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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."


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