In five years of being an Uber driver in San Antonio, I’ve probably been over every inch of this city (and county). As I tell a lot of my passengers, most people really don’t go too far outside their own little ‘pod’ as I call it. They go to work, school, and shopping. They may venture out to go somewhere different on occasion (though more often than not they’ll call an Uber, which is good for me). But in my job on the road, in addition to never taking the same route every day I also get to find out where a lot of places are, and I can tell people when some of these places were built and what they used to be (or might have been if I’m not entirely certain of a place’s origin story).
I was talking with a passenger just this past week and he told me this story of how his buddy forgot where he’d left his car one night after partying. I told him it sounded like the movie ‘Dude, Where’s My Car’. He didn’t know about that movie but I told him it was ridiculously funny (so stupid but so funny because it didn’t take itself seriously- I highly recommend it if you don’t want to expend any brainpower when watching a movie). I then told my passenger how I knew where all the impound lots were in the city because think about it: if your car has been impounded you’re going to need a ride to the impound lot. One is close to downtown and I tell people it just looks like crap during the day (it’s in an industrial area with a good amount of rust and dirt and pot-holed cratered streets) though I told him if you go down there after dark to watch your back. Then there was an impound lot on the northeast side off I-35 that looked like something out of a horror movie at five-thirty in the morning (I was taking a lady there whose car got towed from her apartment complex- she thought her neighbor ratted her out). I told her I wasn’t leaving her until she confirmed someone in the office to help her and to come out and give me a thumbs-up if so (which she did). Then there was the lot on the far west side off Highway 151 where UTSA (University of San Antonio) took their cars (and I haven’t been over there in a long time so I guess between the pandemic and improved parking these kids have learned not to park in ‘no parking’ areas).
Then there is Sugar’s. It’s a strip club right off Loop 410 not too far from the airport. On the front of the building there is a big shark (he’s white so I assume he’s a great white shark like Jaws). Now I can’t find anything online to figure out the story behind that shark but one passenger I had (a native San Antonian like me) thought that place started out as a seafood restaurant. Which sort of makes sense though I hoped they didn’t serve shark-fin soup. I wonder what they tell their patrons if they ask about the shark.
I’ve been asked by several passengers over the years why our airport in San Antonio is smack-dab in the middle of the city. I tell them the city came to the airport because when the airport was first built back in the late 1950’s there wasn’t a lot out there. The highway in front of the airport, Loop 410 was just being built and nearby North Star Mall was finished around the same time as the airport and looked a lot different (except for the giant cowboy boots out in front of the mall). I tell people I remember when our little airport had just one terminal and that before 9/11 you could go inside and have an ice-cream and watch the planes take off and land (though I will say the people watching coming and going from the security checkpoint was much more interesting). When I first started this gig the big parking garages in front of the terminals were just being finished up. And since I started this job, our waiting lot has changed four times (we share our waiting lot with the lot the cabbies had to themselves before we came along- they’re cool with us and we’re cool with them).
A few months ago, I had my first drop-off at the Bexar County Jail. All I had was the address so I didn’t know exactly where we were going until we pulled up and I read the lettering on the building. My passenger then asked where he was supposed to go and I found the Visitor’s Entrance for him (since he didn’t know where to go I think he might have been there to bail someone out, but I didn’t ask because in my line of work I don’t ask a lot of questions). Then my next ride after I dropped him was about two blocks away at the Bexar County Sheriff’s office. Again, I didn’t ask questions but I can say I know where the jail, Sherriff’s office, and I even know where the Parole/Probation office is (picked up a guy there one morning- he apologized for the pickup location but I told him people deserved a second chance, especially if they were complying with their parole/probation like he was).
So as you can see in my line of work, I can tell you where a lot of places are. And if you’re with me, I can guarantee you I won’t ask a lot of questions, especially about why you’re going to where you’re going. But if my passengers have questions for me about where they’re going (or coming from), I’m more than happy to answer them as best as I can. I’ll explain local jokes (such as Fred’s Fish Fry- little squat boxes that look like fronts for drug dealing though according to a SA Current news story no drug busts have ever been done there), why we call the Alamodome the White Elephant, and I might tell you what parts of town not to stick around for autographs, especially after dark.