Just in case you’re here for salacious reasons due to the title, I don’t want to disappoint you with a bait and switch — truth in advertising, nobody gets blown in this blog post.
I was doing my Uber run the other day. I figured I’d take a different tack by getting an early start and a jump on the competition for higher paying airport rides, not because I’m overly ambitious or competitive, mind you, but mostly because I fell asleep at 9 p.m. and was wide awake at 4 a.m. and had nothing better to do. Normally, I might have played a video game on my PC, but the Houseguest’s room was dark, and she has insomnia and the hearing of a bat. My fingers pounding the keyboard and her descending on me like an implacable Fury for waking her up after she had successfully fallen asleep wasn’t something I wanted to contemplate. How loud can I possibly be? Well, I didn’t earn the nickname Hammerthumbs Layton at a previous job for my gentle typing.
So there I was, sitting in my driveway at 4 a.m. with my Uber app running, waiting in vain to be deluged with airport requests. The problem was it was only 3:35 a.m. and way too early. I’m blaming the fucking SRP guy for this one. According to the Houseguest, while I was out, he had shown up out of the blue to change my electric meter yesterday because it wasn’t working properly (my luck, it was probably undercharging me, the bastards) and he flipped the power off to the house with no forewarning causing all kinds of chaos. I had to reset all the clocks except my bedside clock that somehow kept its time (I know, in the age of smartphones, who the hell still uses a bedside alarm clock? I do, so bite me), but it was inexplicably running 25 minutes fast. Which I didn’t realize until the next morning after sitting in my driveway forever like a dumbass waiting for a ride request. I finally got one around the time when people normally venture forth to catch early business flights, around 4:30 a.m.
Things take an interesting turn
After my airport run, I made a couple of quick pickups in Tempe and Mesa and ended up in the sketchy area around Alma School and Eighth Avenue, when I got a request for a pickup from a guy named Hector. Navigation takes me to a rundown apartment complex. Standing in the shadows by the front gate is a tall, curvy woman who looks Polynesian. She’s dressed pretty sexily for oh-dark-thirty in the morning with the sun about to crack the horizon — but maybe that is her normal attire. Or she’s ending her night out? Who knows? In fact, I’d just dropped off a dude who looked — and smelled — like he’d been up all night and on the losing end of a beer pong championship.
The passenger gets in, and I’m like, uh, I’m supposed to be picking up Hector. She says she’s not Hector, but he’s the one who ordered the ride for her because she doesn’t have a phone. Huh, okay. I’m still learning the nuances of the Uber trade, but my Spidey Sense is tingling slightly. I’m hoping I’ve picked up the right person.
For being an introverted homebody, I admit I am kind of chatty one on one when there’s a natural conversation opening. She was friendly, but there was an evasive quality about her, which took my Spidey Sense up a level. While she looked every inch a shapely woman, as she talks, her voice gives her away — feminine, but to my ears, not naturally so. I think that she might be a he, or a former he. I’m not sure, but no biggie, the money is all the same to me. Maybe she’s actually Hector and worried I might hassle her, hence the obfuscation. But again, I don’t care. I’ve never really had a conversation with a transgender person, so I’m kind of curious. Growing up it was always treated as a joke or a horror story straight guys told where you would get home with the hot woman you picked up at a bar to discover she had a bigger dick than you did.
Things get real
As we chat, I mention I just started Ubering and she asks me what I normally do, and I tell her I’m an underemployed writer avoiding full-time work while working on a book that may never see the light of day. Curious, she asks me what it is about, so I tell her it’s about my gay brother battling a drug problem, how our family handled both issues, and how we evolved. This seems to hit home and hook her.
Suddenly, there is an unknown call popping up on my car’s screen. I get a lot of spam calls, not typically this early, so I’m thinking it’s maybe Uber related because Uber will let riders and drivers communicate, though masking the real phone numbers with proxy ones. But I’m still new to this, so I don’t want to answer it if it’s not and maybe knock me out of the app — I mean I’ve already got my passenger — so I ignore it. It could be my paranoid imagination, but the rider is acting a bit sketchy. Spidey Sense kicks in strongly. Ignoring it in the past has gotten me in trouble (a la the Crips carjacking incident back in college). What if my fare is scamming me, saw my Uber sticker and decided to hop in for a free ride? Now I’m worried. But she hasn’t asked me to veer off course, yet. The same number calls again. Fuck. I’m anticipating it’s Hector asking why the hell I’m driving away from the pickup spot, and I’m mentally preparing for a confrontation with the freeloading scammer in the back seat. I’m dreading this scenario. What will I do? Demand that she get out? What if she won’t? Sitting behind me, she has the superior position if things go all pear-shaped and aggro breaks out. I don’t want to be on Youtube being dragged out of my car and beaten up by someone in stiletto heels and a belly shirt.
I apologize and tell her I have to answer the call; I’m discombobulated and make a wrong turn trying to activate my hands-free system. It is Hector. His voice fills the car’s cabin as he addresses me by name over the speakers. Oh fuck, here we go. But then he asks to speak with the passenger, and I breathe a mental sigh of relief. She jumps in and demands in an aggrieved tone to know why he is calling her. He tells her to chill, he just wants to make sure she’s going to room 205. Indignant, she tells him she knows where to go and cuts off the conversation by snapping “Bye!” with a whole lot of attitude. The conversation concluded, Hector hangs up and I breathe a sigh of relief.
Suddenly, I’m making assumptions. I think I have a prostitute in my car. Now, I could be wrong because I often am, but there is a lot of circumstantial evidence piling up, including Hector’s low-key, pimp-like behavior.
To break the tension, I continue talking about my brother and all the problems he experienced growing up gay in a Catholic family where you guarded your private goings on from everyone else like the KGB was after you.
She tells me she understands all about that and then hesitantly, she confesses that she is transgender. I don’t bat an eye and carry on with the conversation and she relaxes and says she had a bad drug problem at one point and had been through rehab. I have a ton of questions, but I don’t want to be rude and so I let the conversation take its natural course.
She tells me she would definitely read my book, that people would find it interesting and authentic. Then she asks if my brother ever stole. I’m reluctant to answer, but she just trusted me, so I tell her he did, but only in small amounts, twenty bucks here and there. Actually, my mom would leave money around where he’d find it, so in her mind, he wasn’t stealing. For years afterward, he felt extremely guilty, but no one in the family ever held it against him. In our eyes, he wasn’t the real Kevin when using because his personality was so different. My passenger says she never stole, but she pauses and adds she had to find other ways to pay for her very expensive habit. For the briefest of moments, I get a glimpse behind the curtain. Suddenly there is an air of sadness and regret emanating from this person. I wonder if she’s locked into a life she’d rather not be living. There’s so much more I want to ask, but it’s none of my business, and the ride is over as we roll into the parking lot of a seedy looking hotel. She thinks the room is on the backside, so I start circling around the building.
“I’ll buy your book,” she says, “but not a digital copy. I don’t like digital books. Has to be hardback. Then I can tell everyone you were my Uber driver.”
I tell her I’ll sign a copy for her. We tell each other goodbye and she wishes me good luck, and I drop her off at room 205, and she disappears through the door.
I pull out onto the street and drive away from that depressing area, waiting for my next fare.