Everybody’s got a hustle.
I used to take a cab, once my friend Jeff told me there were coupons for flat rates. Before that I took SuperShuttle, I’m willing to travel with my brethren, but it picked you up so early so as to make sure you did not miss your flight and they had to pay off on their guarantee that it was frustrating.
Now I take Uber.
But I’m always worried how early to call one.
It’s amazing how they’ve improved the app. And I know, I know, I should be taking Lyft, since Travis Kalanick does not know how to do the right thing, but the truth is I don’t Uber every day and it’s on my phone and it’s easy so there.
And at first it says cars are 9 minutes away, then 4, then 3, and I don’t want to make the driver wait, fearful of getting a low rating, so I wait until the last minute to request a car and then find out that the time for pickup has lengthened and I start to get uptight.
And I really got uptight when traffic was gridlocked.
It’s not like the old days, where you guesstimated. I looked it up on Google Maps, I don’t trust Apple, the time is always wrong, and everything looked copacetic but now we were not moving and I was getting spilkes and how far in advance do you have to get to the airport for an international flight anyway?
And usually I’m chatting up the driver, looking for that good rating, but I had a lot on my mind, but the guy started to talk…
After putting my bag in the trunk. A taxi driver does this reluctantly, I almost didn’t have the balls to ask, but this guy picked up my overweight suitcase, I travel heavy, and slid it right into the trunk and the truth is we supposedly live in a divided country but one on one, we so often get along.
And he wanted to get me there fast.
So he scooted over towards Centinela.
And when that didn’t work he doubled back to 19th Street and I’m freaking that we’re wasting time all the way, but I don’t want to be tell him what to do, everybody hates a boss, I want to get along.
And while we’re waiting to merge onto Walgrove, this guy continues to talk.
Now I still haven’t figured out the profile for Uber drivers. I’ve had name actors and nobodies. Lesbian basketball players and kids taking time off from college. You know where on the socioeconomic scale your taxi driver is, but your Uber driver?
And for those who don’t live in SoCal, you’ve got to realize, it’s ultra-casual. No restaurant requires a jacket and tie, and when your Uber driver picks you up wearing shorts and a t-shirt, flip-flops on his feet, you don’t know if he’s declasse or he just grew up here.
Mine grew up here.
But he lived in Sweden. For sixteen years. He played professional basketball.
Everybody’s got a twist to their tale. They tell us we’re all alike, pigeonhole us, but each of us is unique with our own special story and if you’re curious, you can hear it.
He played at SMCC. Then transferred to Hawaii. And then got a gig in Upsala, the college town, where he played 33 games a year, 10,000 in all he figured in his lifetime, and he had to have a second job but he was thrilled to be doing what he loved.
What a concept, people pay lip service to it, but rarely follow this precept. Because they’re too scared.
And he met a woman and had a child and that kid is now twenty and plays in a band, successfully. He posted a pic on his Facebook page but his ex was pissed off, because the band wears masks and are supposedly unidentifiable and some things never change, parents never get it right.
And then he met some woman in Brazil. I never did hear how he got to South America, but this led to a discussion of travel and the old saw is travel is for the rich, but that ain’t so, and this guy was saying how it broadened his horizons and he just got back from three months in Sao Paolo and…
This is a new woman. An ex-dancer. The appeal? The zest! That’s what’s missing in our celebrity hype, we’re led to believe looks and cash are the sole appeal. But the truth is that only goes so far, we want personality, we want life, we want our adventure on the planet to thrill and complete us, we want an E-ticket ride.
But she’s uber-jealous. And that’s a problem, but he just can’t let go.
So he’s driving for the cash, so he can get back there. He can make a grand a week, but he’s working all the time. His friends say he’s crazy, but he’s determined. Ain’t that always the truth, people inured to the old ways judge you, they want to be free but they can’t.
And his plan is…
To import cars. He was reluctant to reveal the details, which he eventually did, and I don’t want to blow his cover, but there’s a vehicle down there that he can buy cheap and bring back and sell for beaucoup bucks.
But you can’t bring that particular vehicle into California and there might be further regulations and he’s investigating it.
Everybody’s got an angle, everybody’s got a dream. And some of them come true. Used to be America was about working for the man, but then the man stopped caring about you and it was every person for themselves but the truth is you can divide the country into two types of people, sheep and independent thinkers. The sheep want to be told what to do, and the independent people don’t want to be constricted.
And in theory his plan makes sense. But the devil is in the details. But I’m sitting there listening and wondering, is the joke on me? Am I a sheep in independent clothing, do I pooh-pooh the indie ideas, talk about the long odds, believing if I have the idea someone else does too, and is the end result I’m left out?
Then again, he got in trouble with his girlfriend because ______ sent two _________ machines instead of one and he gave the extra to a woman who gave him a hammock, thinking it was a fair exchange for a friend, and I’m wondering if I’d do this, all of it, keep the extra machine, trade it for a hammock and I’m thinking…
These are the stories that make up America. Everyone’s got a tale and they’re all fascinating. And he who looks like a loser may end up a winner and vice versa. And you can judge people, but they know more than you think they do.
And the truth is our wits can deliver us from poverty, can grease the skids of happiness, as long as you make the effort.
Ain’t that America.
The land of hopes and dreams.