The first puker I had in my Uber was a teenaged girl who got ditched by her date.
“Make sure she gets home okay,” he declared nobly, before returning to the party.
“You’re not coming with me?” she asked in plaintive surprise. He kissed her through the window, then tapped the roof. I snapped the reins like a liveryman in Jane Austen and off to the Palisades we went, in unhappy silence. Then muted sobs. Then chest heaving, behold-the-perfidy of-men-type sobs. Then a baby hiccup, followed a split-second later by a giant splash on the floor behind me. No warnings.
Make sure s/he gets home okay is Uberspeak for I really want to have sex with someone else right now. Also, you have a ticking bomb in your car.
So….New Years Eve. Normandie Club. A guy asleep on his feet by the entrance, propped up by a girl in a tiny black dress who couldn’t wait to scurry back to the action. Make sure he gets….. to Long Beach. At 5x surge pricing, I wasn’t about to refuse.
I thought if I made it to the freeway without incident, we would be okay and navigated the bumps and turns like Roy Schneider with the truck full of nitro-glycerine in Sorcerer. We safely reached the 110, and then, as though sensing my relaxation, he roused himself from sleep, leaned forward and filled the car with a floral bouquet of cheap scotch, guacamole dip and gastric acids. The kind of thing that really gets deep, deep into the fabric and makes itself at home. I have a picture, but it’s just too gross.
Mrs. UpintheValley contacted eight auto detailers Monday morning. Only one got back to us. My new man crush, Arik from LA Mobile Detailing. On a national holiday.
Four years ago Arik was making crowns and veneers for his uncle before he decided to go into business for himself. Uber and Lyft drivers were a natural market for eco-wash services. He left cards at the Greenlight stations, thinking he might get some conventional cleaning business. Not quite. Emergencies of bodily effluence were the order of the day. He found himself taking puke calls with great regularity. He hired his brother to help with the grossest stuff. Most of the work is hand wash, enabling him to clean an entire car inside and out with two gallons of water. His business expanded to boats, planes, RV’s.
If Woody Allen is right and 80% of life is showing up, then Arik would embody the principle. He came back not once, but twice, to do battle with stench el pukus, which had an unfair head start seeping into the fabric all the way to Long Beach. A natural businessman, he was un-resentful of the call backs, and business is prospering. His entire family works for him now. His mother answers the phones. An Israeli immigrant, he’s engaged to an Azerbaijani woman, who is taking conversion classes at AJU. A very modern love story with old world trappings.
A pushcart + iPhone + Yelp = the New Economy. A pushcart – iPhone = Delancey Street, 1918. Technology may not improve human nature, but it will separate those who have their act together from those who are wanting. It will place rocket fuel to virtue and raise the cost of vice in equal measure. In something as basic as car cleaning the scissors graph of the two narratives part ways.
Los Angeles is ground zero for the new American century. It’s an animal like no other.