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A Chance Encounter

Off duty
ARCO Gas Station - 2018
Song of the Moment: "When You Were Young" by The Killers

It's a Friday night, just around midnight, when I'm pulling into the familiar ARCO down on 11th and Santa Clara St. The gas prices here are still lower than any place in the Bay that isn't a CostCo, and they're certainly all closed this time of night.

I've just got the pump started when a voice calls out behind me. "Billy! Long time no see, man!"

I turn to glance over my shoulder and a familiar face is barreling up towards me. "Carlos. Jesus, what the hell are you doing here?"

"What do you mean, what am I doing here? I'm stopping to get gas in the middle of a twelve-hour shift. I haven't seen you over at the 7-11 in months." Carlos is certainly a bit stockier, and there are unmistakable heavy bags underneath his eyes. "Man, have I had a crazy year so far. All sorts of weird fares, people doing loads of heinous things. What abo…
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Forget What They Told You

In-between trips - 2016 ARCO gas station Song of the moment: “Rookie Of The Year” by Funeral For aFriend
The cheapest place to get gasoline in downtown San Jose (assuming you aren't going to a CostCo) is reliably the ARCO on 11th and Santa Clara. The station itself is never open, but the pumps run 24 hours, and the low price means it's a hotbed for Uber and Lyft drivers in the know to get fueled up. As I'm pulling the car into the spot in front of pump 5, I see a Prius pulling into pump 7 with an Uber sticker in the front window.
The guy who hops out of the front sees the sticker in the right rear of my window and smiles. He's a portly little Hispanic guy in his early 30s, and he barrels over to me, stabbing out at me his hand. “A fellow driver! I'm Carlos!”
I chuckle a little, taking his hand and shaking it. “Billy. Let me guess, Carlos. You're pretty new at this.”
He tips his head to one side. “How can you tell?
I point towards his car. “No sticker in the r…

The Story I Tell The Most

Trip length: 56 minutes. Trip distance: 4.8 miles. Fare: $21.37 (Surge: 1.6x) Year: 2015 Song of the trip: “Forever” by The Charlatans UK
I pull the car up in front of La Victoria Taqueria on San Carlos St. between 3rd and 4th. It's right off the San Jose State University campus, and a short distance walk from the strip of bars over on 1st St, and it's open until 3 a.m. most nights. The name on my phone says Taylor so I don't know if it's a guy or a girl I'm picking up. Kids these days. Better than the tech bros, I guess.
There's actually enough space for me to pull in front of La Vics and wait, so I bring the car up against the curve and turn the blinkers on. Most of the time, Lac Vics pickups are college students who need a lift home, and they're short drives, so you can get a number of them in quick turnaround during surge pricing. But sometimes you gotta wait.
The timer is on. 2:18 a.m. Five minutes until they're officially a no show, and I can s…

Times I've Almost Gotten Into A Fight, Pt. 1

Trip length: 18 minutes. Trip distance: 1.1 miles. Fare: $9.82. Year: 2015. Song of the trip: “Enjoy The Silence” by Failure
So this doesn't look great, I gotta be honest. I'm outside of The Brass Rail in Sunnyvale, waiting for someone named Dale, and it's 2:25 AM, which means the place has been closed for almost half an hour now.
Opinions of The Brass Rail vary a great deal, but I've never been in there, so I can't testify to whether or not it's any good. It's a bikini bar – there are a number of these places scattered over the Peninsula, but I've never really understood the appeal. If you want a strip club, go to a strip club. If you want a bar, go to a bar. But these bikini bars are a weird half-way zone between the two, and they don't seem to satisfy either desire if you ask me. But they've been around since 1960, so I suppose they must be doing okay for themselves.
I've been out here three minutes now, so this Dale fella's got tw…