Someone Is Watching Us

Just last week, I got a ride request from Herman in Happy Valley. The Lyft app said he was 10 minutes away.

Sometimes it feels like the system is working against me, like when I spend more on gas than I make from a ride. Often, I drive ten or twelve miles down the highway to pick up a passenger -- just to carry them a few blocks. Once, I drove 18 minutes to Oregon City to pick up a person and drop them off six blocks away. They could've walked six blocks in 18 minutes. By the time I drive back into town, the gas I've used costs more than the amount of money I made on the ride. I learned to take a cost/benefit or a profit/loss approach. I'm not a gambler, and since the final destination doesn't pop up until I get to the rider, I have no way of knowing if I'll make enough to cover the gas.
It's best to take a hard line. An overwhelming majority of the time, I lose money on those rides more than ten minutes away, so I decline anyone who is more than a 10 minutes' drive away.

The Lyft app said Herman was 10 minutes away. Against my better judgement, I accepted it. After I pushed "accept," my navigation app popped up. It estimated Herman was actually thirteen minutes away. Fucker. I almost cancelled the ride, but I was like,  "It's five in the morning. Herman probably just wants a ride to the airport." Most people at five in the morning want a ride to the airport. This probably would be a quick drive down to Happy Valley and then a nice long ride up I-205 to PDX.
Easy money.
Right.

When I pulled up in the apartment parking lot twelve minutes later, a dude walked up to my window and said, "I'm getting this ride for my friend. He's drunk."
Shit, so this probably wasn't an airport ride. I looked at the destination for the ride: NE Grand.
It definitely was not the sweet airport ride I had hoped for. At least it looked like a nice, long drive.
Next, a drunk kid climbed in back -- he seriously looked like a high-schooler. I don't judge. I just try to notice the facts objectively. The man said through my window to the kid crumpled in the back, "I want you to get home safe." Then to me, as I pulled away Herman said, "Get him home safe."
Right.
"This could still work out," I thought. It's a long ride downtown. I could make some cash off this, pick up someone downtown, take them to the airport, and still make it home in time to wake the kids at six.
Before we even got out of the parking lot, the kid was reclining across the backseat. "I just want you to keep trying that number," he told me.
"What?"
"Keep trying that number."
"What number?"
"I gotta find my phone. It's special to me. Just do me a favor, and keep trying it."
"... I don't have your number, dude."
"That phone is very special to me. It was given to me by my ... by someone very special to me. It has special meaning."
I asked for the number, and I tried it. We were listening over the car speaker phone. No one answered. It rang about four times and then went to voicemail. Either the phone was dead, or someone declined the call. He had me try again. The same thing happened.
Once out on the highway, the kid revived a little. He sat up and asked, "Hey, can you do me a favor? Can you drop me off somewhere else?"
Shit. "Yeah."
"Can you drop me off at 165th and Division?"
WTF? My ride was getting shorter and shorter. This address was pretty close to where we were. Maybe I could drop him off real quick and get another rider, but it was close to 5:30, so probably not. I typed the new address into the nav app.
"Can you try that phone again?"
Yes. The same thing happened.
"Can you do me a favor?"
Shit.
"Can you take me to the ATM at Mall 205?"
"No."
"I can pay you. I can get some cash."
"Your friend is already paying me. He's paying for this ride. I can take you to NE Grand, or I can take you to 165th and Division."
Sullen silence from the back.
"Where would like to go?"
"165th and Division."
OK.
"I work with that dude. We work together."
I took the Division exit, and the kid was like, "Do you believe in God?"
What? Seriously? Now?
"I guess," I said.
"God Almighty? The Creator of the Heavens and Earth?"
"Well, I don't know about that. I don't believe God is what we think God is, but there is definitely something in control."
"I met a guy last week. He was a Satanist. He said, 'If you believe. I can make all of this go away.'"
"He was going to kill you?"
"He said, 'How many people are killed in God's name? Millions. How many are killed in Satan's name? None.' That's what he said. 'No one has ever been killed for Satanism.'"
Just then, my phone rang. The ring interrupted the music, and it blared over the car speakers. The call was from Lyft. Lyft said I had a call from a rider.
"Hello?" I asked the speaker phone. It was Herman. I had just turned onto Division and was headed East.
"Are you taking my friend home?"
What? No. "Yeah," I lied.
"OK," he said, but he sounded doubtful. "I want him to get home safe," he said and hung up.
Weird. How did he know?
"Do you believe in Satan?" asked the kid in back.
"Not really."
"That's what that guy asked me. 'Do you believe in Satan?' I said I believed in God... and then... my phone disappeared! My phone disappeared out of my pocket. Now, a week later, my phone is missing again! Exactly a week later!"
At this time we were at 165th and Division. There was a gas station, some fast food places, and a giant shopping center. I didn't see any houses, but I was going to drop this guy off immediately.
"Where do you want to be dropped off?" The phone rang again, and the kid in back went totally still.
"Shh. Shh," he said. "Answer it."
I pulled into the shopping center parking lot and hit the answer button.
It was Herman, again. "Are you taking him home?" He asked.
Why lie? "I'm taking him to 165th and Division," I told Herman.
He wanted to talk to the kid.
"Go ahead," I said.
"Hey," Herman said.
"Yeah," the kid said.
"Are you going home?"
"Yeah."
"I just want you to be safe."
"Yeah."
"Hey."
"Yeah?"
"I know you took that money."
"..."
"I just want you to be safe."
"Yeah."
Herman hung up.
"You work with that dude?" I asked the kid.
"Yeah. He used to be my friend. He's not my friend any more."
"OK."
"And I didn't take that guy's money."
"OK."
"Can you do me a favor?"
"Sure."
"Can you take me to my real house?"
"Your real house?"
"Yeah, it's just down on Powell."
I pulled out of the parking lot and got into the turn lane.
"Can you do me a favor and try that number one more time?"
I did. The same thing happened.
"I believe in God. God Almighty. Creator of Heaven and Earth. Do you drink? or smoke?"
"I don't drink, but I do smoke a little marijuana."
"You better give that up!"
I laughed at him. "That shit's good for me."
"You better quit. I quit drinking. I turned my life around. I've been sober for a week and a half."
?
"... Can he see us?"
Somehow I knew he wasn't talking about God. "Yeah, I think he can see us on his Lyft app."
The kid was thoughtful, and then he had me drop him off on the corner of Powell and 165th.
"I believe in God," he said again as he climbed out.
I turned off the app. I was done. It was 5:48 in the morning, and I still had a 20 minute drive home. It was too late to get another passenger. What a morning. I broke my own rule: Never drive more than ten minutes to get someone. Notes to self: Don't let the money tempt you. Someone is always watching.