I’ve driven people home from bars, frat parties and Sundance festivities and they’re often far from sober. But the most inebriated people I’ve driven were picked up late on a recent Saturday morning.
The first guy got in my car downtown and I drove him to Magna. He said he wasn’t drunk, he was “leftover drunk,” which I assume means he got drunk from something out of a Tupperware he found in the fridge.
We talked about books, one of my favorite topics.
Him: “I love books. I really like those ones about … real things.”
Me: “Like nonfiction?”
Him: “No. No. Like they look all around us, and they see [points to a building we’re passing] like that building, and then we read it and learn about that building.”
Me: “Like … nonfiction?”
Him: “No. No. Like, they take a computer, and talk about syncing that computer, and how that’s like we sync our lives. And it’s all real. [touches the headrest] Like this.”
Me: “Like … nonfiction?”
Him: “Yeah. Non-fiction books.”
He was harmless. Some are not, like the next guy I picked up who wanted a ride to the liquor store.
He slurred my name. “Brrrrrodi. Is that your name?”
“OK, Brrrrodi, I have a giant favor. I misplaced my ID. So if you could just run in real quick and grab me some whiskey.”
He said it as if he were asking a friend to pass the potato chips. I told him I couldn’t.
“Why not?” he asked.
“Because it’s sort of against the law.”
Him: “But I’m over 21! In fact, I bet I’m even older than your oldest child!”
My oldest child is 15, so I wasn’t sure how that was supposed to comfort me. Was he trying to say he was at least 16? That wasn’t helpful. Or was he saying I looked so old that my oldest had to be at least 21? In which case flattery would get him nowhere, I said in my head, and then I also said it out loud.
He wouldn’t take no for an answer.
“But I’m obviously over 21,” he said.
“Still against the law.”
“But no one will know. And other drivers have done it.”
My mom always used to say, if other Uber drivers drive off a cliff, would you? And, because I grew up in the ’80s, I would say, “What’s Uber?”
The liquor store wasn’t very far away. Otherwise, I would’ve considered just pulling over and dropping him off. Instead, I gripped the steering wheel tighter. “Look, I’m not about to break the law. Especially for someone I don’t know.”
I added that last part because the truth is I would totally break the law for my friend Valynne, but we made that pact a long time ago. She’s that one friend I would bury the corpse for. And bring my own shovel.
After an awkward silence, we arrived at the liquor store. He checked the clock and realized the store wasn’t open yet.
“10:45,” he said, “15 more minutes.” He held his hands in front of the heating vent and then rubbed them together. “We’ll have to wait.”
“We? In what universe did you hear me agree to your plan?”
Then, using the most select four-letter words, I kindly asked him to exit the vehicle. For the first time, I gave a passenger one star.
I couldn’t help him — nor did I want to — but I wish I could’ve helped my next passenger. I picked this guy up near the downtown library. He was on his way to a bar. Because Saturday morning brunch.
He got in and said, “Thank you kind sirrrrrrrrrrrrr — wait — you’re-a-ma’am.”
Me: “Last time I checked.”
Him: “I’m sooo drunk. My neighbors, nayyyboores, I mean, my cool nabes, like the people who live by me …” His voice drifted off.
After a long pause, I said, “What about your neighbors?”
He responded, “You know my neighbors?”
We talked a lot on that short drive, mostly about the awesomeness of his neighbors and the level of his drunkenness and then also a little bit about how he is gay and his father doesn’t accept him. I sympathized.
When we pulled up to the bar, he said earnestly, “I know we haven’t known each other very long, maybe three miles or so, but is there any chance you’d go to California with me right now? My dad is there and I think he’d accept who I am if you were with me.”
I told him I wished I could help, but a spontaneous trip to California with a complete stranger was not possible.
He said, “I think I could love you.”
Well, that’s why we do it. That kind of quick but intensely meaningful human interaction that few get in today’s disconnected world. That, and the money.
Brodi Ashton is a New York Times best-selling author who lives in the Salt Lake City area. She’s also an Uber and Lyft driver who shares stories from the road in this occasional column.