The Uber Ride That “Snapped” Stories Are Made Of (Continued from Blips, Battleships and Bitch Fits.)
Am I really here? It didn’t look like an airport that had just fallen victim of a stray bullet and panic-induced stampede. After maneuvering through the business-as-usual ATL airport, I ordered an Uber. Shit, $59.90. Even though it’s early Saturday evening, I figured there must be a surge due to the whole gun ordeal. I begrudgingly accept the fare and my 6-year-old son, Jaden, and I begin the journey outside to the designated rideshare location. A driver has been located… in some part of Georgia that is a whole 25-minutes away! Ugh. The ride to my friend Joanna’s house is 39 minutes in current traffic. I considered canceling and disputing the fee later but I couldn’t be sure that the next driver would be any closer and I figured after today’s incident, the fight for rides would be brutal. We watched the app in the frigid 50 degree weather as the car crept closer. And crept it did. The wait stretched to a cool 35 minutes. Ominous. With only 4 minutes left, Jaden began counting to 60 four times. He didn’t realize that the driver’s delay would cause the minutes to stretch like the fabric of my Charlotte Russe leggings. Come on Eddie (4.86 rating)! Jaden would watch the timer on the app, holding the last number until it changed in the app first, “fifty-niiiiiiiiiiinnnne…” The app turns from 4 to 3 minutes away. “Sixty!”
A middle-aged White woman turned around to see who the counting was coming from. Behind us a Black middle-aged woman was lamenting to her friend about how her Uber driver is up at arrivals instead of here at the rideshare location. She explained that the driver said it was his first time picking up at the airport and she had to coach him to get out of his car and ask somebody how to get to the rideshare location. I was thankful I didn’t get that driver. I shuffle through my Rolodex of personalities and decide this situation calls for me to be the cool, calm, and patient Black mother in the midst of the widespread exacerbation and fed-up-ness in the Rideshare waiting area. I smile back at the White woman who is smiling from Jaden to me and I join in on the counting.
After a few more fifty-niiiiiiiiinnnnes, our Uber driver is finally here! He’s a heavyset Black man, about 30 years old. As a woman traveling alone with her 6-year-old son, I quickly calculate that if he tries some Taken shit, I could take him in a fight. Calculating my escape when faced in a situation where I’m alone with men is an old rape trauma response. He may be stronger but he’s big and slow. I’ll be able to see the attack coming and get us both out safely. He spots me approaching his SUV through the windshield and pulls up the mask that had been nestled under his chin.
We hop in and I am accosted by the blaring voice of his homeboy—let’s call him Keith— coming through the SUV’s speakerphone. I offer a cheery, “hello” to the driver, Eddie (4.86 stars). I figure he’s waiting for Keith to take a breath so he can wrap up the call. Either that or he’s about to switch to a headset before we pull of. He does neither.
The volume is set to a cool 100–loud as fuck! I hear Keith say “I’d tell them I’m Faizon Love and let them take pictures and shit.”
Hold on. Is this Faizon Love, the comedian?! This is totally Faizon Love! Am I being punked? I hold my breath and search for the hidden cameras. I don’t find them. I also cannot gather whether Keith is talking about Eddie or himself or some made up scenario. Eddie chuckles and let’s off a “shit man” and immediately sits up, raises his hand and locks eyes with me in the rearview mirror, “my bad” (This would be the only time he apologized for the profanity causally used in their conversation). Deeply entrenched in my cool, calm and patient Black mother role, I strike up a conversation with Jaden to drown out the adult exchange, “So are you excited?”
Jaden and I chat for the first 10 minutes of our ride, with me subtly jolting at the use of “nigga”—a term that when exchanged among Black men would ordinary not even cause me to blink but with my sheltered son in earshot, is now causing me to squirm and overcompensate with my own feigned excitement, “We are going to have so much fun!”
Keith and Eddie’s conversation turns to more mellow storytelling, though it’s hard to tell given the volume. Jaden and I have run out of things to talk about, so I let our conversation die and tune into theirs. Keith, the homeboy coming through the is-this-surround-sound speaker is on a rant about Uber ratings, “I don’t like getting a bunch of 4 and 5 star ratings. I really like those 1, 2 and 3 ratings. For real. I be wanting that feedback. Tell me how I can improve, make my shit better. Feel me?” Eddie was definitely not feeling him but he responded, “Yeah.” Say less.
Thirty minutes until we arrive. I begin studying Eddie’s profile, wondering what kind of dude he is. He offered an apology of sorts for cussing but he’s also unapologetically carrying on a loud ass public phone call. Just then, I lean forward to get a better look at what I think— THIS NEGRO HAS HIS MASK DOWN ON HIS CHIN! Reminding myself of the personality role that I chose at the airport—cool, calm, and patient Black mother, I roll my window down about 3 inches and face it. Passive aggression at an all-time-high. He’s getting a 1-star rating.
Keith and Eddie cycle through a number of conversations, mostly about some upcoming events. Eddie, my Uber driver, is preparing to either host or perform in a showcase and Keith is planning something too because he asks Eddie, “Yo, you sent out them flyers yet?” Eddie chokes. I don’t think you get it. He literally begins choking, as if the question balled itself into a tight fist and knocked his saliva back, causing him to swallow down the wrong pipe. I never heard this outside of cartoons but after his cough, he starts, “humminah-humminah-ahem—” cough. Jaden and I locked eyes at the start of his choke and held our breath as Eddie stumbled through his response, “Uh, no, I uh—I thought—I thought what you sent over was the rough draft. But if that’s it, I can send it out as soon as I get home.” Jaden broke first, giggling heartily. I joined in, uncharacteristically indifferent to the possibility that Eddie would realize we were laughing at him. It was funny! We deserved this comic relief. Two-stars.
Keith was not amused. “Nah, that’s it. That’s the final draft,” he said squarely.
Eddie, picking up the ball he’d dropped, “oh, cause there was a couple things that was a little off but nah, I got you. Imma send it out right after this.” (“This” is me.) “This my last ride and I’m going home straight after. I got you bruh,” he continued. Realizing he made a wrong turn onto a dead-end wooded street, Eddie makes a U-turn in the driveway of some lone sketch industrial lot. Keith, in a rare moment of perceptiveness and mild shock asks, “You have passengers in the car?”
I expected Keith, the more sensible one of the pair, to break the silence with “Oh, call me back then.” But before I could test if Keith was the kind of stand-up guy I’d pegged him as, our driver continued, “Yeah, this my last one for the day. Had three rides, only worked for 3 hours and made a hunnit and twenty-five. I’m straight!” I calculated that on this ghetto-ass overpriced ride, I was financing nearly 50% of the quick earnings he was gloating about.
I thought back to the fact that he accepted this airport pickup ride when he was roughly 30 minutes away from the airport, unknowingly making my child and I wait in the cold. I was reminded that I paid surge pricing for this shit and here he was, smiling about the money grab he just made. I was pissed. One fucking star.
“Yeah. This week I’m gonna pay my car note, got some other stuff going on. But see I’m using the money from my regular job to pay rent and bills and regular stuff. The Uber money is going toward my dreams,” he continued.
The mention of the word “dreams” softened me. I felt a tinge of pride in the fact that he was serious about his dreams, so much so that he was willing to work this second job solely as a means to finance said dreams. Ugh. Dammit Eddie! Could I really give him a 1-star rating? Let’s start over.
He and Keith continue their conversation as he drives back in opposite direction. After about 45 seconds, he makes the next turn and now the GPS is instructing him to turn left at the light that we are currently sitting at. The only problem is that he is in the far right lane. I started to interrupt his conversation to tell him “I think you’re supposed to turn left here,” but I look back and see traffic approaching us and reason it’s too late/dangerous for him to cut over 3 lanes to make it. Turns out, that wasn’t my call. Eddie notices his error and immediately makes a hard left and cuts over to the left turning lane. I brace for impact. We make it. He’s definitely getting 1 star.
At this point in the conversation, he and Keith are hysterical after drawing some analogy from a real life situation they were facing to a Richard Pryor joke. They can’t stop laughing and talking over each other as they recounted jokes from the Richard Pryor comedy special. We are approaching the gate of my friend Joanna’s gated community. I am almost embarrassed to bring this shit show in here. In one sentence, Eddie says “Man-that-shit-is-crazy-what-is-the-code?”
Is he talking to me?
“The code is pound one—“
“That nigga really said—” Eddie shouts over me to Keith, then to me, “pound one…?”
Projecting, as to drown out Keith’s voice, “Yes, POUND ONE ONE THREE FOUR,” I yell.
The gate opens and I breathe a sigh of relief that we are entering the homestretch.
As we inch forward through the opening gate, Eddie notices the third house on the right, a stunning two-story home decked out in Christmas lights with a pristine white balcony expanding across the entire front of the second floor, “This is niiiice.” In a rare moment of bewildering agreement, I chime in, “It iiiis.” I won’t rate him.
Just then, Keith interrupts with a Richard Pryor sex joke. I cannot quote the joke because at the mention of “sex” my ears did this strange I-don’t-hear-you, I-don’t-hear-you censoring thing while my eyes shot to my son to check for any visible signs that he had heard and recognized the word “sex.” I couldn’t tell so I immediately struck up conversation with him, “We are almost there! You excited?” Keith and Eddie are in a full on laughing fit. Eddie is out of breath but still trying to pile on to the joke. “Yes, I can’t wait,” Jaden exclaims. One fucking star.
We continue our conversation as their laughter subsides. Turns out the gated community is rather large. We drive for another 3 minutes or so, making several turns before he pulls up to a house and asks, “Is this it?”
“I’m not sure. I only have the address I gave you.” We both go back and check the app and at the same time, we say “1079.” We are at 1082. He turns around and pulls up to the correct house. Ignoring Keith, Eddie shifts in his seat and asks me, “Do you want me to wait?”
“No, that’s okay. She’s home. Thank you!”
I roll up the window, open the car door, and we shuffle out. I walk up to the front door and ring the bell. Still hearing Keith blasting from the car, I realize Eddie’s waiting to make sure I get in anyway. That was nice.
We are welcomed by a thunder of hey-y’all-made-its (courtesy of my girlfriends) and a much-appreciated drink. The ladies are asking about the whole airport gun ordeal that I almost forgot about after that Uber ride. The conversation shifts to other topics, but I’m distracted. Do I give this guy a 1-star rating or do I abstain? I express that I need advice and share the question I’ve been grappling with over the last hour. I divulge the details of our ride, all of Eddie’s infractions—the mask, the loud phone call, the explicit language. Then I offer, “Buuuuutt he’s Black. And he’s working on his dreams. He’s got a dream and he’s really working toward it. I don’t even think Jaden understood what they were saying. And he was so polite when he dropped me off. I feel bad.” What if a 1-star rating causes his 4.86 rating to plummet? What if there is some disciplinary process for 1-star ratings? What if he loses the Uber gig, abandons the dream he can no longer finance, his car note never gets paid, and he turns to drugs to numb his pain?! Now he’s out on the streets— My friend Denysha interrupts my mental spiraling, “Sounds like 1-star to me.”
I decided I’d sleep on it. A few minutes into our new conversation, I get an email, “Thanks for riding, Nikki. We hope you enjoyed your ride this evening. Total $77.89.”
SEVENTY-SEVEN DOLLARS AND EIGHTY-NINE CENTS!! I accepted a ride for $59.90 and even that was nearly twice the normal price! I quickly told myself to calm down, “You’ll handle this after the trip. It’ll be fine. You can call them on Tuesday and straighten this out. You’re with your girls…just enjoy Friendsgiving. You’re here, you made it in one piece. Don’t let this ruin what’s left of the night.” I’m right.
I tune back into the boisterous conversation. But there’s no fucking way I’m paying SEVENTY-SEVEN DOLLARS AND EIGHTY-NINE CENTS after WAITING THIRTY MINUTES to take a 39 turned FORTY-FUCKING-FIVE-minute GHETTO ASS ride after being held for AN HOUR on a taxing plane while a brazen passenger accidentally SHOT UP THE AIRPORT! I snapped. Without hesitation, I opened the app, gave Eddie 1-star, citing 5 reasons why (the maximum allowed), and filed my petition for a rate adjustment. I went full Christopher bitch-fit on their asses (see Blips, Battle Battleships and Bitch Fits). The tables had turned.
The rate adjustment was honored almost immediately with an Uber credit. Not feeling satisfied that I had been made whole, I then asked for a refund due to my driver’s unprofessional behavior—the no-mask wearing, the car speakerphone conversation that lasted the entire 45-minute ride, laced with profanity, racial slurs, and sex jokes in front of my 6-year-old. Fuck his dreams! My ego and outrage kicked in full speed. I had no time to consult my Rolodex of personalities. It spun on its own and landed on This-Mother-Fucker-Got-The-Wrong-One-Today… Black mother. I pressed send. My heart was racing, mouth dry, I sat up and thought “Shit, he’s going to know it’s me. I was his last ride. He probably memorized the house number since we had to look it up. I’m going to be a sitting duck all weekend. He could come through and spin the block as revenge for me ruining his life.” I contemplated changing the rating to 2-stars but stopped myself. The damage was done.
Uber replied. They were happy to give me a refund for my inconvenience but when I checked, it was only for the fare difference. I should have been more clear. I had given this too much of my energy. I catch a glimpse of my son happily running around with the other children. I am here in Atlanta with my girls. And my drink. We made the pilgrimage. Time I pay homage to the Black Mecca. Cheers!