It took me several months of driving for Lyft before I could answer the question, "So who is the most interesting passenger you've had?" with anything that was actually interesting. My shift was usually during the week from 8-4, so the majority of my passengers were on their way to their jobs, a meeting or the doctor. I had heard stories from other drivers about the hilarious drunk people they drove and I always felt a twinge of jealousy that I could not swap these mostly hilarious but sometimes horrible stories with them. Then it happened. On a Thursday morning around 10 am I was sipping my coffee and driving aimlessly through the city when I heard the familiar tone of my Lyft app alerting me that I had a request. I accepted and began my trip to pick them up. My first clue that this would be an interesting ride went unnoticed: the address that he gave me didn't exist. This happened often as passengers got used to using the app so it wasn't a huge red flag. Even the second clue went unnoticed: the phone number I called to locate my passenger rang and rang and rang. Finally my passenger appeared in a doorway across the street from where I was. So I flipped around an waited patiently in front of him. The third clue is when my alarm bells finally started going off. My passenger was standing in the doorway with another man who swayed a bit as they spoke and needed to be steadied periodically by my passenger.
I was quickly filled with dread that this ride was not for my passenger, but instead for his friend. His friend, mind you, that couldn't stand up straight at 10 am on a Thursday morning.
Quick side note: people request rides for their friends all the time. But that doesn't diminish the slight panic I feel every time it happens. Lyft has a lot of information on the passenger that is getting into my car which acts as my security blanket on rides. They have their name, Facebook account, and credit card info. If something were to happen to me it could be traced and my chances of survival would be good (these are the thoughts a female Lyft driver has on a daily basis). When the passenger puts their friend in the car, their friend is essentially riding anonymously, and suddenly scenes from Forensic Files and Law & Order SVU start flashing before my eyes. If something were to happen to me, it would be in the hands of the original requester to provide information about their friend to help find me, and that always seems like a long shot. So my chances of survival drop dramatically when an anonymous rider gets in. These thoughts might only be thought by this female driver on a daily basis.
Back to Thursday at 10am. As anonymous friend struggles to get into the front seat of my car, I force a smile and put out my fist to be bumped. The original requester leans in through the window to tell me to take good care of his friend and that he was having a rough day. I smiled again and assured him I would as I prayed that this wasn't the ride that would leave my husband a widow. I began this ride like every ride by asking where my anonymous passenger was going. Now, I have heard my fair share of slurred speech before, but this was a new level. After three attempts at understanding what he was saying he finally got the necessary words out to convey that he would guide me to his home. After a slight pause in which I considered ending the ride and kicking my passenger out, I began driving.
The 20 minute ride consisted of slurred stories about the previous night that I barely caught, and (strangely) quite coherent directions to his home. My car began to fill with the smell of day old liquor and I tried to sneakily aim my nose towards my cracked window to get some fresh air. All I managed to understand from our conversation was that his friends had made him drink and do drugs the night before and that I was the sweetest and most beautiful person he had met. These last sentiments were repeated anytime he seemed to forget what he was talking about. I calmed down a bit as the ride progressed because there were no more red flags that I noticed and I was on high alert now. This poor guy just seemed to have partied far too hard on a Wednesday night and I knew that the rest of his day was going to be brutal. I began feeling bad for him, which made me try harder to contribute to the conversation which was going in circles at this point.
When we finally arrived at his home, he thanked me and told me he hoped that my day was full with as beautiful and sweet things as his day had been by riding with me. This statement was said in the clearest words he had used the whole ride. I smiled and wished him luck recovering.
After I had driven away, a smile crept across my face as I realized I had survived my first drunk passenger. And more importantly, I finally had my own crazy passenger story.