The other night, I had a strange lady climb into my car, cutting off the people I was supposed to pick up. It was Chinatown at 3AM. People were everywhere. I saw my pick-up, "Jeff," on the map. In actuality, "Jeff" was a foursome of hip youngsters. One of them, presumably the real Jeff, was waving his phone at me. I slid over, cool as a cucumber, on Burnside between some construction cones and a big orange sign. My riders were five feet away, next to another big orange sign that straddled the sidewalk. Then, this lady just stepped right in front of them. Well, first she pushed past them, caught her heel on the big orange construction sign, and ate shit on the sidewalk right at Jeff's feet. Boom! Then, she stood up, opened my side door, and fell in. She was half in and half out of the car, laying sideways on the back seat, and she said, "Take me to Roxy's."
"Are you Jeff?" I ask, amiably.
Several things were obvious: she was extremely well-off, she was not a natural blonde, she was three sheets to the wind, and she obviously was not Jeff.
"Pick up for Jeff." I say this loudly past her and out through the still-open door. Jeff was still standing on the sidewalk with his three friends, watching with amused interest. The lady was having trouble getting into the backseat. Jeff's friend stepped over and helped her get upright.
Jeff waved from the curb, "It's OK. Go ahead. We'll catch another one."
"No," I say. "You're already in the system." Then to the lady in back, "It's programmed in. I can't take you to Roxy's. There is a Radio Cab right in front of us. They can take you. I have to get Jeff."
Jeff's friend alerted the cabby, and they helped the lady get out of the car.
"Thanks," Jeff said as he and his friends clambered in.
"No problem," I said. "It doesn't work that way."
It's true, too. When Jeff requested Lyft, he typed in his destination before I got there, and the route automatically appeared on my navigation app when I pulled over. Jeff could see me on the GPS en route, and when I rolled up to the pick up spot all suave-like, Jeff was represented on my GPS by a little yellow figure. Sometimes the rider isn't on the map, and when my blue arrow gets to the rendezvous, there is no little yellow figure patiently waiting. This usually means a friend ordered their ride, or they told me the wrong spot to pick them up.
The first time I picked up someone's friend was at a bar on NW 17th and Kearney. I pulled up and there was no "Jenny" on the map. I waited outside for a few minutes before I caller her. She told me her friend was too drunk to skateboard home, and she thanked me for getting him home safe. Her friend soon came out. He was very drunk and a little stinky. He climbed in back with a backpack and a skateboard, and he was very quiet on the drive back to SE Holgate and Cesar Chavez. The destination was a neglected old house with an apartment on the front, an apartment on the back, and a giant bus behind the house that looked like someone was living in there, too. I pulled into the driveway.
"Which one's yours?" I called back to him. My Lyft app chimed to notify me that Shari was waiting four minutes away.
No answer came from the backseat. The rider had been really quiet the whole trip, and he had sat down right behind me, so I wasn't able to see him in the rear view mirror.
I turned around in my seat to look get a look.
He was slouched down and passed out.
"Sir? Sir? SIR? Hey, Buddy! You gotta get outta my car. There's someone waiting."
He was totally unresponsive.
I unbuckled, climbed out, and opened his door.
I don't touch people. It's a great way to live, and I wish more people did so. "Hey!" I yelled, as I grabbed his board and put it on the lawn. "You're home!" I yelled, as I grabbed his backpack and put it on the lawn.
"Wake up!" Really, what else could I do? I didn't know this guy. I didn't feel it was fair that I had to babysit him. And what about Shari? She was still waiting, four minutes away.
Two things I knew: I wasn't going to touch him, and he was going to get the eff outta my car.
I undid the seat belt, and that got his attention.
He sat upright and looked around.
"We're here," I said.
He looked at me, standing outside with the door open. He looked at the seat, where his gear used to be. "Where's my shit?" I could smell the testosterone surge through him. He was ready to scrap.
"It's right there," I said, pointing to the grass. I've been trying to wake you up forever."
The second time a passenger wasn't on the map, was "Jenny," who requested a ride at SW 3rd and Burnside at about 3AM. I pulled up outside Voodoo Donuts. I pulled up and there was no little yellow figure on the GPS. I called her, and she answered, "Where are you?"
"I'm across from Voodoo Donuts."
"What? Where's Voodoo Donuts?" she asked someone next to her. I heard a man's voice. "Yeah, I'm not there. I don't know where that is."
"I'm right where you said to pick you up."
"Yeah, I couldn't figure out how to do that... Can you just come get me?"
Pause... "Yeah. Sure. Where are you?"
"Where am I?" she asked someone. Man's voice. She said the name of some club I didn't recognize.
"I don't know where that is. What's the cross streets?"
"Yeah. I don't know."
"You don't know?"
"I'm on the corner. Can you just get me?"
Eventually, I got some cross streets out of her, and met her at the corner of 6th and SE Morrison. Some guy helped her in with a "Call me."
"I will," she said and climbed in. As I pulled away, she asked, "Should I call him?"
"Don't call him," I advised.
"I'm not gonna call him," she laughed.
Where are we going?
There isn't a destination set. Where are we going?
It turns out, she was visiting from Colorado. She was using her sister's Lyft account, and she couldn't remember where her sister lived.
"Just get on the highway, she advised, while she searched through her text messages. Right about the time we got to the Morrison bridge, she found the address and programed it up. Ding! Re-routing, announced the app. NE 90 something and Halsey.
We made good time across the town. She was pretty chatty at first. By the time we pulled up at the address, she was quiet.
"Is this the place?"
Dead silence from the back.
"Excuse me. Is this your sister's house?"
Still silence from the back.
I turned around in the seat to look at her.
She was totally passed out.
She did not respond.
I released my seat belt and climbed out of the car.
We were on a very dark street in front of a dark house. Trees blocked the streetlights. The street itself was dirt and rocks, and potholes lay scattered about in the darkness.
I opened the back door. "Ma'am?"
She was passed out in a fetal position on the back seat.
Again, I don't touch people without their permission. That's just how I am. How, then, do I get her out of the car without touching her?
As I pondered this, her phone chimed. Her Lyft app notified her that she had arrived, and that little ping stirred her into consciousness.
She looked around quickly and sat up. Her face transformed from confusion to panic.
"Where are we?"
"... I think your sister's house?"
"This is the address you typed in. Does this look like her house?" I asked in the same voice I use with my kids when I really want them to think about the question.
"What?" She stared hard at the house. "Yeah. Yeah. This is it. Thanks."
That one almost went sideways.