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The Longest Ride: When Nightmares Are Real

This story is about terrible loss and surviving a horrific ordeal. Think about what your worst nightmare is or could be and then read this story.

Often people ask me what is the longest ride I have given. My longest ride to date has been from Los Angeles to Palo Alto. For those not familiar with California, it is a five to six hour drive from start to finish. Basically, I drove to just before San Francisco and back. The story that unfolded on the drive was one of horror, immense loss and survival.

I had just dropped off my daughter at work and immediately turned on my Uber app. Within seconds I got a ride request. As I made my way to the UCLA Medical Center I get a call from the ride requester. She explained that the person I am picking up is going to Palo Alto and that it was a six hour drive. I am always up for a challenge so I told her no problem, I would just need to fill the tank and then we could be on our way.

As I am approaching the hospital, I start to get crazy thoughts. Are they releasing someone who was in a gang related event? What could possibly be in Palo Alto? After I pulled up, a nurse came out to make sure I was Alturo’s ride. After confirming, she state that she will be right back with him. Half expecting someone in a wheelchair, she emerged with a young man who asked if he could sit in the front seat. He settled in next to me while the nurse put his belongings consisting of two hospital patient belongings bags and a backpack, reminded him of his follow up and wished him good luck.

After a quick stop for gas and cigs (he really wanted to smoke after what he had been through), we hit the highway. It was then that he started to tell me that his whole family was dead and that he was the sole survivor.

Arturo and his two sisters were the products of a Mexican father and Philippine mother. Late November 2016, he and his family travelled to the Philippines to visit his mother’s family. While on an outing one day, the family was attacked and robbed. They all were shot. He gave the details of watching his sister kneeling next to him as one of the gunmen shot her in the back of the head. He just kept saying how they were all gone.

He does not know how he survived but for six months he was stuck in the Philippines until he was finally transported back to the U.S. and began the long process of surgeries and recuperation. I can only assume his will to live was powered by the need to get back to his daughter who is only a toddler and to complete his studies to become a doctor to provide a better life for her. When talking about his little girl, his face would just beam.

As we ate to the miles of Interstate 5 he shared his love for his daughter and the anguish for the relatives who knew he had inherited both parents’ life insurance policies. While in the hospital fighting to get better, the few that did come to visit did so with thoughts of getting a loan. Once they realized that the money was not going to materialize, the visits became fewer and fewer. Eventually they stopped coming at all. By the time he was released, it had been over a week since the last visit.

In his past, he went straight from high school to boxing. He travelled the world as a boxer making plenty of money until one day his parents came to him and offered to pay for his college as they feared for his health as a boxer. They feared long-term injury if he continued boxing. He started taking classes and was just short one semester before heading into internship.

He showed me pictures of his little girl, the one person left that he fights for everyday. He promised to make sure that she and her mother, whom he is no longer dating, will be well taken care of. He shared his relationship with his ex and how she wanted to get back together after learning of his inheritance. He seemed to struggle with this idea.  He told her that no matter what, as his child’s mother, she would have a roof, car and financial help to raise his daughter.

Why Palo Alto? Though he had been living his life in Southern California for several years, he was headed up north to the home he grew up in and where his parents still lived before that faithful trip that took so much from him. As we got closer he became apprehensive, scared to go in the house as it held so many memories. As he exited the car, I gave him a hug and told him things will work out. He thanked me for listening as he rambled on sometimes in pride of his beautiful family and his daughter and sometimes in despair knowing that he he now has to face life without his immediate family there to cheer him on as he completes his education and raises his daughter.

I think of him often, hoping that he is okay and that he is back on track to fulfilling his promise to his parents and daughter to make his way in the medical field.

 

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Privilege Gets You Everything?

Every now and then I get a passenger who is also a driver. One such occasion, I met up with a fellow driver who asked me if I had any rude passengers or nightmare stories. Since I was rarely new at this, I told him no and asked if he had. He shared two stories that were funny and yet showed how many think that getting into your car means they can act however they want.

One passenger he picked up immediately got on a business call. As the ride progressed, Jim (my passenger and fellow driver) said he felt something touch his arm. When he turned to see what is was, he found a foot on the center console. The passenger had taken off his shoe and felt obliged put it anywhere he wanted. Jim told him that it was not okay and asked him to please remove his foot. With barely a pause in his business call, the passenger told him to “Shut the f**k up and just drive.” In response to this, he drove to the nearest open curb space, cancelled the ride and told his passenger the ride was over.

This next story story was similar where Jim picked up a woman who again was on her phone. Soon after pick up, she tossed a $20 bill at him and told him to go to Starbucks and get her a coffee. He let her know that he was not her personal assistant, took her to Starbucks, handed her the money back saying, if she wanted coffee, she would need to get it herself. He drove her the the first Star ucks he could find ans once she exited the vehicle with all her belongings, he cancelled the ride and left. It seems she tried to force him to still get her coffee by arguing with him on the way.

On rare occasions, people get in a Lyft or Uber and feel like you are there to service them. The driver’s job is to pick you up and get you to your destination safely. We have the authority to end a ride at anytime and report rude behavior. This can result in a passenger’s account being deactivated. Just goes to show, privilege does not get you everything.

“My Life Sucks” – A Tale of Intoxication

 

It was a warm Saturday night in Santa Monica when I got the ride request at a popular bar near the water As I approached, my passenger waved to let me know where he was in the massive crowd leaving the closing establishment. At first glance he seemed fairly sober leaving me to believe the likelihood of him tossing his cookies was minimal. On that front, I was right. What happened next was a first and so far has not been repeated in the year and a half I have been driving.

Once in the car, I asked Ryder (I am sure you realize this is a fake name), my front seat rider, “How are you doing today?” I ask this of all my passengers as the ride gets under way as a way of gauging their mood. What came next was highly unexpected. He went into how he hates his f***king friends (yes, the very ones he was hanging out with as well as all the others who were not there.). His hatred did not stop there, it encompassed his f***king job, his f***king apartment and ultimately his f***king life. He was not yelling or aggressive in any way, he just seemed to need to vent. During a break from f***king hating everything and everyone, I asked him why he felt this way. That is when he revealed the one thing so many feel about their lives but keep quiet about, “I feel like I have no purpose, I don’t contribute anything to make a difference.”

On that statement, I tried out this very simple question, “Have you considered volunteering?” Bingo, suddenly his face changed and after a few seconds, he said in a sober-like calmer tone, “No, I never thought of that.” It was like a switch was flipped, you could see the light bulb moment click and for the remainder of the ride, I suggested he look into non-profit organizations that support a cause he is passionate about, a cause that relates to himself or a loved one, and use his talents to help them further their organizational goals.

As he was exiting the car, he made sure to let me know that he would definitely look into my suggestion. Although I hope he did find his purpose, the level of drunkenness may have clouded his memory. I do love sharing this story with other passengers who ask me for stories and hope that even if I did not change his life, I inspired someone else volunteer for a worthy cause.

Inspired in Houston: Fred Julian Sado’s Story of Compassion and Understanding

The story below was shared on Facebook by a friend I knew in high school. He was an amazing friend then which is why I am not surprised at where his life has taken him. He works daily to inspire others so it was great to see him inspired by his Uber driver.  Thank you Fred Julian Sado for letting me share your experience as a passenger.

“I am in Houston, TX today to teach and my hope was to inspire those who have been through some hard times lately but I was the one inspired by the heart of the people

“Due to my profession, I have a lot of Uber stories, but I was moved by the driver today who shared that he felt the hurricane changed him for the better.

“He has been in the US for a short time and felt Americans were rude and a bit self centered. The hurricane brought out the best even in his neighbors who he had distain for and the feelings were mutual until the rains came.

“They are now best friends and found that their personal issues were not with each other but with incorrect perception.

“To top it off, I left my wallet in his car. Maybe it was due to the great conversation. Lesson learned, NEVER TRY TO CALL Uber. There is no number for a live person. Lesson 2, NEVER LEAVE ANYTHING in an Uber car.

“Thank goodness the man who shared his story with me came back to the hotel to find me after about 30 min of my life in heighten stress-mode. He actually took time to find me and give me my wallet.

“I thanked him and all he said is that’s what we do. We look out for our fellow man.”

I hope this story serves as inspiration to all who read it.  Please share with others that they may be inspired as well.

 

 

You Look Familiar

Living in Los Angeles, you are likely to meet a lot of actors and musicians, mostly unknown. As a ride share driver, this chance happening increases. I have met many actors both famous and not so much through projects friends in the industry who bring me in on projects. My backseat is no stranger to the struggling actor with only a couple I recognize as that actor you see all the time but don’t know their name. The story I am about to tell is based on an actual event but with names and commercial content changed.

On a beautiful Sunday afternoon, I get a ride request from Brett. I roll up to a house that is clearly under construction with two high-end cars out front. The first person gets in the car after checking his vehicle and I ask if there is someone else coming as he sat behind me which is unusual when he was already on the passenger side initially. He replied that his friend Brett was on his way. Turns out John is Brett’s friend and a prankster. While we waited, John asked me to wait a couple of minutes after the ride starts and then ask Brett if he is the guy in the shaving cream commercials, “He will get a kick out of it.” I agreed.

Brett gets in the car and we start the ride. The fellas are talking about a young lady he is interested in moving from the friend column to the dating one. I chime in when warranted making sure to look into the mirror at Brett. During a lull in the conversation, I look in the mirror and say to Brett, “You look familiar. Have I seen you in a shaving cream commercial?” “Is it (product name)?”

Well, John was on point. Brett was so excited that I recognized him and declared the day would be awesome and that my recognizing him meant he had good karma for the rest of the day. He kept saying, “I can’t believe you recognize me from that commercial.” Turns out Brett is also a regular on a reality series that I don’t watch but that did not matter because he really loved that I remembered him from the shaving commercial.

While we drove on, with Brett clearly on a high from my recognition, John’s significant other calls and he recounts that “The Uber driver recognized Brett from his commercial.” Well at this point there is no going back. John now has to keep this story going and continued to milk it. I soon get them to their destination and as Brett walks away from the car thanking me, John taps on my window and thanks me for going along while handing me a tip. Now, I may have seen his commercial many times but I did not recognize him as I usually tune out when commercials come on but I hope that the gag was the highlight of his day and brought him luck with his date.

Baby on the Way: A Lyfting Story

I am often asked if I have any crazy stories about previous passengers. Although I have a couple (to share later), there is one that is funny and heartwarming.

One day in summer 2016, I pick up a young lady from a mobile clinic in Canoga Park. As she approaches, I see she is clearly pregnant. Once in the car I asked her when she was due. What sh said next I did not expect. “They just told me in the clinic that I have already started dilating and that I should head to the hospital.” Now my first though was oh crap, hope she does not break her water in my car. I said okay, and started driving. I notice that we are not headed towards the hospital just off Reseda which is where she said she needed to go. She then told me that the address she put in was to her home as she needed to go and pick up her hospital bag. Since she seemed so calm and not worried, I took her home.

On the way to her apartment, she tells me that she was not ready as she had an appointment to get her hair done the next day and nails later that day because she wanted to “look good for the delivery pictures.” I had heard about this just a couple of days before how women were wanting to make sure they looked good for the immediate after birth pictures. I park the car and she slowly walks inside. I wait, and wait. After several minutes I start to wonder if she is in distress and I half expected to hear the blaring sirens of an ambulance come flying up. Since I did not know her unit number, I was not able to just walk in to the building to see if she was okay.

So here’s the kicker, just as I was about to contact her through the app, I see her emerge with the same calm demeanor she had when she first go in the car. So why did it take her sooooo long to come back out? This chica changed clothes, did her hair AND makeup. She was truly serious about that “I want to look good for the birth.” She apologized for taking so long and with that we were finally on our way.

I got her to the hospital without incident and I wished her luck as she walked in to deliver her son. Just glad she did not end up delivering child number three in my car.

Vehicle Etiquette

Got a pet? Call your driver as soon as you can to ask if it is okay to bring your pet in the car. I have hosted dogs, cats and even a Guinea pig. I don’t mind because I love animals, but not everyone feels this way. I have a friend who is deathly afraid of dogs and would freak out if someone hopped in her car without any warning. Other concerns include allergies which can send someone to the hospital. Rule of thumb, as soon as your driver is assigned, immediately call them to let them know you have a pet so they can decide if they will pick you up. If it is a problem, you can cancel the ride right away without paying the cancellation fee so long as you cancel within the time limit. If you are bringing your pet, be considerate of other passengers and don’t request shared rides as you never know who may have a problem with your pet being on the ride. The exception to this is service animals. Recent laws now require that service animals MUST be allowed in rideshare cars.

Most drivers don’t mind playing your music however keep in mind that rideshare vehicles are NOT PARTY BUSES. Please do not ask the driver to turn the music up to full blast. This is a safety and legal concern because we still need to be able to hear sirens coming. I think you would appreciate not colliding with a fire truck or ambulance or getting pulled over by the police on your way to your destination. Be mindful of your driver as their primary concern is making sure your journey is…… You know what I am going to say… a safe one.

“Would it be okay if…” If you know that your question is most likely going to met with a no because you know it is against the law or Rideshare policy, don’t ask. One of the things that people try to get away with is pouring five people into a car that only seats four. It states in the app how many can fit so don’t put your driver in the position to have to say no. If you have five people, order a larger car or request two separate cars. Please do not say, “It is only a few blocks” or “Its just around the corner,” that is most times not the case. We are only allowed to drive the number of passengers we have seat belts for. So don’t get mad at the driver because you are not the only one being inconvenienced in this situation.

Another unacceptable scenario is hopping in a car with an open container of alcohol. The simplest thing to do would be to finish the drinks and toss the cups. Any driver pulled over in a city or state with no open alcohol laws that allows open containers will be cited by the police as it is our job to make sure we are following the laws of the road. On a side note, anyone bringing a container that is closed but the seal has been broken, that container must be placed in the trunk (or boot depending on where you are from) until you reach your destination. Again, that is the law in many states so be sure you are following it and not putting you or your driver at risk.

Thousands of people smoke, I get that. When knowing you are going to request a ride, try to finish your smoking at least five minutes before getting into the car. Smoking right up to the moment and then getting right in as the remains of your cigarette burns on the ground is very unpleasant for the non-smoking drivers and other passengers. The smell lingers in the upholstery and leaves our cars smelly. There have been many nights when. The windows on my Fusion have been left cracked in order to air out the car. This is not a luxury all drivers have. For me, the smell is so strong that I. A not breathe and I have to roll down the windows. This is not always an option if it is raining outside or it is very cold out.