The first time

“And may their first child be a feminine child.” The voice of Luca Brasi runs havoc through my brain with the politically correct version of his good wishes.

I pray to the gods of technology. To one in particular: Uber.

“And may my first client be a nice person. I don’t want to remember losing my Uber driver’s virginity as a traumatic experience!”

The ping comes. Uber X. Five minutes. It’s on.

My car sends the same positive vibes. May my first client be… it’s a girl. A young lady waves and gets on the backseat. It’s all good. The destination is around 30 minutes away. It’s all good.  I glimpse at her using the rearview mirror. She wears a grass green sweater with a black North Face jacket. I like the jacket. The first time when I realize being an introvert was bad for my social life, I started working on it. The first brick in building a connection with a stranger was to find something to like about them. Clothes were the easiest one. Eyes, face, voice, ideas came later. She doesn’t know how much I cherish her presence. She’s my good omen.

While the reasons which made me drive for Uber are irrelevant for now, I dreaded this moment. The moment when a stranger will get in my car and sit in the back. I don’t know him or her, but I have my back exposed. Anything can happen while I pay attention to the road ahead. All the moments when other people hurt me when my carelessness or haste brought me loss and pain come back to me now. It is one collective sensation of fear and anticipation of bad things to come.

“You’re vulnerable, M. You’re naked, driving, and a stranger is behind you.” I tell myself.

When I was uploading the documents required by Uber, this was all I was thinking about. The fear was choking me. The acid in my stomach was running against gravity and I definitely threw up a little in my mouth when I clicked the submit button.

Inhale. Exhale. Look in the rearview mirror. Relax. Smile. Drive. The white snake of her iPhone headphones makes me aware of the sounds inside the car. She speaks with somebody on the phone. It seems the conversation started even before getting in the car. That is actually good. I’m not so sure I can get entailed in a dialog right now even if is only about the weather. I hear words, but I push them in the back of mind.

“Respect her privacy, M. Just be the driver.”

Quick glimpse in the side mirror. Change lanes. Exit highway. Six minutes to destination. I start to relax. The noise from the car comes back. She raises the voice while clearly unhappy.

“Mira, girl. If he can’t handle me at my worst, he doesn’t deserve me at my best!”

And right there, as the warm sun of a golden autumn day caressed my hands resting on the steering wheel, hell froze over. If there is one sentence that can substantiate the void created by social media between human beings, this is the one. I push the brake slowly and change the lane again. My mind fought the awkwardness of the situation with its internal monologue.

“Hold on, girl! Before I get to handle you, what’s your worst? It might be you’ll just point my errors for future reference. It might be you’ll demonstrate your throwing knife skills on me because I didn’t put down the toilet seat. What’s your worst girl? Because my imagination starts running wild now and as far away from you as possible.”

We arrived at destination. She got down and threw a “Have a good one!” over her shoulder.

“Have a nice day!” I replied. As soon as I started the car, I opened my mouth for the second time in the last 30 minutes talking to the empty space that retains the ghost of her presence:

“I hope you’ll give a five-star review as I’m driving away from you.”

Short disclaimer: The Journal of an Uber Driver is a work of fiction.
Long disclaimer: The literary exercise to define a nowadays character for a novel led me to create these 25 blog posts. This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental. Any opinion expressed about Uber should not be interpreted as having a negative connotation. I admire the company as an incumbent of the platform economy and I am a registered Uber driver for research purposes.