People ask me all the time, “you must meet some crazy sorts of people.” And the answer is of course, I meet all sorts of people and have all types of driving experiences, both positive and negative. However, as a ride-share driver, the vast, vast, vast majority of my rides are boring and uneventful. Although I’ve definitely had a decent amount of interesting, entertaining, and profound experiences, these represent a very small share of rides. So far, I have only been sharing the good experiences or the most profound rides or the rides I thought were interesting. Most of the stories I’ve shared so far have been positive or at the very least intriguing.
But do I have rides that go badly? Hell yes. And when they go badly, they usually go bad in a spectacular way.
A Very Cringey Shared Ride
(Note: Names are changed for this story)
Shared rides can be really hit or miss. Sometimes the passengers really gel together, other times people just kind of sit there in cold silence. I think that this tends to be par for course whenever you get a small group of strangers together meeting for the first time. However, every once in a while, you’ll have encounters that really take a turn for the worse.
On one shared ride, I picked up an older man named Fred. Fred was in his 50s-60s and he projected this interesting and somewhat off-putting machismo as soon as he got into the car. I asked Fred how he was doing and how his life was going, questions that I ask just to help get conversation going and help the passenger feel more comfortable. Fred took the opportunity to give some strange life advice: never get married. Fred told me that he had been married multiple times, that all of his ex-wives were related to the devil, and that single life was the best life. How many times do you think Fred was married? Whatever number you have in your head is probably wrong because Fred claimed to be married 10 times. 10 times. Jeez, Fred, after the 5th wife, I think the problem might be you, dude.
Tuning out Fred’s sage wisdom, I drove to the next destination to pick-up my second passenger. The second passenger I picked up was a young attractive woman in her late 20s named Zoe. Something I’ve learned from giving so many rides to so many different types of people is that regardless of who it is, usually the person just wants to get home, get some food, meet some friends, or just relax for a little bit — what they look like usually doesn’t change this. After 800 rides, I’ve encountered a fair share of attractive women, but as a driver, I’ve since learned to just tune out my instincts and keep focus on driving safely and maintain a comfortable and professional environment.
Fred thought differently.
As soon as Zoe entered the car, Fred immediately projected an aura of creepiness and lechery towards Zoe that even I was able to sense from the front of the car. Fred inquired about what she did, tried to compliment her, and with the subtlety of a rhinoceros, mentioned that he was single when Zoe demurred on her relationship status. I felt creeped out on Zoe’s behalf, and glancing at the rear view mirror, I could see Zoe try to squeeze herself into the corner of the rear passenger seat to stay as far as she could from Fred. Things were not going well for Fred, but Fred claimed to have been married 10 times and his level of creepiness continued undeterred.
Fred took a fake phone call. The phone call was apparently from his talent agent who was calling to see if Fred would be interested in a performing contract with MGM Casino at National Harbor. The value of the contract? $2.1 million. And Fred’s response? Sure, he was willing to perform at MGM, and it was a good thing that his talent agent happened to contact him at 9 PM at night while he was in this ride-share because he was getting emails from America’s Got Talent. Yeah, according to Fred, the producers of America’s Got Talent had been emailing him 5 or 6 times to be on the show. Seriously, Fred said all of this.
While I sat behind the steering wheel, impressed by Fred’s boldness and audacious claims, I could see through the rear view mirror that Zoe remained unstirred, unimpressed, and distantly cold and aloof towards Fred.
But do you think that would stop Fred? Of course not, are you kidding me? Fred’s been married 10 times and clearly he was trying for 11. Fred started telling us about where he lived before moving to the DMV area. Fred said that he used to perform in Las Vegas for 35 years, claiming to make $100,000 per night at his shows. Wow Fred, if you were doing so well, why did you need to take a shared ride? Why couldn’t you spare the $5 to take your own ride? Why don’t you have your own personal driver to spare the rest of us from the awkwardness of spending time with you?
Nearing his stop, Fred knew that his attempts to impress and intrigue Zoe were falling flat. Out of desperation, he unveiled his final move of creepy courtship, his coup de grâce of cringey flirtation — he showed us a recording of him performing. What kind of performer do you think Fred was? What kind of performer brings in that kind of money? What kind of performer really drives the women wild? Fred was … a magician. Yes. A magician. His finally trick involved pulling out his phone and showing us a recording of him performing a magic trick in his living room.
After finally reaching Fred’s destination, I dropped him off. With only myself and Zoe left, I could only turn to her and say, “Wow…” to which she simply and politely responded, “…Yeah…”
Getting a Hot Dog Thrown at Me
This story is as straightforward as it sounds: Someone threw a hot dog at me.
One night, I picked a young man up who had spent the night drinking, which is typically the case on a Friday night. As I was driving him, he realized he had entered in his destination incorrectly. Now, I’m rather new to ride-sharing, and I didn’t really feel comfortable dropping him off at a different destination. I tried to explain to him that being a ride-share driver isn’t like being a cab driver — I don’t really run a meter per se, and the app keeps track of where I am driving and where I am dropping off the passenger. It notes discrepancies. He couldn’t change the destination in the app because of the ride type (on shared rides you can’t change your destination), and he wouldn’t accept my offer of dropping him off at the marked destination and accepting a new request to drive him to the correct destination. He thought I was just trying to be a jerk to him personally by declining to drive to a different destination than the one in the app.
So what did he do? He told me to stop the car and end the ride. And as a final thank you (or better interpreted as an F-you), he threw the hot dog he had brought with him at me. It was a fully loaded hot dog too — chili, nacho cheese, onions, everything. I ended up just driving away; I decided that it wasn’t worth the trouble I could get into with a confrontation and plus I now needed to clean my car.
But the joke’s on him because I reported him through the app, and the ride-share service I drive for charged this man $50 for throwing food in the car and they also suspended his account. And it only costed me $20 to get my car clean so I ended up $30 up.
And I got a free hot dog.
Two Drunk College Kids
After 1 AM on Friday and Saturday nights, most of my rides consist of taking drunk people home from the bar or to an after party. You’d think that this would be incredibly terrible and that I’d encounter just an absurd amount of belligerent or sloppy passengers, but mostly it’s pretty uneventful. Most people just enjoyed the night they had and are looking forward to lying down and going to bed. Most people are just happy to have a safe ride home and someone to chat with about their night. Most people.
Late one Saturday evening, I received and quickly accepted a ride request. As soon as I accepted the ride request, the passenger called me. Usually, passengers only call when they have an odd request; maybe they have a dog, maybe there is an upper level and lower level of a building, maybe they’ll meet me a little bit down the road because it’s more convenient, whatever. Curious as to what the passenger may be requesting, I answered the phone:
“Can you take us to McDonalds?” the passenger slowly slurred through the phone.“Uhhh... Yeah, sure, if I see one on the way,” I hesitantly responded. "Lit, bro. Five stars." click
Oh great, it’s going to be this kind of ride.
I pull up to the pick-up location and two young men get into my car, one in the front seat and one in the back. Both of them were clearly inebriated with the young man in the front seat clearly the more intoxicated of the two:
"Are you going to be alright?" I gently asked. He clearly did not look alright. "Yeah, I'm alright," the young man struggled to say. "Let me know if you need me to pull over," I ask again, this time less gently and more concerned about the possibility of a huge mess in my car. "I'll definitely let you know," in as cool of a manner as he could attempt despite appearing visibly more nauseous by the second.
"Are you sure you're not going to be sick?" I was not longer asking as much as I was trying to warn him that he was definitely going to be sick. "Bro, I'm fine..."Not even 3 seconds later I see him make a guttural lurch forward, an instinctive move to try to contain the contents attempting to escape his stomach. In that instant, I pulled over to the side of the road, opened the passenger side door, and ordered, "Get it all out of your stomach before I keep driving." He leaned out the front passenger side door. The next thing I hear? Splashing
After this unfortunate scene and satisfied that the young man in the front seat had emptied out his stomach, I continued with this miserable drive. Thankful that I managed to save the interior of the car, I tried to change the subject and move past the fact that someone nearly puked in my car, I started chatting with the friend in the back seat. This was a mistake:
"So are you guys students?" I asked, a reasonable deduction given their age and appearance. "Yeah, we're college students from California," the friend in the back seat responded with a strange air of pride. "Oh awesome," I feigned the impression of novelty and surprise. You meet a lot of people from all over in the Washington D.C. metropolitan area. But wanting to keep conversation going and remembering what it was like when I was a college student, I followed up with, "How do you like D.C.? A lot of cute girls, right?" "Dude, it wasn't that great. Girls from where I am from are way hotter. A Washington D.C. 10 is a California 6," he proudly retorted." ...Ok ... " I hesitantly uttered. Side note, this dude was butt ugly.
I only had one thought that I continuously returned to throughout his experience: Dude… I’m just your driver right now, man. Why can’t you guys just be fucking chill, normal people?
I dropped these two young college students off at their hotel. We never got to McDonalds.
Passengers Arguing with Each Other
At this point, you should start to see a pattern: most of my bad experiences are from shared rides or with drunk people. Sometimes you get both.
On one shared ride, I was requested for 3 pick-ups with 4 people total — so I was going to have a packed car. The first passenger was totally unremarkable and uneventful. The second passenger was rather drunk, but things still seemed to go fine. The third pick-up had 2 passengers, and this is where it all went downhill.
At the third pick-up, the third passenger goes to sit in the front passenger seat while his companion, the fourth passenger goes to sit in the rear with the first and second passenger. The second passenger, seeing that the rear seat will have 3 people, tries to determine who would sit in the middle. If only they had phrased it like that.
“Do you want to sit bitch?” the second passenger loudly asked. I describe it as loudly asking, but honestly, it was more like shouting.
“No….” I thought. “Why are you the way that you are, right now?” Now, I knew that the second passenger was referring to the middle seat (which is sometimes colloquially called “bitch seat”). But if I could go back in time, knowing what I know now, I’d recommend to that second passenger to maybe not ask a stranger you have to spend a car ride with to sit bitch?
I don’t know, I may be the wrong one here.
But the third and fourth passengers were irate to say the least. Suffice to say, unkind words were exchanged between the second passenger and the third and fourth passengers. F-bombs here and there, the word that started it all flew around a few times. An extremely unproductive conversation to figuring out who was going to sit in the middle. Super unproductive. Plus ultra.
Still swearing at each other, the second passenger eventually ended up getting out of the car while the fourth passenger entered the car. Not really knowing what to do, I drove away — I figured that separating the arguing parties would be best, and the spot where the second passenger walked out to was a quiet and safe residential neighborhood so it seemed like the best thing to do.
Unfortunately, the second passenger couldn’t get a new ride and was stranded in that neighborhood until I cancelled the current ride. However, the problem with cancelling the ride was that not only would it cancel their ride, but it would also cancel everyone else’s ride, and I now had 3 strangers in my car. Ultimately, I ended up cancelling the ride and driving the remaining 3 passengers to their destinations using Google Maps for free.
I think I was the one that was stuck in the middle on this one. Ba-dum, tssh. -GP