And I’m Starting to Forget Just What Summer Ever Meant to You

Holy hell do we have a lot of time to cover. At the end of July, I was pretty busy giving rides and meeting new folks who would soon become regulars. Or at least become regulars until more drivers started popping up. I would start before the five o’clock hour if I didn’t have any hearings or meetings calendared.

It was a little after 3:00 pm on a Monday when D.J., his stripper wife and their daughter needed a ride from the grocery store. He told me that his kids had gone off to Canada and he was kind of sad. Their daughter was super cute and told me that she wasn’t allowed to have gum because the last time she had gum it got stuck in her hair. Mom did let her have a piece of candy, and as most kids often do, the little girl tried to convince her mom to allow her to have a second piece.

It was typical hot weather for a Bakersfield summer, but the humidity was starting to linger in the atmosphere which made for a sticky time in a black car. When I picked up “Erwin” from the mall, he had several shopping bags that took up the entire front seat with him. He lived right around the corner from me and told me that he had just gotten out of the US Navy the week before. I thanked him for his service and asked where he had been living prior to this week and he told me San Diego. He certainly wasn’t used to the heat, but had spent some time in Florida while he was in the service so the humidity was nearly as bad. He was getting ready to relocate to the Bay Area so that he could attend the Academy of Arts on the GI Bill.  I would give Erwin a ride six more times before he moved away at the end of August.

The second time I picked him up at the mall again and he had a couple bags from a shoe store. I suppose a few years in the military leaves little time to update the wardrobe. The next couple times I accepted his fares, he was with a girl. Sometimes not the same girl. Erwin did give off an air of being a ladies man. He had a great smile, and had a very confident exterior. He also recommended I see the movie Southpaw when I picked him and one of the girls up from the movies one evening. It’s funny to me that you can date without having a car nowadays. I know it sounds shallow, but I’m quite certain most women I know still wouldn’t date someone who didn’t have his own car. But I suppose if you don’t have a car yourself, you’re not going to have a problem dating someone else in the same boat since ridesharing is so accessible and convenient these days.

I had a couple more fares after I drove Erwin home the first time. The final ride was again from the mall all the way to the southern most point of the city limits during an awesome lightning storm. Both “Joe” and I were just amazed at each zigging and zagging bolt that lit up the entire sky if only for a split second. That was probably the beginning of a string of humid days that assaulted the town for a couple of weeks.

One of the things I had going for me when I waited for ride requests at home was that I was kind of the only one in the south central area of town that had a decent-sized perimeter. Imagine my disappointment when I noticed that two houses over, another Lyft driver had popped up on the radar. At first I was a little irritated that I’d now be vying for fares. I got over it rather quickly. It helped that the neighbor hardly ever logged in to drive.

I didn’t drive again until that Friday. I started in the early afternoon and my first ride was actually my next door neighbor! It was the first time I actually had a conversation with him, though I have met his husband on a handful of occasions. “Matthew” and I discussed the many mutual friends we had and the fact that his aunt is actually dating my grandfather. Kevin Bacon’s got nothing on this small town. He initially thought that it was his other neighbor who was on duty. Through Matthew, I discovered that the the other Lyft neighbor was female too. It seemed like she hardly ever turned on her app though. Matthew was a generous pax and wished me a good evening up reaching his destination.

I was halfway to my mom’s house when I dropped off Matthew so I decided to go hang out there for a bit and see if I’d get any fares on her side of town. It wasn’t long before “Salina” requested a ride just half a mile from mom’s. I picked her up from a very nice house in a locally affluent neighborhood. She wasn’t going far, but since I admitted that I wasn’t too familiar with the area, she gave me turn-by-turn directions. I immediately smelled her green “medicine” when she sat in the front seat and was tickled when I offered her an array of sweets as I normally do.

Salina told me she was a bartender, and we chatted a little about high school and the weather. Sometimes I forget how old I am. And I can only assume that I’m not that great at guessing how old some of my pax are. I say this because as we talked about high school and which ones we attended, I always think about the people I knew who attended the same school as the person I’m speaking with. I graduated high school in 1998, so imagine my widened eyes when Salina said she graduated in 2008! That’s like an entire generation worth of difference. Sometimes it makes me feel so uncool and decrepit.

I felt better when “Isaac” requested a ride for his buzzed 40-something year old uncle. Uncle “Rick” lived all the way across town and was noticeably impaired. Unless I know exactly where I’m going, I usually follow the Google Maps directions to the T. Rick corrected my route to take a main thoroughfare to which I politely agreed since he knew where we were going. Unfortunately, I had forgotten that the main thoroughfare that traversed from the east side of town to the west side of town was closed for construction. Unfortunately for Isaac, we had to double back and Rick advised the rest of my route, even though it was quite possibly the longest way to get to his house as opposed to my original route which ended up in a rather large fare. But hey, the pax is always right, so who was I to argue.

My next fare was picking up two ladies at the ever-popular Mexican restaurant where Will works. I was hesitant at first since when the request comes in we can see the pax rating (out of 5). “Amanda’s” rating was a 4.4. That’s not very promising. But I sucked it up and accepted it anyway. The girls wanted to go downtown which was a decent enough distance to make it worthwhile. It was interesting to me because one of the first questions Amanda asked me is if anyone had ever puked in my car.

“Nope,” I replied. “Have you ever puked in a Lyft?” I asked, thinking that would definitely explain her low rating if she had.

“Hahahaha, no. I have just always wondered if anyone’s done that in a car.”

Right. I’m onto you, Amanda. But despite my reticence, Amanda and her friend were very sweet and no problem whatsoever, so I gave her a five-star rating. I do wonder what she did to deserve such a low number though.

“Spencer” requested a ride from a familiar area. As I turned into the neighborhood, I noticed a line of cars driving out. I pulled up in front of what I believed to be the address as more cars funneled out of the cul-de-sac and noticed a couple of police cars on the street. Then it hit me, I had just arrived on scene at a high school party. Three high school boys piled into the back seat of my car and just instructed me to drive until they could get an address for their next destination. They were happy to indulge in the goodies in the backseat and one proclaimed his love for Lyft. I couldn’t help but envy them a little. Back in my day, we had to drive around to our high school parties drunk. LOL! When they figured the new party was a bust, I dropped them off at home a few miles away.

It seemed to be quite a slow Friday night because my next call wasn’t until nearly bar closing. “Tammy” had been a pax of mine before. She’s a funny little Asian girl who’d recently broken up with her boyfriend of four years. We talked about her being the only one of her friends that uses this service and how much it pisses her off because they all know better than to drink and drive. I sympathized with her, because even my own friends will insist on driving after having quite a few beers. It’s just not worth it anymore because of how demonized drunk drivers are these days. But when you have stubborn friends, there’s only so much you can do.

Speaking of DUIs, my favorite DUI client, Javi was my next fare. It seems that sometimes people do learn their lesson, but it requires two DUI convictions before that happens.

My final fare that night was “Joe” who had just lost his ass in a poker game with his co-workers. Despite his $60 loss, he was nice enough to leave a decent tip after we stopped at Taco Bell to satisfy his drunken munchies.

The next day, I picked up another fellow Lyft driver and his girlfriend. “Manny” hadn’t been driving lately because he drives a big truck that seems to cost more than was worth for him. He didn’t have many pax stories either but he and his girlfriend were quite entertained with mine during our ride.

Deepak, the cheap drunken Indian bastard requested a Lyft from the Mexican restaurant at the mall well after closing time. I was happy he only wanted to go straight home. That guys has a serious drinking problem. But I’m not here to judge.

“Amy” was surprised when I pulled up because as long as she’s been using Lyft, I was her first female driver. I found that astounding since I’m aware of plenty of female drivers that are very active in our driver Facebook group.

Somehow, I found myself still in drive mode after bar closing while waiting around at home. “Angel” requested a ride from a house I was vaguely familiar with. When I approached, I realized that the house belonged to a friend of a friend who now lives out of town. She stays there when she comes to town from time to time and I’ve only ever dropped her off there because I have never actually met her friend.

I wasn’t paying to much attention when a thin gal with tattoos and brown hair hopped in my car. You know the feeling you get when someone is staring at you? That was happening as I was punching in her destination address. I looked up and she was smiling at me and asked me “How’ve you been?” as if she’d known me for years.

“I’ve been good,” I replied with a slight quirk to my brow because she honestly did not look familiar to me at all.

“Have you talked to [old friend’s name] lately?”

I studied her for a moment trying to place who we knew in common.

“[Old friend’s name] who?” As soon as the words left my mouth, my eyes lit up with recognition. “Holy shit, ‘Angel?!’ Wow, I didn’t recognize you, you’ve lost so much weight!” I’m not sure if that was the appropriate response, but it was mine at the time.

Angel smiled and nodded and we proceeded to catch up very briefly as I drove her the short ride home. I hadn’t seen her in about 10 or so years and learned that she had divorced her first husband she was married to when I knew her. Our mutual friend was never a fan of that husband. Angel was now re-married to a man a little older than her and she was leaving her friend’s house after a night on the town.

I confirmed that the friend’s house was indeed the place where my other friend stayed while in town. When I met her almost 15 years ago, Angel was our old friend’s best friend. She seemed a little sad when she said she hardly talks to our friend anymore and hadn’t since her dad passed away a couple of years back. That’s always kind of a bummer.

Again, Kevin Bacon’s six degrees pales in comparison to the interconnectedness of this town. I expect that I will know tons more people in common with my pax in the near future. Now that we can connect our Facebook profiles with our Lyft accounts, it makes it even easier to find out who our mutual friends are, if any.

One thing I’ve learned while driving people around is that it is very difficult not to listen to someone’s cell phone conversation. It almost becomes a game in trying to figure out what the only side of the conversation you’re hearing is about.

I picked up “Hurley” from a bar in the southwest on a Monday evening and he immediately directed me to the bar I would usually hang at with my friends. We made some small talk and found that we knew a lot of the same people from the bar, but I never remembered seeing him there, nor did he ever remember seeing me. About halfway to our destination, Hurley took a call that was no doubt from a lady friend.

Of course, I couldn’t help but overhear his side of the conversation which sounded normal enough until he said “well, you’re in luck. I have six on me right now.” My imagination ran wild, but I was pretty sure I had Hurley pegged as a guy with little inhibitions and a bad boy streak.

Once he ended his phone call he re-directed me to another bar I was very familiar with and said that he was meeting a couple of female friends who were with this awkward doctor he had met on a couple of occasions. The guy was cool, Hurley insisted, but “awkward doctor” is kind of redundant, right? Let’s be honest, most doctors are socially awkward. Hurley readily confessed to me that his friends were in the market for some “Molly” and he had the prescription they were looking for. I’m not one to judge anyone’s extra curricular activities, but personally, I wouldn’t want my doctor to be hopped up on any kind of pills he procured from some low level middle man on the street. Unfortunately, I never found out what kind of medicine this particular doctor practiced.

The following day I had a massive hole in my work schedule so I decided to start driving fairly early in the afternoon and decided to head down to the Burbank/North Hollywood area to try my hand at some weekday out of town driving. I had a few in town pick ups before jumping on the freeway, one of which was “Joey” who revealed to me that about 7 or 8 years ago, he was beat up by six guys and was coming from one of several MRIs as a result of that incident.

During the course of the ride, you could tell that Joey had suffered some brain trauma because his speech was very slow and deliberate. We chatted about doctors and how he believes they all suck (perhaps because they’re awkward and on drugs sometimes?) and I related to him how I was working with a nutritionist. Before he got out of my car, he asked for my nutritionist’s contact information which I happily provided to him. Joey was a pretty lean guy, so really there was no need for him to seek any help with weight loss, but he was a nice enough passenger that I obliged him his request.

Once I made it to Northern Los Angeles County, my first pax was “Rachel” from Pacoima. She was super friendly and had just gotten off of work. As I was taking her home, she asked how long I had been driving and all the typical pax questions I’ve become accustomed to asking. I told her where I was from and that I was in town for the day just looking to make a little extra cash and glean some road stories. I asked her what she did for fun in Pacoima and she laughed and said she and her boyfriend will usually head down to the San Gabriel Valley to hang out with friends. She was super excited that I had candy waiting for her in the backseat and was sweet enough to ask if she could take an extra piece for later.

“Chad” was my next fare in Burbank. He had a couple of packages with him and directed me to a FedEx office not too far from his apartment complex. His profile photo was a shirtless image of him and revealed a very chiseled physique. There was no doubt he was quite attractive and I couldn’t help but wonder if he was an aspiring actor as most people in southern California are. We chit chatted about how today’s music sucks and found a bonding moment over being children of the 80s before I dropped him at the FedEx doorstep.

“Marty” was my first Lyft Line pax which was kind of difficult for me to understand how to maneuver at first. When I arrive at the pickup location, I had to designate how many pax were in the fare. I can only assume that as Marty and I drive and another pax on the way requests a ride, I can pick them up and it somehow splits the fare between the two pax. I wasn’t quite sure how it all worked, but there were no requests while he was in the car. Marty told me that he’s actually an Uber driver and that Uber pays better and how you can get a $500 referral credit if you bring in new drivers. I’m pretty sure he was angling to try and get me to sign up so that he could get his referral fee, but I politely explained to him that I’m fiercely loyal and feel like driving for both companies would be more of a pain in the ass then a reward. Perhaps I’m naïve, but that’s just me.

My next fare was a pick up at the North Hollywood Metro Station in the Arts District. “Henley” had just moved out here three weeks before from Miami and got a gig working for a payroll company in downtown LA. A fresh-faced 18 year old with the world at her fingertips, I was in awe of her adventurous spirit to travel so far from home. She explained that she was the baby and her mom was really nervous about her coming out west. She said that her mom’s birthday was in a few months and that she had gotten her a ticket to come see her as a surprise but that she and her friend and her friend’s brother were getting ready to move into a 3 bedroom house for the low, low price of $2,600/month. Jesus, LA is expensive.

My final fare of the early evening before I made my way back home was from a couple of foreign film students. They attend the film school I took a tour of a few years back when I was entertaining the idea of trying my hand at screenwriting. From Burbank to West Hollywood, it took us nearly an hour. I guess getting paid to sit in traffic isn’t a bad deal though.

The following evening, I got a few regular requests. Of course, one of them was Artie and the other was “Jax,” a young guy who works for a solar company here in town who’s without a license because of a DUI. My third fare request came from the mall. “Prama” did not have a profile photo but did have a 4.7 rating. I waited a few minutes before seeing an Indian couple head toward my car with a car seat in a shopping cart.

When the front door opened, Gus appeared with a big smile on his face to greet me while his wife pulled their 9 month-old baby out of the stroller. “Every time I need to talk to you, you always come to pick me up!” He exclaimed gleefully. I smiled back and asked if he needed me to pop the trunk for him since they had some bags and baby belongings. He declined, and said that he could get everything in the backseat.

As he was fitting the car seat in my backseat, the shopping cart rolled down the curb and hit the side of my car. I was less than thrilled with that, especially since neither Gus nor his wife apologized for it. Once he secured their little one in his seat, Gus took the front and his wife sat in back. He directed me to an Indian restaurant so that he could grab some take out for them and asked if I would wait and I said of course. He was back in less than a minute because apparently the restaurant was closed.

We made our way to another Indian restaurant not far from our location. On the way, he told me that he had not heard back from my attorney friend and didn’t know what was going to happen at his next court date. I said that I had not heard from that friend in a while and was not aware of why his calls were not being returned. I could only surmise that Gus was a bit of a pain in the ass, and that’s why my friend was not interested in taking the case. I waited in the car with his wife while he went and ordered their dinner. It was an awkward silence as I know she does not speak English very well.

When he returned and put the baby back in the car seat, the boy immediately became fussy. Before I got them home, mom had pulled the baby out of the seat and was trying to calm him down. Now, I don’t have a problem with a fussy baby, but taking him out of the seat is just not cool. Once I got them home (safely I might add), Gus once again shook my hand and thanked me for the ride and for looking into the lawyer issue once again. They got out of my car and I immediately gave Gus’s wife’s account a 3 star rating and left a very nasty comment about her taking the kid out of the car seat. I’ll never get a request from her again.

My final fare that night was a very cool couple from Las Vegas who were riding on the boss’s dime from Johnny Garlic’s to a trailer park on the edge of town. “Mike” and “Erin” were awesome and graciously tipped me for the long haul during which they regaled me with stories about their recently divorced boss and his horrible ex-wife and the evil new girlfriend he had.

Imagine my surprise when I again saw that my driver rating had again dropped! Then I began to do some investigating to find out if there was a pattern since most of my fares were from regulars who love me. And just as I suspected, Gus was not giving his guardian angel the rating she deserved. I discovered that my rating dropped every time I gave him a ride. Every time. This mother fucker was a two-faced little shit and cannot be trusted. At least that’s what I’ve convinced myself about him. He was always so pleasant and nice, even if a little paranoid and weird, but it’s pretty clear that he had been scoring me at four stars no matter how much he said he appreciated my service.

I have yet to get him as a pax again, but trust me when I say, his rating will not be nearly as kind as the one I gave his wife. But knowing who his lawyer is, the guy probably ended up in jail by now.

In my last post, you may remember me writing about Adam, the good looking gay guy who had just ended his relationship with the married man. Well the last day of July, I picked him up once again from that popular Mexican restaurant and he came swaggering out and looked to be in a much better mood than when we first met.

He got in the car and we exchanged pleasantries and I commented on how he looked much happier this time around.

“You’re not still messing around with that married guy, are you?”

His eyes widened with a nervous smile before admitting that was who he was just seeing since the guy works at that restaurant.

“Oh no! Adam!” I said disappointed.

“I know! But I just can’t let him go, and it’s been really good between us these last few days!”

Someone is going to get their heart broken. Over and over again. Such a bad situation all the way around.

One of my final fares of the night was yet another one of my DUI clients who told me that she had gone to a karaoke competition and had made it to the second round of the contest that sounded like an opportunity to get an American Idol competition. She was quite tipsy, but I was happy she was being responsible about it. I thought about asking her to sing, but figured if she’s good, maybe I’ll see her on TV soon.

I realize that this post was a lot longer than I anticipated and we haven’t even gotten to August yet. I am going to do my best to try to get a couple more posts in within the coming days so everyone is brought up to speed on my latest adventures, but time is a luxury folks, so you’ll have to bear with me.

Be well, be kind, and be good. Until next time…

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