Skip to main content

Volume Is Always A Concern

Trip length: 8 (or 14) minutes. Trip distance: 1.4 miles.
Fare: $9.02. Year: 2017
Song of the trip: “Dad I'm In Jail” by Was (Not Was)

Sometimes I make the wrong call on whether or not to pick up a fare. Every time I show up to a location, I have to make a snap judgment - is this safe, or is this going to be the kind of fare that gets me into serious trouble?

99% of the time, it's a very easy call to make. Some people going out for dinner in nice clothes, some people in clothes that used to be nice coming home from the bar late, people going to or from a concert, people with bags full of groceries to take home, people going to or from the airport... It's almost second nature that they're just people and the situation isn't going to be dicey.

And then there's the 1%.

It's a well-known fact I hate 1%. One percenters, 1% odds of failure, you name it... just the number and the symbol are enough to give me the jitters.

So I suppose I truly should've known better.

But even I make mistakes, as long as I've been at this. And tonight's gonna be one of them.

The pickup stop is the Greyhound bus terminal downtown, and it's just after midnight on a Friday night. It's that semi-lull between people surging towards and away from the bars, so I'm expecting I'm picking someone up from a cross-country bus and driving them the rest of the way home, which is why I'm not at all surprised to see a guy with a bunch of bags approaching the car.

As he gets closer to the car, my paranoia sense starts to tingle a bit. Maybe it's the disheveled look to him, the fact that the beanie he's got pulled down over unruly, unwashed hair that seems to be jutting out at all angles, or maybe it's the fact that he's got a spare pair of shoes tied around one of the straps of his backpack by the laces.

All in all, he looks less like a passenger and more like a hobo.

He taps on my front passenger window to get me to roll it down, something that already makes me not like the guy. He could've just waved; I was about to roll down the window anyway when I saw him get close. "Are you Billy? I'm Grant."

"That's me. You want to put all that in the trunk?"

"Nah, I'll just put it in the back with me. I don't like letting my possessions out of my sight." He moves to open the back door and tosses in his stuff one bag at a time, and by this point, it's too late to turn him away, really. Turns out he's carting two backpacks and a pair of duffel bags with him. I'm not sure how he can move around with all of it, but he seems to be doing. "Down to Los Gatos," he says, climbing in and pulling the door shut after him.

When I swipe the button to start the trip, the odor of the guy hits me like a sucker punch to the back of the head, and it takes all my willpower not to start coughing immediately. I do roll down my window right away, however, even with the cool autumn air outside. I'll gladly endure that over this reek.

I start to maneuver my way out of downtown when the guy in the back starts to make a phone call. I realize it's harsh to say, but it's true - I'm surprised the guy had a cellphone. I was half expecting the request for pickup to have come from someone else.

"Dad, it's Grant. I'm on my way to the house." Okay, just a normal 'letting you know I'm on the way' ph- "Because, DAD, I have the right to live in the fucking house too! You have a very nice house in the Los Gatos hills and there's plenty of fucking room in it, even with your whore of a third wife!" Uh oh.

The volume is starting to get a little loud, so I clear my throat and say, "Sir, I'm going to need to keep your voice down." I've got a pretty deep voice, something nice and bassy, and usually that's enough to do the trick. Seems like that's not gonna be true tonight, though.

"Then you can give me some fucking money for a hotel room! You're an asshole, dad! It's not even like that! I've been sober for two fucking weeks! ... No, I am not going to use it on fucking drugs! You OWE me!"

"Last warning."

We're getting close to the turn onto 280, which will take us over to 17 and down to Los Gatos, which means once I'm on a freeway with him, I'm probably stuck with him the whole way.

"Maybe I'll just come to the fucking house and throw rocks at the goddamn windows until you come out and let your own fucking flesh and blood into the fucking house he grew up in, you unbelievable PRICK!"

I suddenly swerve the car over to the side of the road from the left lane, stopping sharply and putting the car into park, while tapping my blinkers on. "Okay, get out of my car. You're done."

"What the fuck are you talking about? Take me to my fucking dad's place NO DAD I'M NOT FUCKING TALKING TO YOU! You're getting me kicked out of my fucking Uber!"

A black-and-white apparently saw my sudden swerve and pops his lights on and scoots in behind me. I sigh, gripping the wheel as I feel the side spotlight on my rearview. I don't know why cops do this, other than to try and disorient people. I can't tell how far the officer is from my car, but I know the officer can see the Uber trade dress (that's the sticker and/or light with the symbol on it that we're required to have in both the front and the back when we're on duty) in my back window.

"Now there's a fucking cop coming over here, you asshole!" The guy keeps shouting at me as I roll down my window while the cop walks up. "What happened back there?"

I sigh. "I'm kicking this guy out of my-"

"This Uber driver's being a shithole, just like my fucking father!"

I tilt my eyes up at the officer and turn my palms upward in a surrender motion, and he gives me a sigh in return. The cop shakes his head then says, "I'll handle this. Sir, can you step out of the vehicle please?"

"Yeah, you hear that you fucking shitty driver? You're going to fucking jail!"

"Sir," the cop says, the exasperation in his voice threatening to boil over, as he shines his flashlight on the mess of a human sitting behind me. "I'm speaking to you. Please exit the back of the vehicle immediately."

"What?! What the fuck did I do?"

"Last warning, sir."

The guy can see the cop's other hand is already at his waist, so he could get his pepper spray, his baton or his service weapon, depending on what the situation calls for, so he opens the door on the side away from the cop and starts to get out, as the officer looks at me, pity in his eyes. "Gimme a couple of minutes to get this handled and to get your statement, and then I'll send you on your way, alright?" he says to me, sympathetically.

"No problem, officer. Glad you were here so I didn't have to drag him out myself."

"You still charging him for the fare?"

I cock my head to one side. "Haven't ended the trip yet."

"Don't. Don't end it until I release you."

I chuckle a little bit. It's the bare minimum but it's still a buck or two, and it's something. "My man."

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Worst Kept Bay Area Secrets

Trip length: 18 minutes. Trip distance: 4.4 miles.
Fare: $16.78  Year: 2018. Song of the trip: “Rain Street” by The Pogues

So I told you that last story to tell you this one. Normally on Saint Paddy's Day, I turn on my phone to a playlist of Irish music that I like (The Pogues, Black-47, The Chieftains, Flogging Molly, Dropkick Murphys, etc.) and I'm stuck ferrying people who are so blisteringly drunk they have trouble finding the door handle to get out of the car. I figured I'd get at least one good story to tell you, but this wasn't the one I was expecting. There were loads of drunks, but they weren't the most entertaining fare I had on St. Drunkard's Day.

One of the most common things that happens when people get in the car is they want to hear a story. "Tell me about the craziest thing that's ever happened in here." "Have you ever been threatened?" "Has someone thrown up in your car?" "Has anyone tried to have sex back h…

The Time Someone Tried To Scam Me

Trip length: 0 minutes. Trip distance: 0 miles.
Fare: $3.75  Year: 2016. Song of the trip: “Liar Liar (It Takes One To Know One)” by Taking Back Sunday


You can't cheat an honest man, they say. They say that, of course, because that's another lie someone trying to con you will tell you. It's better to believe the old proverb "A fool and his money are easily parted." Well, let me tell you, Old Man Billy's nobody's fool.

I am always suspicious.

The fare's name is Michael, and he's supposed to be over at 5th and Santa Clara, right in front of the San Jose City Hall. Stopping on Santa Clara street on a Friday night at 9 p.m. is a dangerous option, though, so I turn onto 5th St. and pull over on the side of the street just a little bit away from the corner, and flip my blinkers on.

It's not uncommon to have to wait a few minutes, so I'm about to get my book out when the phone rings. I answer it, fully expecting it to be some drunken passenger who&…

A Question Of Etiquette

Trip length (pool): 24 minutes / 18 minutes. Trip distance (pool): 12.4 miles / 8.8 miles. Fare (pool): $16.73 / $13.55 Song of the trip: “Butterfly On A Wheel” by The Mission

One of the questions I'm most asked as a driver is what's a good rule of thumb on when to choose a Pool fare (where you have the possibility of sharing the car with other random passengers, but pay less) versus when to choose an X fare (where you pay a little more, but have the entire car to yourself). 
Things in Pool's favorYou pay a lower rate, which is good for long trips that might sting the wallet!You get to meet interesting people! Things in X's favor You don't have to worry about detours that can add up in delaying your arrival time!You can change your destination en route or even add additional stops! You don't have to meet interesting people!
I pull up to a trailer park in Sunnyvale on a Friday night, looking for someone named Connor. I glance at the phone again, and the little m…