. Absolutely. Some of the mothers in the audience gasped. My guess is that the tools were verboten in their households. Not so here. Not one Barbie doll here has a full head of hair, or is wearing underwear.

Three-step directions. Oops. The child must be able to take on a three-part task. Go to the freezer. Get the box. Open it and eat it. then be quizzed about what was done.

Coloring inside the lines! Oh, no! My creative genius will have to abide by the laws of conformity, and use appropriate colored-crayons. Does it look real? I am supposed to ask? Real? What is real? However, in my aged wisdom, and a book I’m reading by Todd Henry, The Accidental Creative, It’s pointed out that a creative person needs lines. So we have something to rebel against! Absolutely.

She must learn that if two people are talking, she is not to interrupt. She doesn’t have to raise her hand to speak, but stand quietly and wait for the conversation to cease. Except of course, if there Is a HUGE DRAGON flying in through the French Doors and knocking over papa’s chess game in the living room.

Finally, she should learn how to lose gracefully. Wow. Things have changed! What! No more “we all win because we showed up.” What a relief. Maybe this generation will realize that it’s all right to be wrong, it’s all right to care for other people, and it’s all right to congratulate others on their fortunes and quietly contemplate how we can do better next time.

Kindergarten? I’d love to get the principal to visit the company I work for. That would be a hoot!

I wouldn’t even interrupt.