My Uber Driver

He was coming in an F-150.

I’ve been driving the past two weeks, but Felice’s machine, you see mine is a stick and I’m not quite up to that, but today she needed her Lexus so I had to use Uber.

I’m always uptight about using Uber, especially when I need to be buckled in, I can’t put on the seatbelt myself.

And I’m always worried they won’t come up into the hills, so I book early, and when I saw he was driving a truck…WOULD I BE ABLE TO GET INSIDE?

You have no idea what it’s like having shoulder surgery, most of the pain is in the rearview mirror, although not all, but I can’t tie my shoes, can’t dress myself, can’t take a shower by myself… Now I know what it’s like being old, I’ve got a lot more tolerance and sympathy and respect for the aged and infirm and handicapped.

I wanted to cancel. But would I get charged?

You’ve got a five minute window.

But would I be blackballed, I need a five star rating, I need to get picked up without delay. And if I just re-requested would the same guy pick up the call? And time’s a-wastin’ and I’m becoming paralyzed and I tell myself I’m not buying the pickup truck, I’m only going for a one way ride, so I can make it work, I think…

Turns out there was a step. I didn’t think of that. You can never predict the future, best to put one foot forward, or up in this case, and just soldier on, but I’m so worried about possibilities and pitfalls I can’t get started, I can’t get out of my own way.

And the driver started to get out of the car, to engage my seatbelt, to shut my door, but I ended up being able to do those myself. It’s so hard for me to ask for help, I’d rather do it myself, no matter what the cost.

And the driver was wearing no shirt and the windows were down and I’d prefer the A/C but I was pretty ripe myself, not having showered, being home alone, so I rode with it.

And after issuing some directions I pondered, do I have to talk?

Uber is not new. It’s a service, you pay for it, you get to your destination. But I feel too guilty to sit in silence, I feel obligated to speak, I want the driver to like me, I want a good rating.

“So how long you been driving for?”

That’s always the initial question, the follow-up is “Do you like it?”

But I didn’t get that far in this case. Turns out he’d been doing it for six months, he was feeding his eight year old son’s basketball habit. The kid was in two leagues. And right now his regular business was slow.

“What’s your regular business?”

He turned out to be a personal trainer. With clients in the music business. Sometimes they pay him for six months and then go on tour, that’s the best of all possible worlds.

So I told him this was my world and I asked him who.

And he proffered some names I knew, he kept on coming up with people I knew, shocking how small the world truly is.

So now I figure I’ll learn something, find out about the personal trainer business.

And I did.

If you start from zero, you need five sessions a week. No one sticks to the plan alone, you need the guy there. It’s $35 an hour if he comes to your home, if he hikes with you it’s $60. You don’t need machines, he can make it work, it’s all about the client’s desire.

He said he went to school for it.

But when I asked him where, he uttered the name of a highly-respected Beantown institution and I’m reevaluating my opinion of him when he tells me that’s not where he learned how to be a physical trainer.

He graduated and came to L.A., to housesit for a well-known musician who he grew up with who was on the road. And after working at a financial institution he became sick of being indoors and took a job fighting forest fires.


That’s right, for six years. It was seasonal business, but he ended up getting full time work TRAINING firefighters after getting his certificate.

So now I’m learning that you wear your regular clothes, with a Nomex suit over that, and you’ve got a fifty pound pack and a shovel and you sometimes have to hike miles to the fire. Sometimes they drop you off by helicopter, but it’s extremely strenuous nonetheless. You have to dig lines. And sometimes you have to sleep, you see firefighters are 24 hours on and 24 hours off.

So you dig a six inch hole and then put your fire resistant tent atop it. You breathe down into the hole. You hope the fire jumps over you if it comes your way. And fires are unpredictable, they’re constantly hopping around.

“It’s dangerous, right?”

You’ve got no idea. He saw a guy slice off his arm with a chainsaw, he fell off a ten foot cliff in the middle of the night, you never know what you’ll encounter.

But then the driver got married and had his son and he doesn’t want to be away from home that long so he became a personal trainer.

And not only did I get an education, I found out where he grew up, where he lived in the Bronx and Manhattan, all about his relationships and then…

We were at my destination.

He gave me his card, in case I wanted to work out.

Needless to say, I’m in a sling and I’m not doing anything for a while. But I’m interested and I feel obligated and who knows?

But what I do know is I was in an awful mood when he picked me up but when I was dropped off I was on top of the world. Life is about people, everybody’s got a story, makes me want to take Uber every day just to hear them.

P.S. My return ride was in a Kia mini-SUV with A/C so good I did not want to get out. This guy said he was an actor, times were slow so thirty days ago he began to drive. But I’m figuring he’s too old to be a complete wannabe, so I tell him this and he gives me his credits, he was on a series for six years, every episode, even directed some, he had guest shots on household name shows, he could touch his pension but his accountant said to wait until 65, so he’s driving…

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