Single moms have things to get done

 The ping comes from the Wal-Mart, a five minute ride on a weekend when I'm trying to rack up a bunch of short rides for a bonus, so nothing out of the ordinary. It's a bright Sunday afternoon, and a text message comes in to note that my pick up will be at the main door. She's waiting with a child, impressed by the professionalism, and in the next five minutes I learn:

> She's widowed with five kids

> She's prone to racial profiling of Lyft drivers, not Uber, and can't believe the idea that it's the same labor pool

> She's a fortune teller with business cards for that (wonder if she saw the widowing coming)

> She wants me to be her on-call gypsy cab because Uber is too expensive

> She's prone to labeling things as ghetto, so, um, point two is starting to seem problematic

> She's disgusted with the Wal-Mart's selection and price of paint, which is the only thing she needed in there due to a crisis with a guy who is painting her house for here (and, third time's the charm, doesn't speak English, to her considerable annoyance), and

> She wants to know if I'm married because she's "in the market." On hearing of the length of my marriage, she wails, "All the good ones are taken!"

All in five minutes. I would have three-starred her, butI think I was too in awe of the hustle...

Last ride of the night

Working late is very high risk / high reward. Drunk people don't notice surge price and you often get cool waitstaff, but there's also a strong chance of dead on their feet warehouse workers or people having, well, Adventures. I tend to be out late because the traffic is light, I don't sleep well, and I'm just more alert late at night. It's not healthy but it is what it is, and we need the money.

The ping comes in as I'm finishing the shift, having not made enough to knock off earlier. It's some distance away and going further in that distance, so I can't say I'm real enthused about it, but it's not as if my metrics are so strong that I can ignore it, so on we go. En route, the person who ordered the ride texts me to say I'm picking up a woman that isn't them, that they will have extra bags, and yeah, complications late at night are a good sign of Adventures. Away we go to one of the cheaper motels in the region.

She's waiting when I get there, which is nice, and proceeds to fill up my car as advertised, but she's reasonably quick and apologetic about it. I don't tend to make eye contact for reasons, but her shock of bright orange hair isn't going to be ignored. I check my email and fantasy basketball league while she loads, and after checking to see if it would be OK if she sat up front due to all the bags (fine), we're on our way. I offer her the usual hand sanitizer and water, she compliments me on my professionalism, and small talk ensues. 20 minute ride late at night, I don't mind a conversation; it's better than fighting back yawns and hoping that I won't have to wake the passenger at the drop off.

After a few minutes of answering questions about me, I pivot the conversation to ask what she does, and the answer is... nothing. She's homeless, which I probably should have guessed given the load out and hour, but it's said without hesitancy or defiance, as if she's said it a lot. She was staying at the hotel with a friend when that friend got violent and suicidal, and the cops were called and she had to go. She's on her way to where the person who ordered the ride is, which is to say, at another low price motel.

She's been this way for a year or so. Her guy hit her, she says just the one time and she didn't press charges, and then he hung himself, and she's been self-medicating ever since, it seems. She used to wait tables, bartend and work as a home aid to the elderly, and she knows she has to change her life and get back to that, but just can't. I offer up the gentlest advice that I can, because I'm wired to be helpful but really don't want to step too hard, and tell her she does not present as homeless, which comes as a surprise and a compliment to her. It doesn't cost anything to be kind.

And as we get close to the drop off, it's clear that the address is wrong, because it's in the middle of a wooded area, and yeah. Adventures for all.

I go a half mile further and find another cheap motel as she calls the benefactor, and he tells her the name of the motel; it's another mile away and he had the wrong address. As Uber asks me if everything is OK because I'm going off plan, I ask Google for the address of the new motel and complete the ride. We pull up to the door and her friend comes out to help her unload, apologizes for the mix up, and promises to add to my tip, which given all that I've learned in the last 20 minutes, I'm not expecting. 

It shows up later as promised, though. Biggest tip of the night. 

I shut off the apps, drive home in silence, and write this before going to bed. 

I wrote this to remember the ride, but I don't think I had to. This one will stay with me. Sometimes, the job is like is that.

There are, in fact, people having worse days than you

In the men's room at a Wawa off 295, and the room is a little crowded. In busts the pump attendent (that happens in New Jersey), asking if anyone has a Mazda so and so. Dude in the stall says yes, and is told that he left his car in neutral, and it's rolled into someone else's vehicle, so, um, hope he's got insurance.

Suddenly, doing a long shift of ride share for not great money fills me with gratitude...

No sir, I'm with you

The pick up comes from a wedding mill, one of those special occasion places that always overserve and attract suspiciously well-dressed white people who are sloppy drunks. I've got a couple for 20 minutes, going south to an area that's also usually populated by troublesome people, and after being far too impressed by my level of preparation, they want to talk. Well, that'll happen, especially when you pick up people who are privileged and intoxicated, so have at it.

They ask me if this is my full-time gig, and since the answer is no and the current office hustle is tangentially involved in politics, away we go into that realm. The wife (they identified, not a guess) is elbowing the husband into not talking, but he's too far gone for that, and they like me too much to not mess with them. I also do not share his politics, which, it is soon learned, veer into apocalyptic conspiracy theories about the southern border. 

You see, there's millions (MILLIONS!) of able-bodied men, just invading us, and my presumed political side is just enlisting them all into a Secret Militia to take the country. (Nifty if true! I so wish my side was as cunning and capable as conspiracists believe.) Rather than take on this insanity head-on, I distract my man by asking if he knows anything about Japan, aka a country with strict immigration, declining birth rates because that's what always happens when people make money (look it up! all the way back to 18th century Jewish communities!), and surburbs filled with really old people, watching their country gray into irrelevance. 

This provokes several seconds of blissful silence, followed by a defeated, "You're crazy,", but I know by his tone that I've got him thinking through the alcohol. The conversation becomes marginally more interesting and definitely more cordial for the last five minutes, before he plays the inevitable faith card and asks if I believe in The Lord.

At this point, it's time to have some fun... so I note having read the text, and ask him if he's familiar with the historical changes that the faith has undergone. My favorite being that the medieval concept of Heaven being a place where the exalted *hear* the lamentations of the punished, because it can't *be* Heaven without that. (Seriously. Look it up. Tertullian and St. Aquinas.)

Befuddled silence from the back seat. Then, finally, "So you're not in Hell right now?"

I wait a beat and reply, "No, sir, I'm with you."

Proud moment of mindfuckery, that.

They leave a few minutes later, but not before he fixes me with a steely look and says, "Know this; every knee will bend. Every knee."

I nod, drive off and wait for the tip. Most fun I've had in weeks.

I'll Take "Things Heard From Trenton Passengers" For $200

 What is...

"Her feet look like fish floppers."

"I had to get out of the house before I punched your daughter in the face."

Never make eye contact, fellow drivers...

Single moms have things to get done

 The ping comes from the Wal-Mart, a five minute ride on a weekend when I'm trying to rack up a bunch of short rides for a bonus, so not...