Los Angeles likes to put its feet out after sundown. The roadways clear. You can cross the twinkling plain of the city in 20 minutes. You see it the way Nathaniel West did.
Thirsts are indulged. People become just like themselves, only more so. They bring margarita belch and testosterone into the car. They bring reflective moods. They confess to illicit behavior. They invite you upstairs to play Twister. They withdraw into their phones, ghostly apparitions in the backseat, necks drooped like penguins, swiping, scrolling. They over-share. They pitch their sizzle reel and Soundcloud release. They want you to tell them stories of other Uber riders. They want to know how terrible they are. Tell us about the drunks! But the drunks are predictable, rarely a problem. Entitlement and ingratitude are. But you don’t say that, because the asker of the question is more often than not a white woman from the Westside, and white women from the Westside are the worst riders you encounter.
They love to make you wait, double-parked in a bus lane, while they
say goodbye dawdle with their friends in the restaurant. In West Hollywood. You circle the block and try again. Cars honk at you. Other Ubers honk at you. Valet parkers wave flashlights. She emerges, texting, flops down with a weary sigh in the back seat, but doesn’t close the door.
“Wah-ut? I’m waiting for my friend. she’s in the bathroom.”
“I can’t double park here.”
“She’s in the bathroom. She’ll be right out, okay? Jeez.”
Now an actual city bus is behind us, honking.
“You gotta shut the door. I’m gonna get a ticket.”
“Why is your car so dirty?”
“What are you talking about?”
“There’s a streak on the window.”
You just cleaned the windows, as you do before every shift, and there is indeed a streak on the passenger side window, incriminating in the glare of the sodium lights. An LA Sheriff’s Dept. patrol car barks orders over his PA: Move your Uber, NOW. Mercifully, he’s on the other side of the street and some other luckless driver is about to get ticketed.
The friend lollygags out of the restaurant. They sink into Phone World on the drive to Santa Monica, scrolling, swiping…a monkish silence punctuated by the Snapchat feed, shrill, distorted bursts of music and random shrieks from friends somewhere in the city, doing Something Which Must be Shared. Either they bore of it or the feed runs dry and they begin to whisper to each other. Then the Alpha Girl of the two speaks:
“You should clean your car better. You should clean it every day if you want to charge people money. Seriously.”
And for less than the price of valet parking, I whisk them to their front door.