Uber Tales: The Subdued New Year’s Eve Edition

Subdued

That is the word I would use to describe last night on the road. A year ago as we rang in 2020, on the road it anything but subdued. There were massive parties, gatherings, and fireworks galore. On the side of the town I was mostly in last night parking lots were mostly empty, a lot of restaurants closed before midnight, and the few places there were open after midnight weren’t nearly as full. This was a good thing as COVID-19 cases are surging pretty badly here in San Antonio. I hit my financial goals before two a.m. though I made about half of what I made last year.

But I did get my first ‘what’s said in my Uber, stays in my Uber’ bit that I haven’t had since all this crap began back in March:

I go to a pickup just after midnight and I get to the house and this guy walks out with this chick who takes a couple of selfies with him then gives him a kiss goodnight. Now she doesn’t come along with him but this dude starts telling me about her. He said he’s known her for about ten years and that she’s an actress (I’ve never heard of) and he was pretty blown away by how lovey-dovey she was with him. But then he started talking about how she’s out of his league and deflated his own happy bubble. I just listened because I really wanted to tell him if he had feelings for her and if they were both single then he should tell her he cares about her and would like to spend more time with her. Alas, like a good bartender or Uber driver, I kept that to myself.

Last night was the night for not giving relationship advice on my part because earlier in the evening I picked up this lady and after she got in and we got rolling, she called her boyfriend and based on her side of the conversation it didn’t sound like he was listening to her too well. I almost thought she was going to say that out loud but instead after she hung with him she said to me, “Boyfriends are such jerks.” I would like to have said if he’s that much of a jerk and won’t listen to you then why are you with him in the first place? Instead, she changed the subject and asked me about having cats as pets because her son was asking about a cat. I told her I’ve had cats all my life and they make great pets and are pretty low-maintenance for the most part. Unlike boyfriends…

Then just before midnight I picked up these three chicks from a place and they were really quiet in the car and when I dropped them off at another place, that place looked sad. Barely any cars in the lot and all I could think was that a year ago the parking lot would have been full and there would have been a line of people out the door. Just because I’m not a bar-hopper or bar-goer doesn’t mean I’ll poo-poo anyone who has done that. Bar-hopping was always good for my business.

The loss of money has been tough as hell but I also have missed the loss of energy. I miss my Saturday night conversations that sounded like a bad reality-tv show. I miss the ‘what’s said in my Uber, stays in my Uber’ conversations. And I miss sometimes actually being able to give advice when people come right out and ask for it. I miss seeing people out and about even if I’m just on the outside looking in.

I never really thought about the energy in my job as an Uber driver. For me, it was just a part of the job and a mostly pleasurable one at that, especially on Saturday nights. I got to live vicariously through my passengers and be grateful I got to do a job where I wasn’t chained to a desk getting my ear chewed off for eight hours day while supervised mostly by mediocre idiots.

I think in this year 2021 eventually we’ll get this damn virus under control and pull just enough heads out of enough asses to get things back up and running. But it won’t be like before. The memories and emotions will always be there, hovering over the present for many years to come. I think the initial rebound as it’s being called will probably be pretty strong but I won’t forget this last year.

We should never forget what we lost, who we lost, and our pain and grief. And most of all, we should hold those responsible for this shit accountable. Vote them out of office, investigate them, charge them for breaking laws they did, and send the rest of them into exile. And most of all, never let these bastards forget what they did even if they never take responsibility for it.

I’ve been trying to put into words what I’ve been feeling for quite some time and the word ‘subdued’ has clarified those feelings. It’s a quiet word that shows a lack of energy and vitality and it recognizes pain and loss, too. Many years ago I once said the silence after a battle is just as loud as the battle itself.

We’re not done with this battle and things will be subdued for a good while longer. We’ll try to reenergize ourselves when we can but I know it won’t be like before. And before wasn’t perfect, far from it. But before there was energy and possibility, and hope. I’ve been able to hold on to the hope. Now I want the possibility and the energy back, and we need to fight like hell to hold on to that no matter what.

Uber Conversations – 2020 Edition

I have multiple conversations in my Uber on a daily basis and I can tell you that since COVID-19 emerged as the Virus-of-the-Year, it’s been the Number One topic of conversation. And at times, it’s not one that I have welcomed.

In the beginning, I had to shut down dumb-ass conspiracy theories about how the virus was created in a lab and then accidently, or intentionally escaped. I learned how to debunk conspiracy theories pretty fast because I honestly didn’t have time for that bullshit. Before this pandemic I would have just listened and trust me, I’d heard some doozies in the car prior to this year. But now conspiracy theories kill people and I can’t be silent with that.

Then as restrictions began, there came the inevitable push-back mostly based on people having their heads up their asses and not giving a shit about their fellow human beings. Again, I couldn’t stay silent on that one so I politely yet firmly explained what the restrictions were and why they were implemented.

Then there are the conversations about rioting and defunding the police. I explain what defunding the police means here in a nutshell: it’s about allocating more resources for teams of mental health professionals and social workers to be sent out on calls they are much-better trained to handle than the police. And as for the rioting, I just remind people our San Antonio Spurs have won five NBA Championships and not one car was overturned and set on fire in downtown San Antonio. Yes, a few windows got smashed here back in May but it turns out that was done by out-of-town right-wing scumbags who got run out of town by our sheriff.

I will freely admit here I am now getting ticked off by people who spout bullshit who don’t live here in San Antonio, or who only live in their tiny little bubble in the city and aren’t out on the streets every day like I am. I’m not an expert by any means but I don’t get my news from screaming conspiracy theorists on YouTube or right-wing blond bimbos and himbos on Fox News. And I certainly don’t believe we’re living in the End Times because if God decides to end this damn world we live in, there isn’t anything we can do about it. But I will say right here and now, the vast majority of people in this world are just trying to get through the day without taking some asshole’s head off because that’s still considered assault-and-battery. Most people are just trying to make a living, get dinner on the table, and have time to hug their kids. They don’t have time to run around and act like fools or spout off like raging lunatics.

Before COVID, most of the conversations in my Uber were about the weather, how the Spurs were doing, local shenanigans and history for the tourists, the latest celebrity gossip, and anything other than conspiracy head-up-the-ass bullshit. I miss that a lot and hope someday COVID will be the topic we don’t want to bring up ever again. I want to have conversations with people like hearing a lady tell me the story of how her sister briefly dated Elvis Pressley in the 1950’s but wouldn’t marry him because he was a little wild. I want to hear conversations with my passengers about shenanigans that rival any reality-tv show (those were always a hoot to listen to on Saturday night after a little alcohol had flowed). And I want to work a Halloween night where I can tell local ghost stories to college kids.

I think my ability to debunk conspiracy-theory bullshit is from the fact that from day one of this pandemic I knew I would be at risk if I kept driving. You can’t socially distance inside of a vehicle. And other jobs aren’t that easy to come by and employers have more than enough people to choose from to fill a position so don’t run that ‘just get another job’ bullshit line by me or anyone else. Luckily so far I’ve only had one rider give me flack about wearing a mask and although he was drunk, I would have canceled the ride in a heartbeat. Then this asshole had the fucking nerve to ask me out on a date, and I turned him down cold and silently cursed his balls to shrivel up and die.

Maybe someday this pandemic will be far back in the rearview mirror and just a story we tell kids someday. But I will tell the story of how most people just tried to survive not getting killed by assholes. I will tell the story of how a pandemic brings out the best in people, and brings out the worst.

In the meantime, I’ll keep having the conversations in my car. And hope for the best. And yes, wish a little ball-shriveling on those who truly deserve it.

Adult Imposter Here

There are times when I feel like I’m seen as an adult who is trying not to be. Case in point: a few days ago I pick up this couple from the airport, older than me (I’m forty-six and they look about twenty years older than me). They get in and the dude asks if I can go a different way to their house. I say sure because it takes the same amount of time either way. But it made me feel like that they saw me as a ‘kid’, or maybe just some lady not quite smart enough to do her job. So to age-up a little, I changed the radio station in the car from the ‘1st Wave’ channel (playing 80’s New Wave and Alternative) to the ‘Yacht Rock’ channel on Sirius XM. (Yacht Rock for the uninitiated here is music from the 1970’s and 1980’s previously termed ‘soft rock’- nice, non-threatening music about chilling out and being in and out of love).

But this ride got me thinking about how every so often I don’t feel like an adult. There’s a meme that went around saying that you look around for the adult in the room, an older, wiser adult but there is no one that meets that description. It’s when you realize you’re the older adult in the room but you don’t feel wise or comfortable in your knowledge and experience. I think this is the case for my generation, Generation X because we were also called ‘The Slacker Generation’. A generation of lazy, beer-swilling, flannel-wearing morons more interested in listening to music, getting high, or just moping around.

Not all of us turned out to be like that as it was members of our generation that invented Google and helped bring Apple back from the brink. I will say there were a fair number of what were called ‘Young Republican’ types back then- Michael J. Fox’s character on ‘Family Ties’ is a good example (and the only reason that character never made me want to shoot out the tv was he was played by Michael J. Fox, who is a really cool dude). The Young Republican types morphed into the Tea Party-Family Values crew of assholes all blow-dried and spray-tanned with a side-piece or two and abortion pills at the ready. They’re the assholes that did the run-up to the Iraq war, marshalled conservative assholes to de-throne The Chicks (formerly known as The Dixie Chicks) from the top of the country-music charts because how dare those women exercise their rights to free speech. They’re also the ones who brought the white supremacists out and tried to rebrand those motherfuckers as the ‘alt-right’. Luckily, they’re going down with the ship and I’m not feeling one bit sorry for those spineless bullies.

Back to the rest of us Gen X’ers who don’t always feel like the adult in the room even when we are. First thing: the kids love our music, movies, tv shows, and don’t pat us on the head too often. Some of them even think that we’re cool.

But I will say Generation X may be the most cynical generation ever. Why? Well, we came of age in the 1970’s so the oldest of us went from Nixon to Jimmy Carter to Ronald Regan. The second group went from Regan to Bush, Senior to Clinton. But we also went through the Cold War, the Arms Race, and our elected leaders constantly talking about having their fingers on the big red button to blow us all to hell because they thought it was a good idea to blow us to Kingdom Come rather than give the Russians any opportunity to take us over.

Okay, I will freely admit Communism sucked in a million ways, the worst probably being the lack of freedom of expression and the lack of rock ‘n’ roll music. But we knew the majority of people living under Communism were good people who took a lot of risks listening to Voice of America radio and trying to catch tv signals from Western Europe so they could watch ‘Star Trek’.

But I think despite living through all that and living through years of being resigned to being blown to hell or living in a post-apocalyptic wasteland, we weren’t seen as growing out of that. In fact, I’d say we were resigned to coming home alone, rooting around the kitchen for something to eat, and then sitting down to veg in front of the tv or stereo. We wanted to change the world and bring down the Wall (the Berlin Wall), but at the same time, we’re also the generation that’s quite fond of saying ‘same old shit’ over and over again.

In the end, I think that invisibility and resignation to the ‘same old shit’ mantra is why I sometimes feel like an adult imposter. I’m happy as hell that Biden and Harris won and people got to party in the streets. But I’m also resigned to a never-ending shit-show from the Young Republican side, a side so firmly entrenched in their bullshit I honestly don’t think even the strongest piece of heavy equipment could pry their heads out of their asses.

For me, I think I’m seen as an adult imposter because of my really-short hair with the shaved-up sides, my daily uniform of shorts and a t-shirt, and my love of music made before 1990. But I’m happy to be mostly left to my own devices because I know how to feed myself and how to find something to watch or listen to, just like a lot of us were back in the day.

Self-Worth From the Driver’s Seat of an Uber

WARNING: MAJOR RANT AND RAGE HERE. ALSO, VERY BAD LANGUAGE HERE SO READ AT YOUR OWN RISK.

Last night I picked up three drunk bros for a short ride to another bar. It was the first time since the bars closed back in March that I’ve picked up a group of drunk bros and I have to say it still sucks. I honestly wish there was a way for Uber to let drivers know they were picking up potential assholes and offer some additional financial compensation. But that hasn’t happened though a feature like that in an app would be worth a billion dollars.

Why did I think they were assholes? Let me count the ways.

Whining about the mask requirement. Don’t whine about wearing a mask in a vehicle with other people. That shit is so fucking unattractive it makes me want to projectile vomit over anyone who whines and bitches about wearing a mask in the middle of a raging pandemic.

Making racist comments (they were all white dudes) even if one of them followed that fucking-bullshit comment with telling me he was an asshole over and over again. Like really, dude? If you know you’re an asshole quit being one.

But the last turd in this toilet-bowl of a ride was when the most obnoxious of the three dudes asked me at the end of the ride if I would date him. My reply, “No.” Then when he just sat in my vehicle I had to turn around and tell him one thing, “Out.” Needless to say, I wished him a lifetime case of jock-itch and limp-dick.

Yet it got me thinking I certainly didn’t miss anything by not doing the bar scene in my twenties and thirties like I thought I had a couple of days ago. I’m going to write that moment off as a misfire of bullshit in my mind because if that is what’s out there then I dodged a whole case of turds there.

The self-worth part of this comes from knowing damn good and well I don’t have to take shit like this even if the assholes of this world see me as ugly. And please don’t tell me I’m not ugly because I know my appearance won’t get me an Instagram influencer gig. I’m off-balance (thanks, scoliosis!), fat, and have a lovely double-chin. But even I know I don’t have to take shit for that. I don’t have to take crumbs of pity and tell myself that someone is just an asshole and I have to accept that.

No, you DON’T have to accept that someone is an asshole. You can call them out on that then walk away. You don’t owe anyone like that jack-fucking-shit. Yet so many people think they have to put up with it.

No, you DON’T. If you’re not shitting all over people in any way, if you’re just trying to do your own thing and take care of yourself, and most of all, if you’re doing your dead-level best to be kind to other people and not be an asshole, you’re doing just fine. And don’t let assholes take this from you, and don’t let them gaslight your ass into thinking you’re the worthless sack of shit because you care about other people and the world we live in and don’t want to turn it into a huge dung-heap.

I think a lot of what’s happening now in our world is more and more people are starting to say ‘Enough!’. They’re starting to say, ‘No, you’re a fucking asshole and I’m not going to have anything to do with you because of it.’ People are realizing their purpose on Earth is not to take a crowbar to someone’s backside to get their head out from there.

Growing up I was raised with this belief I had to just accept some people in this world were jerks and they weren’t going to change. I was told not to stand up to them or call them out because they weren’t going to change. That in turn led to this belief that I just had to suffer in silence. Well, I’m breaking that silence and calling it out. I’m saying being an asshole is the most unattractive quality in a person, someone who is thoughtless, mean, and totally selfish, and worst of all, someone who scorns kindness and compassion and says those emotions are weak.

I used to think I was a weak-ass piece of shit for valuing kindness and compassion and I’ve had people say I need to harden up and just shut all my emotions down.

No. I refuse to feel bad for busting my ass to be kind and compassionate. And most of all, I refuse to shut my emotions down all together because someone doesn’t like how I think and feel.

So my message to anyone reading this here is don’t base your self-worth on someone who really doesn’t care about you. If they say mean and cruel shit, they mean it. It’s not the booze or drugs or whatever. And you have the right to walk away from it and stand up for yourself. And yes, you have the right to wish a never-ending case of jock-itch and limp-dick on any asshole because of that.

Uber Tales – Still Not a Sure Thing, Edition

Last night I headed over to the airport to see what was going on and got two rides. The new waiting lot is nice because it faces the east runway and is closer to the terminals. But it’s still not like it was before and I honestly don’t know if or when it will come back up to pre-COVID levels.

I was talking with one of my passengers yesterday and I told him everything you thought was a sure thing wasn’t. As I was on the road last night, I felt like everything was an illusion. It felt like it was just a dulled-down version of what life was like before this pandemic. Yeah, you’ll see people out and about but nothing like before.

Before the pandemic hit, I was tracking pretty good with the driving and the Spring and Summer months looked like they were going to be huge. San Antonio was seeing huge amounts of visitors and tourist traffic, wedding season was about to start, and people seemed to want to get out and about. As I was telling one of my passengers last night, I loved driving back then. No two days were the same and Saturday nights were hugely-entertaining. Now… it just feels hollow.

I was trying to think when I felt that hollow feeling on the road and the only time I can remember is 9/11. I wasn’t an Uber driver back then (I don’t think the concept of Uber was even a twinkle on some Silicon Valley bro’s ass back then). I was working in my first call-center job (where managers actually were downplaying what was happening and told us not to talk about it- yes that place was that fucked-up). That afternoon I drove across town to pick up my mom from work and Loop 1604 barely had any traffic but what was especially eerie was the lack of airplanes in the air. Back then like pre-COVID, there were always airplanes coming and going over the 1604 corridor.

Another eerie-hollow time was back in March after the initial lockdown when I was downtown. All the big hotels and bars were closed and the restaurants were take-out only. It was like a ghost-down, or a San Antonio version of ’28 Days Later’. I was pretty bummed out going down South Alamo Street in front of the Alamo until this group of bicyclists came by me ringing their bells and waving to me. I waved back and thought, “Okay, I wasn’t expecting that.” But it made me smile, which was desperately needed as business had nose-dived pretty badly at that point.

Last night, I was talking with one of my passengers and she was wondering about Halloween. I said people could practice social distancing while trick-or-treating but the big haunted houses or gatherings were probably off the table. I also said I’m sure downtown will decorate for Christmas but I’m not sure if they’ll put the ice-skating rink in Travis Park up again. That was fun last year to see and weekends down there were hugely-crowded.

The thing is, we’ve all changed. Everything has changed. I think right now the shock is still wearing off and we’re trying to adjust and not lose it altogether. Working from home, kids out of school, people being assholes… whether this is a blip on the radar of years or something longer-term, or something that will come and go remains to be seen.

I’ve struggled to put this all into words because although I’ve enjoyed the lack of real traffic (only time the freeways get jammed if there is an accident now- the bottlenecks are nothing like they used to be). But I also wonder if this is just the calm before another storm of infections and hospitalizations rise up again. Hopefully most of us will keep our heads out of our asses and mask-up and social distance and practice good hygiene for as long as we need to.

Personally, I like the social distancing thing. And masking-up during the Fall and Winter when cold-and-flu might not be a bad idea.

But I want to ask myself a few thing here:

Will we ever take for granted the idea of big crowded events? Or will there be an ingrained wariness of them?

Will the bar and music scene fully recover?

Will the strippers be able to get back to work?

And most of all,

How will we explain the runs on toilet paper to future generations?