Monday, April 20, 2015

Drunk Psychic

There are a lot of types of drunks and it's always interesting to learn about which side comes out when you're drinking with new friends - or strangers - for the first time. An exaggeration on one aspect of someone's personality takes over like a caricature of the parts they usually mask better with self-awareness and pre-frontal cortex filtering. Kinda like the Oscar-worthy 1996 Michael Keaton performance in Multiplicity where you can hope your husband drunkenly transforms into a Rico clone who loves to cook and clean, but you usually end up babysitting a Lenny...

I've seen them all and obviously some are better than others. I have zero tolerance for the aggressive bar fighters, blatant assholes and cheaters; I get mildly annoyed by the criers and the disappearing acts (both of which I'm guilty of...sorry, Battles!); but I generally enjoy hanging out with the flirts, the gigglers, the dancing queens, the frisky ones, and...the psychics!

On one such encounter, I was driving around Uptown when I got a ding from Kate. I pulled up to see a solo female hanging outside a common party bar and, as I've mentioned before, she was super grateful to see a female Uber in her especially inebriated state. 

"Oh my Gawwwwd, THANK you for picking me up! I owe you like SO much," she dramatically declared as drunk twenty-something girls tend to do, "Oh I know! I'll tell you your future! I'm, like, a psychic you know."

"Oh wow," I said with feigned amazement, "yeah I'd love to hear about it! What do you need to know from me?"

"Nothing - I already know....." pause for effect... "EVERYTHING! Like get this: I know that YOU have kids and dog."

"Did you get that from the stuffed animals in the hatchback and stray doghairs on the seats?" I said assuming that we were both in on the joke now that she's not really a psychic.

"No," she said clearly offended, "I TOLD you, I'm a psychic, so I just know. Do you want to hear your future or not?"

"Sorry, go on," I said a little embarrassed even though I knew I was still more right and more sober and had no reason to feel like a jerk for calling her out.

"OK, you're in a crossroads of your life. You don't know which road to take," Wow, I thought, this was getting deep and insightful to the impending divorce and career decisions I had to make, maybe she's onto something! "But lucky for you, no matter what path you choose, you will be really happy....but it will be kinda tough, too, sometimes." Oh, thanks, I mean, I know psychic advice is generally vague, but this was a new low just when I was getting my hopes up. 

My disappointment must have been palpable because she didn't attempt any more predictions in the two minutes left to her house. So we drove in silence - me considering how much I didn't know I would have appreciated a real psychic in that moment, and her probably trying to keep from puking as she was coming down from fun drunk to sleepy drunk. 

But I guess she was right - I DO have kids and a dog, I WILL be really happy, and life IS kinda tough, too, sometimes :)

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Sushi Chef

Not all of my favorite stories are crazy drunks and awkward encounters. I get to meet some really accomplished and interesting people who are full of stories that just inspire me and make me believe that there are still hard working and awesome people out there. 

On one such night, I was called to a local sushi spot in Minneapolis for Justin. I pulled up to a group of four friends smoking out front as the restaurant had already closed hours ago. “THAT’S your Uber driver?” said a drunk friend of the ride requestor, “She’s a lot prettier than the middle eastern guys I usually get!” 

“Don’t take our favorite sushi chef away!” called over the girl of the corner group, “he’s the BEST! Are you sure you can’t hang out longer, Justin?” He said he had an early morning, waved like a celebrity back to his adoring fans as he smoothly got into the backseat, and we drove off. 

“So, a sushi chef?” I began the small talk, “that’s definitely a unique profession for, no offense, a white guy in your…20s?” 

“26, actually,” he responded with a smile, “I’ve wanted to be a chef for as long as I can remember and this was just the most fun kind to be!” He went on to tell me that he grew up in small town Wisconsin with nothing resembling a five-star restaurant for miles away. But somehow, he was just born knowing he wanted to create food and cook at this high level of skill and artistry. “There’s a home video somewhere, of me at age THREE grabbing things from the cupboard, mixing them together and making my parents taste the butter/cinnamon/cilantro creation I had made haha!” 

This guy went all though grade school, junior high, high school just KNOWING he would be a chef. Of course it was cute when he was younger, then guidance counselors would recommend he look at something else because they knew it wasn’t the usual tech school or UW path that most kids would take upon graduation, but he didn’t listen and instead, moved to the big city for culinary school, busboy jobs, and persevering toward his dream. 

“So that’s how I ended up a sushi chef – happened to get hired as a busboy at a Japanese restaurant right after I moved here for school, realized this food style was more exciting than anything I had thought up before, and went for it. They let me cook a little as I got through culinary school, the sushi master trained me, and now I’ve managed 3 sushi spots around the cities and made it as head chef at the biggest one.” 

“Wow. That is seriously a huge accomplishment and you should be incredibly proud of everything you’ve done,” I genuinely gushed when he had finished his abridged car ride autobiography. 

“Thank you. I get a lot of compliments on my food, but not on the work it took to get here, so I really appreciate that,” he smiled and gazed thoughtfully out the window as he had a look of reflection on all the things he had really done. We pulled up to his apartment, he thanked me again, and I left with a sense of pride-by-association for this amazing and determined guy that I just got to meet.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Super Bowl

Some drivers do this work as their full time job and make decent money logging 40+ hours a week cruising the cities every day. Personally, I’ve opted for weekends and events only as a supplement to my full time job instead of replacing it. I get more flexibility to decide if it’s worth it to stay sober or skip a party to drive versus taking the night off and hanging out with friends. I had decided early on that I would drive Sunday night for the Superbowl partly because I didn’t care much for getting wasted to watch it and because I thought I’d get a bunch of fun and rowdy cars of guys and bar-goers that would end their night either elated for their team victory or who might need a friendly driver to help assuage their defeated demeanor after a loss. Either way, I flipped my app on before the game to get people where they needed to go. 

My first call was Nathan at the mall. OK, I thought as I envisioned a buff crew cut dude with a goatee or something, he was probably just pre-gaming at the bars around there or maybe ending a day of obligatory shopping and now heading out with the guys for some football. Cool. I turned my radio to the local audio broadcast of the game to help them get psyched up for a night of Hawks v. Pats. When I pulled up, there are two sharply-dressed men (note: NOT in oversized team jersey or "division champ" t-shirts) with arms full of shopping bags who begin striding up to the rear passenger side. They get in, shuffling the 8-10 bags between them. 

“Hey guys!” I start energetically, “Are you headed home to watch the game tonight?” 

“Oh, GIRL!” begins a now very obviously effeminate Nathan, “if you mean the nationally broadcast Katy Perry concert, then hell yes! We have outfits to try on first. How long is a football game…or half…or whatever, what time is she on?” OK, not the macho hyped up dudes I was expecting, but still happy to make the drive with them to Minneapolis. 

As we get on the highway, I realize the Superbowl radio station is still on as they begin the pre-game festivities. The first event is John Legend singing “America the Beautiful”. I can perfectly envision him passionately playing the beautiful piano accompaniment with his smooth baritone voice. Nathan shushed his shopping companion, I turned it up, and we listened in total silence for the 1:35 rendition.

"Oh. My. God! Chills!" Nathan said what we were all thinking as it came to a close. "and his eyes...and his smile....can you IMAGINE him serenading you with that voice? Chrissy Teigen is like, the luckiest straight woman EVER!"

The love and admiration was not so abundant for the National Anthem singer, Idina Menzel which was surprising because she's a big broadway presence and this car seemed like the type of crowd to love her. But a couple flat notes and the demeanor turned pretty harsh. "She needs to take her own advice and let it fucking go," spoke up the feisty, but until now more reserved partner. He opted to speak directly to the radio like a tiny Elsa was there in the radio console, singing her pitchy heart out and extending notes for far longer than any football fan would be willing to tolerate. "Hey Idina - you need to stop trying to do everything ever! It's not gonna happen for you!" hahaha! laughter from Nathan as they agreed that she needs to go back to Wicked and get off the national stages. 

So with that catty exchange, we pulled up to their perfectly pristine Minneapolis apartment and I left them to not watch the game, but psych themselves up for what would prove to be a fierce Katy Perry concert instead.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Punch Out

You don't have to be a driver to know that the closer to 2am it gets, the crazier the bar crowd clientele tend to become. The same people that began the evening with polite and quiet conversations can easily become raucous patrons kicked out of their local joint for bar fights and lewd behavior. Or at least that's what happened to Michele.

I pulled up to the Minneapolis corner to find Michele, a classic 90s-style Lilith Fair kind of beauty in her mid-thirties, along with her similar-looking girlfriend loudly discussing their night over cigarettes and exaggerated hand motions. The slurred high volume conversation continued into the car.

"BaaaaaAAAAaaabe," started Michele's slightly shorter and blonder girlfriend, "I can't BELIEVE they kicked us out!" she said slightly dejected, but mostly drunkenly annoyed. I nudged them on to get details on their night with a casual "OMG, what happened?!"

"What happened is that I have the best. Girlfriend. EVERRRR!" She went on speaking with honest-to-her hyperbole, "So get this: we're at the bar and this guy kept hitting on me. I kept telling him: No, I'm gay. No, I'm here with my girlfriend. No, even if I WAS straight, I wouldn't be into you, and he won't fucking listen. So I go get Michele like for proof or whatever and he STILL kept hitting on me." Now, why she didn't just walk away from the guy at some point during this obviously annoying conversation is beyond me, but asking rational questions to incredibly drunk people usually yields minimal understanding and just more confusion.

"And like, not JUST hitting on her," Michele interjected to clarify, "but like, rubbing her arm and totally eye fucking her up and down and so I finally come over and see it and it starts to piss me off. So I said 'Back off my girlfriend, man' and he thinks it's cute to make some joke about how she'd probably like a threesome or whatever with both of us like most straight guys I punched the fucker in the face."

"I mean..." the girlfriend slowly responded, "it probably LOOKED way worse than it was cause of the bloody nose, we didn't need to get kicked out, but dude still totally deserved it." She was dozing on and off at this point, so my concern turned from their well-being to worries of vomit in my car, but there's only 2 minutes left per the GPS, so I didn't make a big deal out of it.

"He was fine." Michele said definitively. "And I mean, even if it wasn't cause I love her or cause I might be kinda drunk or whatever, I think more guys at bars need to get punched in the face more often. I hope the rest of them took that as a warning to quit fucking with strong women," she clearly stated as a defiant feminist who has probably grandstanded these kinds of causes sober on more than one occasion.

Michele had to wake her girlfriend when we got to their uptown apartment, and as I looked back to make sure they were good, I caught a smile of admiration from her as she awoke and slid out of the car and into the arms of her knight in shining armor. 

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Grilled Cheese

There is a reason females generally don’t sign up for driver jobs like this. Being trapped in a confined space with a random string of drunk men at 2am doesn’t appeal to the average lady. Fortunately for this blog, I’m neither average, nor a lady. I’m up for the challenge, but that doesn’t mean I won’t get my share of creeps and propositions, too. 

When I pulled up to the bar I was requested to, the first person I saw was an incredibly good looking, tall, well-dressed 30-something guy looking up from his smartphone and scanning cars as they slowed. I found myself secretly hoping he was the Greg I was looking for, so imagine my joy when he signaled for me with a cute half-smile and hand raise as he walked up to the car. Be careful what you wish for. 

"Hey, Hottie," he started over-confidently as most attractive guys who know they're attractive do, "You look just as good in person as your driver photo on the app," he said with a pleasantly surprised tone. I was initially flattered, but also cautious because of how much he slurred and assuredly hit on me, like I was the sure thing he was looking for after he was obviously feeling defeated about going home alone from a crowded bar full of hot girls.

"Yeah, bunch of bitches in there, it was time to head home anyways," he answered to a question I didn't ask. My fleeting attraction to him disintegrated at the reference of "bitches" for girls who wouldn't have sex with him, but he was already in the car, he was heading toward my house which means it would be a big fare and paying my gas to get I kept him on board. "It's like my ex-wife, she was the BIGGEST bitch and now she's all like dating my best friend and stuff." He went on for a while about his ex wife and other bitches in his life or recent experiences until we got into his driveway.

"...but they're not like you. You seem sweet. I bet you could change my mind about all women. How about you come inside and I'll pay you you there for the ride."

"Well," I started a little scared being in a secluded dark culdesac with this guy who was moving close enough to my face that I could tell that Jack and Coke was his drink of choice for the night, "luckily, I already have your credit card on file, so no need for physical payment! You're all covered, have a good night!" I tried to make up for the fear with overconfident pleasantry. 

"Ok, ok, ok," he started thinking of a new negotiation tactic to get me in, "How 'bout this: you come inside....and I'll make you a grilled cheese sandwich."

"Grilled cheese! Why didn't you say so?" I said not sarcastically enough.

"Really? That worked?"

"No, asshole, get out of the car."

"OK, but you're missing out! Cause a grilled cheese sandwich sounds fucking fanTAStic right now," and he took the hint to actually stumble out of the car and make himself a delicious grilled cheese sandwich, alone in his big house with no bitches to share it with him.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Party Girls

The first car after Hot Cop was just what I needed - a group of four gossipy overly excited girls my age to rehash the situation.

"OMG, how did you NOT follow him to the bar? He was totally dropping hints, you should definitely go back there!" suggested an overly optimistic petite brunette. "Or you can totally just take us there and we'll swoop in on him." hahahaha! Group laughter from the other three and awkwardly from me because 1) I wasn't totally sure if she was kidding and that I'd need to totally redirect my route from uptown Minneapolis to downtown St. Paul and 2) I suddenly became super insecure because every one of the girls was way prettier than me and could totally go home with him. Not that he was mine in any way, just a weird pang of jealousy for a hypothetical situation concerning a stranger I had a crush on for 15 minutes. 

"And seriously," began the raven haired Kardashian-looking one that occupied the front seat, "you look hot tonight, I can totally tell you did your hair and your eyeliner is legit. Do you get dressed up to pick up guys on purpose?"

"I mean, I want to look decent because it's a job," I started to explain as I hadn't really thought about it before, "but I don't pick up guys and have no intention of it. I think people are just nicer to you when you look nice, ya know? So yes, I make an effort, but not like, with any pickup attempts."

"So you just drive around and get to talk to hot guys all night? Sign me up!" said one in the back as the others agreed.

"Actually, I usually prefer picking up girls because I think a lot feel more comfortable with a female driver anyways, ya know? Like even when a guy doesn't DO anything creepy, it's still uncomfortable being alone in a car with a strange guy at midnight."

"I didn't even think of that," Kardashian quipped, "you're the first girl driver we've had and it's actually way less rapey vibe. You should make a company of just girl drivers FOR girl drivers. Could that be a thing?"

So I've thought a lot about a females only rideshare since then. It's an interesting concept, but are you just creating in invitation for random attacks or abuse if requesters KNEW the driver was going to be a solo female? Would enough girls sign up to drive? Is it sexist to make a company that would only accept female clientele? I mean, none of this will happen because I have no idea where to start, but it was an interesting concept that would actually be a great service for vulnerable girls who need rides home all over. If someone wants to go ahead and get that started and pay me like 50% profits, that would be great!

But, we continued to the original bar (not Hot Cop bar, that was a joke) as the girls each checked their phones selfie cameras to finalize hair volumizing and makeup taming before hopping out of the car in the middle of Hennepin Ave. when we hit a stop light, shouting a quick thanks, and awkwardly strutting into the bar on towering heels and inappropriately short dresses for a Minnesota Februrary night. 

Monday, March 23, 2015

Hot Cop

Tony was a surprise pickup as I was on my way to St. Paul for a surge indication. Surges mean that the ratio of requests to cars available it getting disproportionate and I can make more per ride if I pick up in the surge zone. My app was flipped on, but I wasn't expecting a ding until I got closed to downtown, but there was 5-star Tony, at an apartment just across the river, so I swung off the exit to get him.

I parked out front of his palatial building for a while, sent a quick text to see if he was still coming, and two minutes later, saw the doors open and a tall 30-something with dark features, khaki pants, and a great V taper build under a black shirt and leather jacket came striding toward the car. 

"Oh man, sorry to keep you, mind if I sit in front?" he started with a fantastic Tom Cruise smile. "This is what you get for being Italian and thinking it's a good idea to move your cousins into the building. I can't make it to the fuckin' laundry room without a family reunion now, ya know?"

Incredibly good-looking, family man, no wedding ring, and Italian? How unprofessional would it be to turn off the meter and just propose now?

"So, you're headed to a party bar, celebrating anything special or just for fun?" I asked teasingly as we got on our way.

"It's been a long week at work, so heading out with some of the guys to unwind."

"What kind of work do you do?"

"Oh, I'm a cop for the city," he replied modestly.

Incredibly good-looking, family man, no wedding ring, Italian, AND a cop?! Stop the car, I might pass out. But it gets better.

As we continue with the usual small talk and my music gets to the third song on the soundtrack of our car ride, Tony stops mid-sentence, "Holy shit - is this the Guardians of the Galaxy soundtrack? Best movie of the decade, am I right?" 

Despite driving around replaying the same 12 songs for all my riders, so few people catch that or care, so I respond too enthusiastically, "YES! I LOVED the movie, and KNEW I needed the soundtrack before it even hit Hooked On a Feeling."

"Yeah! That's when Starlord's getting the shit kicked out of him - I thought that, too!" Fleeting visions of which wedding venue could fit hundreds of his Italian wedding guests and have a dancefloor big enough for my German bumper polkaing family begin going through my head. But alas, I got to the bar and I had to let him go.

"This has been the BEST rideshare I've done," he looked over with his great smile and deep laugh lines that give away decades of happiness behind him, "I'm glad you picked me up, maybe I'll catch you again sometime," and he disappeared past the smokers huddled around a heat lamp and into the bar.

As I hung in the parking lot for a minute, waiting for my next call, I texted a friend with a quick recap of my last 20 minutes and finish with "Would it be super creepy to quit for the night and follow this guy into the bar? I already know the answer is yes...and only slightly less creepy than if I go wait at his apartment for him to get back lol! Fired from my job aaaaaand arrested for stalking by Hot Cop..." so I headed toward downtown to wait for my next call.