HAPPY GRADUATION WEEKEND! This is the last lucrative weekend with the majority of students in town before Summer break. It’s a pain in the ass. The town in flooded with people who don’t know how to drive in this city, celebrating and probably a bit drunk behind the wheel. Not to mention a new irritation and danger: the ever-rotating rookie fleet of Uber and Lyft drivers who don’t understand that it’s not okay to park in the middle of a three lane road at a busy green light to load a frat boy waving his phone at them. Please everyone: if you don’t know where you are or what you’re supposed to be doing… pull over, out of traffic.
In an effort to take advantage of this last rush of business before it slows down I picked up a Wednesday night and Thursday night shift on top of my normal Friday, Saturday, and Sunday schedule. Yup, that’s right… my regular schedule is only 3 days per week, but it amounts to about 35 hours, so technically it’s full-time. Being the shittiest/most lucrative days, I need/can afford to have four days off per week. This week, I’m already a bit recharged and rejuvenated from taking a recent vacation, so I felt the cost:benefit was worth picking up the extra stressful days.
On Thursday people were crazy-drunk. I caught glimpses of people holding each other up while walking down the street to the next bar, several men carrying a friend up several steps into their apartment, and several cars pulled over with people puking out various windows or open doors. For the most part, it felt like they were all students, probably cutting loose because they’d finished their last final and their parents hadn’t arrived yet… so might as well kill all those expensively loaded brain cells before becoming a responsible adult, right?
Later in the evening on Thursday I was cruising around looking for people who needed a ride. My plan was to park in front of a music venue that had a bunch of people hanging around outside until either someone came up to me or my dispatcher gave me a call in the area. A block before I got to the music venue, someone started waving their phone at me, mid-phone call. I pulled over and didn’t mind waiting the couple minutes while (I figured) they ran inside to snag their friend(s). This bar also had other people milling around, so it was a safe bet to park and wait for a few.
“Are you my Uber for Alex?” I made up this name, I can’t remember what his name was.
I blinked at him several times, looked him in the eye and said, “I’m a taxi. You waved at me to stop.”
“Oh.” He walked away. I mentally shrugged and went back to playing a cell phone puzzle game. It’s called Two Dots and it’s awesome if you’re interested in playing a cool puzzle game.
Several minutes went by and he came back around, “Are you my Uber?”
This was where I made my (-_-) face. “No, I’m a taxi. I’m waiting for anyone who wants a ride somewhere. Would you like to go somewhere?”
“Uh… yea! Can we go to [insert downtown bar here]?”
On the way, his friend started saying things like, “man, [John Doe] better score us some Blow, or I’m never coming back to Madison again!” And, “That blow we had was TERRIBLE.” I was less than impressed. The rest of the conversation was jumbled, scattered, and obnoxiously too loud for inside a car.
I pulled up across the street from their destination because it was the only safe place to park out of traffic, I double checked with them that they knew where they were headed and point at the bar. They said yes and I see them about to jump out of the car, so I quickly locked the doors. I’m so good at this now. I caught them as the car doors half-opened, still latched, and the locks kept them inside. I’m a ninja.
“Six sixty-five, please,” I said.
“What? Uh, can you put it on my card?” Said the original space-cadet.
“OH I LOVE THIS SONG!” Said the other and they both say loudly, in unison, “TURN IT UP!” A Beck song had come on my Pandora.
“Pay me seven dollars.”
“Turn it up!!” Said the blow hole.
“Yea, can you put it on my card?” He didn’t move.
I stared at him a moment and realized what’s happened.
“You need to give me your card.”
“Oh. I thought this was an Uber.” (-_-)
Space-cadet lunged at my dash, and in my reflexive self-defense I throw my arm back through the center of the front seats, aiming to create a barrier by putting my hand on the top of the passenger front seat. I’ve had people snatch my keys out of the ignition (yes, while the car was on… they turned the key quick and pulled it out), grab my dinner, try and grab things out of my visor (where I keep my change), and take my clipboard. While my arm was in flight this time, my wrist bone connected with face.
Looking into the back seat, I saw Space-cadet’s eyes wide with surprise, watery from pain, and he had his hand over his nose. I had clocked him in the nose. Calmly, I said, “Do you see all this?” I made a circular motion with my hand over my radio, dispatch computer, meter, and dash. He nodded. “It’s mine. Pay me seven dollars.”
He turned to his friend and said, “you better give her eight dollars.” They shuffled around and found cash. I unlocked their doors and they mumbled things like, “I wasn’t trying to get hit tonight,” and, “damn she’s feisty.” Through all of this, I had no irrational urge to apologize. I’m more than a little proud of that.
Later in the evening I picked up a group of 5 on their trip home from a downtown college bar. I had brought them to the bars earlier, so they were excited to see me (even though we didn’t interact much, people are always thrilled at the coincidence of a familiar driver). It took them several minutes to find their lost friend, but once everyone was in, doors started closing… hard.
“Um. Can you open your door dude?” Said the guy in the back seat to the guy in the front seat.
“‘Cause my hand is in it,” he said calmly.
Disbelieving laughter erupted from the guy in the front seat as he simultaneously opened his door and looked behind him. The ladies in the far back seats erupt and there was a mixture of concern, pained laughter, actual laughter, and shock.
“You better fix me, dude, since you’re a doctor now.”
“Oh yea,” I say, “Didn’t they say you were a life guard on the way up town?”
“I’m in chiropractor school… SOME of those people think they can fix EVERYTHING but I’m not one of them!”
“Well I’m sure glad I’m drunk! This is gonna hurt tomorrow!” Said smooshed-hand guy.
During the course of the ride it was established that he was pretty sure there wasn’t anything permanently wrong and it was going to make a HILARIOUS story later when he told friends that people were getting arrested at the bar and he made a quick get-away in a cab and his hand was the only casualty.
Unfortunately, I didn’t elude the theme of pain Thursday night. Somehow I had a stowaway passenger. A large bug slipped down the back of my sweater and bit my neck and back four times before either escaping or being smooshed. At first I thought it was an itchy tag in my sweater, but I felt a weight moving around after I adjusted the tag. Three more bites followed. It’s been warm during the days recently, and something might have flown into the windows while they were open and waited for this VERY opportunity.
It’s fairly common for me to see spiders inside my cab in the Spring and Summer, sometimes on my dash or inside my windshield, while I have a passenger. It’s INCREDIBLY hard to keep my cool in these situations. I usually pull the car over and take care of murdering it before it murders me when this situation arises. Sometimes they’re more sneaky than I like.
See? My job has some serious hazards. Spiders.