View From The Front Seat

I retired about six years ago after practicing law for about forty-two years. I returned to school, completed two of three books in the Foster Trilogy, and built this website to promote the trilogy and expose my less significant works to the world.

After struggling to combat being blocked, bored, frustrated, weary, or when Leroyce grew impatient with my complaining about those things, our daughter suggested I drive for a rideshare platform.

I now do so for both Uber and Lyft. It is something of a routine to recount the day’s road trip escapades. Some are funny, some sad, some stupid, some engaging, not all are worth repeating. That said, Leroyce has implored their recording in some forum so a wider audience might enjoy what she does. This is another product of her always sage advice. For this month it holds the Featured Scribble designation. Assuming I can recount those trips with the justice they deserve, this roadtrip journal will be a new part of this website.

Please know I’ve changed passenger names and the dates of their ride. I offer these ride samples for your pleasure and perhaps an insight into the rideshare driver experience. I hope you enjoy and thank you for the gift of your time.

The italicized directional text refers to the street directions provided by the app during the conversation.  

Page One

The COVID-19 Mask Debate

Thomas—His ride was about seven weeks prior to the 2020 election.

The ride began like they all do. I accepted a request from Uber that appeared to be a seven minute pick up with a ten-minute drive southwest. The name on the account was Thomas. He was curb-side when I arrived. That garnered him a star in my rating system. The trip’s first few minutes were silent.

He was tall, slim, and I guessed to be late twenty’s, early thirty’s. His dress was age appropriate, Austin-causal. I remembered he had reddish-brown hair that matched his shoes. His sartorial elegance would have earned him an additional star. Unfortunately for him, he spoke.

“I don’t care about wearing no mask,” Thomas said, responding to a NPR story on the radio. His tone, body language, and stone-hard face were all offered as evidence in support of his declaration.

I responded, “I’ve been told rideshare gods are going to require both driver and passenger to wear one.” I spoke into the rearview mirror, and offered my response as portending a change in policy, nothing beyond that.

“Fuck man. How’s that do anything?”

“There are studi—”

“Except make us re-breathe virus bits we could be shed of by not using the damned thing?”

I started with something of a prepared response. A bit of pabulum designed to avoid all out verbal warfare. I’ve never kicked a rider out of my car for inappropriate behavior—a right given drivers by both platforms—and I didn’t want to start. Neither did I want to give him reason to crawl into the front seat and show me how tough he was. I hoped a slice of counterview might reduce his angst.

I finished with this, “I’m no expert” — I glanced into the mirror to ensure I needn’t pull roadside and run for my life — “but I don’t think—”

“And that’s the fucking problem, ain’t it? People don’t think. Don’t think for themselves no more. They believe what the damned politicians tell

Page Two

them to believe.”

In a quarter mile, make a right turn at the Taco Bell onto Lake Creek Parkway.

“That’s not my practice. I look to doctors and others in the medical establishment for an intelligent discussion on medical issues. Politicians are likely not” — I slowed to turn — “the best source for such advice.” I was going to shut-up, but couldn’t help myself. I questioned him more. “So, I guess that means you’ve no plans to get vaccinated.”

That was a scenario Thomas seemed to have left from the equation. At a minimum, he’d no immediate response. He’d abandoned the fixed position of his eyes in the mirror and cast their gaze out the window.

“It ain’t gonna be necessary,” Thomas said, apparently when the neighborhood through which we traversed turned uninteresting. Or, he’d just fashioned a position he felt sufficient to counter my questions.

“Why’s that? You think we’ll all be dead by then?” My question carried more smile than challenge, erudition, or disbelief.

“Nope. That shit ain’t happening. Ain’t the election gonna happen before the public gets them shots?”

“I think with current sch—“

“Ain’t gonna be no virus after the election.”

“—edule for the vaci—“

“It’s all a fucking hoax. There ain’t no Chinese virus. They ain’t smart enough to manufacture such a thing. Ain’t no one in their right mind eat bat. It’s all batshit.” A toothy grin followed Thomas’ chuckle.

His jocular response surprised me. I assumed he found humor in his dual reference to bat. “Well, that’s a relief,” I said. “You should call the hospitals and tell them the folks they think are dying from COVID are a part of a—what’d you call it?—a fucking hoax. And tell them—“

Page Three

You have arrived at 12233 Ranch Road 620. Drop Thomas on—

“—that after—”

“You think you’re a funny guy, huh?” His jocularity evaporated like a summer shower falling in the Texas hill country.

So much for humor.

“You’ll see, smart ass. The election gets over and so will this fake-ass pandemic.”

Thomas opened the passenger side backdoor before I’d stopped. Was he responding to the app’s instructions without reference to the actual process? His escape was almost complete—his entire upper body leaning out the door. When I managed the car’s stop, he leapt from the backseat. A final exclamation point, his punctuation to the virus hoax theory, was a slammed door.

I gave him a Two Stars passenger rating. I almost never give a single star. He lost three of the five, for two reasons. One, being a dumbass. Two, for slamming the door. My car is in excellent condition, and the doors close with a gentle push. Slamming isn’t necessary. Guess he hurried along because he thought I might say something that made sense.

I’d a wee, silent prayer. Bring me to this dumb-ass after the election. I want him to explain how he got it so wrong.

Page Four

Carrie—Her ride was in mid-April 2022

I pulled into the small parking lot adjacent a veterinary hospital. It was late afternoon, a sunny sky home to a smattering of cotton-ball clouds on a late spring/early summer, ninety-plus degrees, more interested in sunbathing than protecting earthlings from second-degree burns. I lowered the windows, turned the key, allowing the engine to rest while I waited for the next passenger. By then Uber, Lyft and other transportation services suspended the requirement that its passengers and drivers wear a mask. I was ambivalent about the change. I did however, keep one in the car in case an ardent proponent of this prophylactic—now just one arrow in the quiver of COVID-19’s several abatement treatments—at the app’s other end, should enter my car properly masked and ready to do battle with would-be heretics. The decision turned out to be prescient.

Carrie ambled across the parking lot. The back door opened—unlike masks, banning front seat passengers remained a policy—and she more plopped than settled into her seat. She was short, plump and on the high end of her fourth decade. The parking lot’s six yards between the building’s stairs and the car’s backdoor seemed to weigh heavy on her. That, or she had decorated her forehead with a rose-colored tattoo, and her breath genetically short. An N95 mask adorned her face.

I picked up a mask draped over my car’s console shifter. “Would you be more comfortable if I wore a mask?”

“We are in the middle of a worldwide epidemic, so unless something dramatic happened while I was working. Duh. It’s just beyond me why men can’t figure that out. Or is it just—”

I slipped my mask in place, notwithstanding her failure to answer my question.

“—men thinking this is how to rid civilization of women? I’m immunocompromised. If you haven’t heard, that makes—“

Turn right on US Highway 183, then in 1000 feet merge left onto the ramp toward US Highway 183, south.

“—makes me more susceptible to the virus than others. Unfortunately, we can’t depend on the Biden administration to protect us from assholes who don’t believe we’re still in the middle of a worldwide pandemic.”

Carrie paused the diatribe to breathe, to find comfort in her seat, or await a response. She remained quiet as I pulled into traffic—the feeder road alongside US Highway 183—heading south toward her destination; the address of a medical clinic.

Page Five

“It wasn’t the Biden administration that did anything. It was a federal district judge in Florida. A MAGA judge appointed by Trump. Most legal scholars think the decision was wrongly—”

“It doesn’t matter. Fucking judge is still the government.”

“Yes, just not the Biden administration’s appointee. If you’ve a bone to pick, pick it with the party that’s aggrieved you, not the party that’s trying to keep you virus free and healthy.”

“I’m fucking tired of men thinking they have rights over women and our bodies.”

“You think it’s bad now? You need to prepare for it to get worse. When the Supreme Court decides the Mississippi reproductive rights case, you’re likely to see a very real, very serious intrusion on your rights to privacy.”

“There’s nothing I can do about that, besides ain’t getting pregnant again. Done with men. Done with all that crap.”

In two miles, take the Burnet Road exit.

“It’s a good thing you don’t have daughters or granddaughters. They’d need you to fight for them.”

“So I’ve taken a different approach to macho fucks who think they have all the power, and we have none. I was in my Starbucks just last week, in line, bothering no one. I was six feet behind the women in front of me. Like the CDC says.

“Then this guy, a big guy. At least six-two, maybe taller. No mask. He comes up behind me and lords over me like I’m his fucking servant. That son-of-a-bitch had to have been only a foot, maybe a foot and a half behind me. I could feel his breath on my neck.

“So, I turn around and say, nice and polite like, ‘Sir we are still in the middle of a worldwide pandemic, I’m immunocompromised, and I need you to respect my space and move back to at least six feet behind me.’ That fucker just looked at me. Didn’t move. Didn’t say shit, tried to stare me down.

Page Six

Like, maybe the son-of-a-bitch thought I was an alien. Like, I had no right to my own space. And he had the right to whatever he could take.

“Then I took a step closer to the woman. The one in front of me. That fucker did, too. So I turned back and looked right in his eyes, pointed at his nose and gave him—“

Stay on the feeder for 1000 feet, then turn right onto Burnet Road.

“—the what-for. ‘They should kick you out of here. It’s clear you got no respect for women. I asked you nice-like, tried to move away from you, and still there you are, violating my space.’

“By then, everyone in the store was looking . . . looking at me. You think I cared? Think I stopped because standing up for myself was somehow wrong or embarrassing for a bunch of milk-toast Starbucks customers?”

In two miles, stay straight on Burnet RD.

“Hell no. I put my finger right in his breastbone and said. ‘You don’t fucking intimidate me, bucko. If you’re gonna be hostile towards me, to my rights, I’m gonna match your energy and be hostile right back. I’m immunocompromised and getting covid could be terrible for me. In fact, I enjoy standing up to jerks like you. Whatever energy you’re displaying, you need to know, I’m gonna match it with my energy.’”

She paused for an extended inhale, exhale and repositioning.

“I’ve had my share of run in’s with the stereotypical MEGA folks.” I said. “But touching? That can turn bad. Quick. I never touch them—with the typical MAGA clown, that would end in a one-way trip to an assault charge—but I try to debunk their nonsense when possible.”

“It’s not just MAGA assholes. The manager at Starbucks—I’ve been a customer there for years—came over and shushed me. The barista gave me a

Page Seven

thumbs up and gave me my order for free.

“So, you got—”

“So fucking what? I can’t go back into my Starbucks,” she said. Her bravado turning to a quiver. Her eyes filling with tears.

In one mile stay on Medical Pkwy.

“They’ve . . . they, um, barred me. Said it was indefinite. What the hell does that mean? All because I stood up for my rights. He was the asshole. He got rude, and I matched his fucking energy. Now I’m the one that suffers. How’s that fair?”

“I don’t know that it is. It is, however, what our culture has become. Too, all actions have consequence. You matched his—”

“Not true” — she lunged forward to the extent the seatbelt allowed — “the motherfucker that violated me, my space, suffered no push back. Not one. I’m the one can’t go to my coffee shop. He didn’t get banned for, for, for a fucking minute, forget a life-time-ban.”

“And you know that how?”

After a 1000 feet, turn right on 38th Street.

Carrie sat in what appeared quiet contemplation as we motored toward her destination. After moments of quiet, she began again.

“Cuz I was there. They never said a word to him. Nothing but maybe ‘We’re sorry,’ or some crap like that.”

“If your instructor failed to clarify that all actions have reactions, then they’ve done you a disservice. That’s true in all circumstances. I can’t think of one. But what about the barista? Seems it’s possible he contaminated the man’s drink. May have even spit in it. I’ve little doubt a smart-phone with a video camera was in some civic-minded person’s possession. Your encounter might be all over social media, making the guy look like a real ass-clown. Others there might have spread the injustice. That could cost him plenty. I’m thinking he’ll get what’s owed him. It won’t be as immediate as your public reprimand, but delay doesn’t mean he’ll escaped unbruised.”

“Well, it doesn’t matter. I’m committed to meeting any asshole’s energy. Be civilized to me, you’ll get that back. Be Attila-the-Hun, I’ll be fucking . . . I, I, I don’t know who kicked his ass, but that’s who I’ll be.”

Page Eight

You’ve arrived at your destination. Drop off Carrie on the right.

I stopped at the mechanical parking lot guard and retrieved a time-stamped parking ticket. Then moved on to the drop off spot at the main entrance.

“Do you know, the judge—the one overturned the mask mandate—is a woman? So it’s possible, she’s just stupid and not out to rid civilization of its female population. I don’t know, just saying . . .

“I’m sorry it feels like you got—”

“Stop. Just stop. You’re a fucking ma—” She unsnapped the seatbelt, opened her door, slipped from the seat, left the car, then eased the door shut.

“You have a good rest-of-your day,” I said.

My valediction went unanswered. She likely didn’t hear it. I admit to being disappointed, but perhaps she knew my criteria for awarding stars. It’s a pity she used some form of fuck, fifteen times. My tolerance is famously high for those around me who swear. However, she was way outside that tolerance—her general appearance caused me to conjure images of my mother—so she earned a two star deduction for her nonchalant use of language and an accompanying appearance that cast an even more inappropriate tint to the word and its overuse.


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