07 Aug Uber Driver Series Part 2
It’s your typical busy day in downtown Washington D.C., a sunny lunch time where men are jacketless, clad in strictly black, and women in office suits teeter on high heels up and down the road to get a bite to eat from one of the many food trucks.
While I still feel no connection with anyone (only because I never worked a nine to five office job), I do understand that we have one major thing in common…well maybe two. The first is a universal goal: To make as much money as possible to prove to others that we’re very successful, and to buy really large houses that will convince others that we’re just as successful as we want to seem…and then sit in our humungous homes wondering if we “forgot” to be happy while struggling to be successful. And second, We live on the most hated place on the planet. And that’s what worries me. The overwhelming power you feel while in the capital—is also our greatest weakness.
Finishing up my author routine of observing people and striking up random conversations I’m ready to move onto my next target. So I do what anyone feels like talking does, I take an Uber.
My driver arrives quickly. Stupid baseball hat on, shorts, hairy legs—his look culminating with a pair of dingy flip-flops. If only men knew how ugly they looked in shorts. But not only do they not know, most of them are convinced they’re actually hot!
This one isn’t. He’s severely lacking in the looks department, quiet and horribly offensively dressed for the mid-day metropolis of Washington D.C. But he does have one thing going for him. His little car is stocked with water bottles, juices, different flavors of protein bars, hand sanitizer, cookies and even breath fresheners, all perfectly organized in pretty, and easily accessible containers.
I’m wondering if he thinks there will be a snow storm in the middle of the summer and wants to be as prepared as possible. The Uber XL, Uber Black and the upscale, sedans have drivers dressed in suits with fancy manners and water bottles—and this one has everything…except the suit.
I open up the conversation with a basic question: “How’s the Uber business?”
He replies with a direct, “Good, thank you.”
And we go from there.
“Do you meet a lot of people?”
“Any interesting stories?” I ask, notepad by my side.
This obviously wasn’t going to be easy.
“May I please have a cookie?”
“Yes, of course. Help yourself.”
Chewing on a chunky brownie I tell him how considerate it is of him to have all these snacks available— but warned him to be careful. Most millionaires in this town would still kill for a free meal.
He laughs. Finally I got a reaction out of him.
“I know,” he says matter-of-factly. “It’s happened many times…people stealing my cookies, I mean.”
Now I’m laughing hard, visualizing K Street lawyers stealing protein bars from an Uber X driver, realizing how sadly common it probably is.
“You’re the first person to ever politely ask me for a cookie without touching all of them first.”
“Where are you from if you do not mind my asking?,” the unfortunate looking driver asks.
“I’m from Romania. You’re not from around here either.”
“What makes you say that? “
“You’re not rude,” I say.
He laughs. “Thank you. My mother would be happy to hear that.”
“I mean it. You’re not jaded, angry or in a hurry, and your accent is different too.”
“I’m from Texas,” he confessed.
I mull over his answer.
“Why on Earth would you leave big, sunny, happy Texas to come to Washington D.C.? No Uber there?” I asked honestly.
“I got laid off in Texas, so I moved here for the job opportunities,” he admitted solemnly.
“Do you like it here?”
“I’m getting used to this place. I live outside D.C. and it’s still a culture shock. How people talk and how strange the women are here, it’s surreal in many ways.” He went on. “I like how international it is, but I hate how people label you by what you do, what title do you have. They’re ridiculous. So, what do you do for a living? It’s so out of place and irrelevant.”
“Tell me about it,” I replied.. “Here it’s all about money and power. Your job tells me whether you can be useful to me or not. Human connections aren’t valued, networking and social climbing most definitely are.”
“I hate it though”, he says. “You know I’m trying to date and I’m too busy for it. I’m a mechanic and driving an Uber is my part-time job just so I get to know the city. Women always ask me what I do, and when I say I’m a mechanic they leave.
“I’m sorry,” I said. I did feel for him.. “We’re very shallow here. You should say you’re an architect or lobby for a firm or something.”
“No, I don’t want to say that, Actually, I don’t want to talk about what I do at all. It has no relevance to who I am as a person. And I really don’t care what my future girlfriend does either. I just want her to have a good heart, care for me and be respectful and appreciative.”
I paused taking it all in, and asked, “So what kind of a mechanic are you?”
“I’m a general mechanic. I repair things.”
“Can I be honest with you?”
“I don’t know. Can you?,” he probed.
“Something…actually several things don’t add up.”
“The way you dress contradicts the way you speak. You drive an Uber that has the service of a five star hotel. It doesn’t make sense.”
“Oh. I never thought of it that way.”
“So, are you a spy or something?,” I joked.
“No, I really am a mechanic. I just got off this morning at 3 am and was bored at home. So I work as a driver to see people. I make a little extra money too, but I give it away.”
“So you’re not a car mechanic then?”
“Well, I’m more of an engineer actually.”
Ok. That sounds legit, I thought to myself.
“What kind of an engineer? Who do you work for if you get off work at three in the morning?”
“I work for the military.”
“Wow, really. I finally notice the muscles on him. Thank you for your service,” I respond impressed.
“So are you a pilot? Do you fly planes?”
“No, I only fix them.”
“Wow, you fix planes for the military. That’s awesome.”
“What kind of a planes? Big, small, helicopters?”
“I’m the chief engineer for Airforce One,” he says casually.
“You’re kidding me! Why didn’t you say so from the beginning? Oh my god. I’m going to tell everybody I rode with you. You’re literally one of the most impressive people I’ve met in this town. Do you ride with the President? Does he trust you with his plane? Oh my god, I’m just so excited and I literally just can’t hide it!”
I tell him I’m regretting we reached my destination.
“Do you have to kill me now that I know what you do, or am I okay?” I asked a bit worried.
“You’re okay,” he responds with the same faint smile.
“Well, thanks for a great conversation and an easy ride.”
I got out of the car reflecting on the amazing conversation.
“And thank you ma’am for riding with me…and not stealing my cookies.”