Excerpts from a Rideshare Driver's Journal
The following excerpts are gleaned from my journal of rides
since beginning to drive for one of the major ride-sharing companies.
Names are changed, but destinations, dialogue and comments are not.
Your comments...feedback...or your own Ridesharing experience are welcome.
Send them to Dr. Write

December 1, 2017


    2:37pm Phew!

    I would love to visit New Zealand some day, but I'll be very disappointed if it smells anything like this guy whose scent is something like Frodo without a bath after living on roots and berries. (Wait a minute...that IS Frodo.)
    I take him to the airport and help him with his bag.
    "So," I say, "you're bringing home some souvineer bricks."
    He smiles. "Souvineers," he says, "but no bricks."
    He smirks. "Just my wife's body."

    6:29pm Toilette Water

    Does anyone call it that anymore?
    That's what my mother called it. It was very popular during prohibition.
    I think it's what this high schooler from Vermont I pick up at Fisk is wearing.
    He says he's checking out colleges.
    "Music," he says, when I ask him what he plans to major in.
    "Your instrument?" I ask
    "Guitar," he says.
    He wants to go to the motel where he's staying. When I get there I realize the scent is Sleazy Motel.
    He climbs out and thanks me as I roll the windows down and drive off.
    The next morning the smell is still there.

    7:27pm Eau de Parfum II L'Heure Convoitée

    Seriously. That's the name of her perfume.
    I Google it when I get home. It retails for $285 for 2.5 ounces.
    She is accompanied by two guys
    They are flying to Atlanta. They direct me to Atlantic Aviation, the private airport adjacent to BNA. I'm curious so I ask about their flight.
    "Beechcraft Bonanza," one of the guys says.
    I nod, as if I know anything about it. "Who's the pilot?" I ask.
    "I am," the girl, who is seated beside me says.
    "She needs the hours," one of the guys says. "Her license lapsed.
    "It's really a hassle," the other guy says.
    "I'll bet it is," I say, without a note of conviction. "I'll bet it is."

November 9, 2017

    9:31am The man I pick up is very big. He gets in front and has to slide the seat all the way back and is still having trouble squeezing in. It would help if he didn't insist on keeping his backpack on his lap (despite my urging him to toss it in the back--I'm reminded of the scenario of the terrorist on a plane clutching his briefcase.) He can't buckle his seat belt because it's hidden beneath his girth. And making the situation even worse, he's on his cell phone and I realize he's talking to the woman standing on the porch of the house where I picked him up. It's his mother.

    "Yeah...well, fuck you Momma! You hear me? I say fuck you."
    I pull out of the driveway.
    "It ain't your money anyways," he shouts. "I ain't givin' you shit!"
    I head down the street.
    I can see his mother stepping into the road and shaking her fist at us as we drive away.
    "No, Momma! Don't need to give you nothin'. You hear me?"
    I see by the Waze navigation program that we're headed to the City Mission.
    "Maybe," he says. "Maybe I don't never come back."
    There's a pause. He's panting now and that has me worried.
    He puts the phone into his backpack.
    Nothing gets said for the remainder of the trip.

    5:39pm Bachelorettes again. They're stumbling out the front door of the house and I can see what's causing them to stumble. In addition to being tipsy, they are climbing over a giant, inflatable penis.
    "Which one of you brought that?" I ask, pointing to the dildo as they climb in. (I'm sure it's not actually a dildo; too big to be a dildo. Maybe it's something Macy's decided not to use in the parade this year.)
    They act as if I don't know what I'm talking about, so I drop the subject.
    "One more" one of them says."She'll be right out."
    Before I can respond, one of them begins talking about her experience signing up with the Rideshare company.
    "So...they asked for my literal credit card number. Can you believe that?"
    As I'm wondering what a figurative credit card number would be.
    Or maybe when she signed up she was asked "Is that your literal card number or your figurative card number?"
    But I have to interrupt.
    "We can't take any more. Four is my maximum."
    "Four?" one asks. "Are you sure?"
    "Yup. Three in back and one in front."
    Another asks: "Could't she sit on my lap?"
    I shake my head. "Not allowed." And I turn to the literal card holder. "When you call for a ride you can choose the ride that can accommodate the number of passengers you have."
    No reply.
    The last girl comes out of the house and the others get out of the car.
    "Well," I hear one say. "We could cancel this and get a bigger car."
    Another chimes in: "Or three of us could go in this one and the other two could call for a second car."
    There's a collective pause, followed by a collective sigh and rounds of "What do you want to do?' and "I don't know...what do you want to do?"
    Finally, they reach a consensus and three of them get back in the car.
    "Do you know where The Gulch is?" one asks.
    I turn and smile. "Literally?" I ask. "Or figuratively.

    8:03pm Taking a family to Tootsies; if I didn't know better, I'd say they were finalists at the auditions for the Beverly Hillbillies. They tell me they're visiting from Kentucky, which is where my Daddy was from (but he had the good sense to leave.)

    As they climb in Ellie May is explaining to Daisy why landromats are scary at night.
    "Just all kinds of creepy people. I swear they's drug addicts or somethin'."
    Daisy nods.
    "I just was minding my own business when this one fella asked me if I had any extra laundry detergent he could use. Can you feature that?"
    Daisy snorts.
    Jethro grumbles. "You shouldn't be in there by yourself," he says.
    "Humph," Ellie May says. "Laundry is laundry."
    "Shoulda called me," Jed says. "I'da fixed your washin' machine."
    "Yeah," Jeb mumbles. "Right."
    Daisy changes the subject. "I just can't get over that place where we got the groceries this afternoon," she says. "It was a liquor store right next to a market; in the same building."
    Jed chuckles. "You're in the city now," he says.

You may have noticed a lapse in journal entries a while back. That was due to a situation that occurred in early October. Since it does not directly involve experiences with riders, I've placed it at the end of this journal. If you're interested in it, I invite you to follow this link to read about MY OCTOBER SUSPENSION.

August 15, 2017

    2:17pm I've just dropped off a couple at Fisk University. A college student climbs and and I head off to an area I'm not too familiar with.

    "I like that music," he says. "What station is that?"
    "You go to Fisk?" I ask
    "Yes sir," he says. (I'm still not comfortable with being called 'Sir. It' a southern thing and where I'm from 'youse' is the common form.)
    "Well," I say, "that's your station: WFSK."
    "Oh...I guess I need to check it out."
    I smile. "88.1 on your FM dial," I say, sounding like an announcer, so I add. "How's your day going?"
    He nods. "OK...had a wierd start though.
    "How's that?"
    "I was accosted...by an old lady. I was waiting for my bus and she came up to me and asked me if I could help her out, so I asked her what she needed and she said 'You know.' (He gestures as if smoking.) She said 'You college boys got the weed; you got the good stuff,' she said."
    I nod. And...?"
    "I don't do no weed," he says. "Not since high school anyways."
    "Me neither." I lie to keep the conversation going.
    "Then you know what she says?" he asks.
    "No," I say. "What?"
    "She says 'I can give you a good time, you know,' and she winks and reaches for me...down there."
    I have no comment.
    "Down there," he repeats. "She says she's gonna show me a good time, that old lady."
    "Hmmm" I murmur. "Just how old do you suppose she was?"
    He shrugs. "At least fifty."
    I nod.
    He points to the next stop sign. "And that's the corner," he says. "Right there."
    I see a bus pulling away.
    "You can let me out there," he says.
    I nod again. "You bet."
    I pull over and let him out and he turns before closing the door. "Eight-eight point one," he says.
    I smile. "Watch out for the old ladies."

    4:22pm I've dropped off a guy at the airport and head to the Rideshare Parking area. When I pull in I'm automatically entered in the drivers queue. I'm number 50.

    I park the car, climb out, and walk over to a group of men smoking and talking.
    I say nothing; just listen.
    Two of them speak a language I can't identify. It sounds middle-eastern...to my untrained ear.
    One of the men turns toward me. "Who you drive for?" he asks.
    I tell him the name of the company and he nods and tells me he drives for the competition.
    "I go to drive for your company," he says, "but they want too much...er..information. My company says 'Hey...you got two eyes and four wheels? You're OK. You drive for us."
    I smile and nod. "I've heard that," I say.
    The second man chimes in. "I drive for both," he says. "I double my chances. OK?"
    "OK," I reply. "How many hours do your drive per week," I ask. "On average."
    He shrugs. "Sixty...maybe seventy," he says. "Is all I do. I drive. This is my job."
    I don't reply. I know this is true for quite a few of the drivers. It's their main source of income, but it's not the same as a 'real' job. Like me, they are independent contractors. They don't get any benefits, taxes aren't taken out of their pay, and they have to pay for their own health insurance and if they want it, unemployment and workers comp.
    There's a pause, a lull in the conversation, so I ask. "How does driving here compare to driving wherever you lived before?"
    They all grin.
    One of them points to the cars around us. "It's better there," he says. "There are no women drivers."

    5:58pm Just my luck. It's a group of bachelorettes wearing matching tank tops with the words "Gettin' Shitty in Music City." They're discussing the philosophical implications of having 'fun.'

    "OK," the apparant leader says, "I got so depressed last night. I mean, like, when the good time is over and like you know it's over and you get depressed 'cause it's over. I swear I was so depressed."
    "Oh Yeah..." the others say in unison.
    "I mean, like, depression is such a bummer. You know?"
    They know...they know.
    "I was like, ready to eat a gallon of ice cream. You know? And I put down my cell phone and all of the sudden I realized, hey, I've got pictures."
    "Oh yeah," the group says.
    "So then I realize I can look at the pictures and I can, like reminisce, you know? I can, like, remember the fun and kind of have fun remembering the fun."
    "Sure," one of her companions says. "Pictures...yes."
    "Yes," the leader continues. "So I looked at the pictures and I started to feel better."
    Her voice takes on a jubilant tone.
    "Honest...I felt so much better. So you know what I did?"
    No response.
    "I put them on my FaceBook page," she says. "And that's what I'm gonna do from now on whenever I get depressed."
    Another companion sighs. "That is so nice," she says. "Thank you so much for sharing that."
    And I think 'Just another girl gettin' shitty in Music City.'

August 3, 2017

    4:14pm They're not the Property Brothers; they're more like the Drunkety Brothers.

    Brother #1 gives me an address, but WAZE can't find it.
    "Gotta be it," he says. "You sure you typed it right?"
    "I didn't type it," I tell him. "You put it in."
    "I put it in?!" he exclaims.
    "He did. He did." Brother #2 says, slapping the back of my seat.
    "Maybe you could give me a name," I say.
    "Yeah!" Brother #2 shouts. "Give him a name!"
    "You want my name?" Brother #1 says.
    "We're brothers," Brother #2 says. "Like Daryl and Daryl. Remember them?"
    I nod and pull over.
    "But he's not Daryl," Brother #2 says. "And I'm not Daryl either."
    "Your destination," I say, turning in my seat to face them. "Where do you want to go?"
    "That place downtown," Brother #1 says, smiling at #2. "What was the name of that place?"
    Brother #2 smiles back at him. "Tushies"
    "Really?" Brother # 1 asks.
    "Take us to Tushies," Brother #2 says, gesturing with a wave of his hand and then leaning back in his seat.
    So I drive them to Tootsie's.

    5:48pm Sometimes it's impossible to tell what's going on. A girl probably in her early twenties in a short white dress with a sash I can't read climbs in. She is closely followed by a guy dressed entirely in black who I guess is in his late twenties, with a stubbly beard and a piece of oaktag with a cartoon-like drawing on it. And after him comes a very young man--maybe twenty, maybe younger--very androgynous--carrying a cane, though it doesn't appear that he needs it to help him walk.

    They say nothing and squeeze into the back seat.
    It's a long ride to a destination in a gated village with small houses, manicured lawns, and winding roads.
    At last we reach the address. It's a house like all of the others, though a different color.
    They climb out, saying nothing, and go to the front door of the house. I watch as the older man rings the doorbell, but no one comes to the door. He then knocks, loudly, but still no one comes.
    As I pull away I wonder what they were up to. What they will do if no one comes to the door. And if maybe I should wait in case they need a ride to somewhere else.
    But I don't.

    7:08pm A couple who might have just stepped out of the last Smokey & the Bandit movie climbs in. I'll call him Harley and her Zero.

    Harley points to the motorcyle in the front yard. "That's Daddy's bike. He wuz gonna come with us, but he fell asleep."
    I nod "Uh huh."
    "He gonna ride that bike 'til he can't ride it no more," he says.
    "Or 'til it kills him," Zero adds.
    "Hey," he says. "That's OK. He'd ruther die on that bike than in some ol' hospital somewheres."
    I nod "Uh huh."
    "I'd be ridin' it myself if I didn't have this bum leg," he says. "An' my car ain't down."
    "You don't need to be drivin' that car," Zero says. "You drivin' too fast to be on the street."
    "Shit hell," he says. "You know you gotta get 'er over a hunnerd if you're gonna get the thrill."
    "Yeah," she says, her voice growing softer.
    He sighs. "I shore wish Daddy coulda come with us," he says, then leans over toward me. "You ever get this puppy over a hunnerd?"

July 31, 2017

    9:31am It gets interesting...sometimes.

    I ask about his accent and Doug tells me he's Polish...from Poland...born and raised there.
    I shake my head. "The accent almost sounds British," I say.
    "It is," he replies.
    I continue to shake my head. "O.K." I say, with an air of doubt.
    "I went to Cambridge when I was seventeen," he explains. "Picked up the accent there."
    I almost expect him to say "So...there you have it, Old Chap."
    And I consider that any of my riders could make up any sort of story.
    It reminds me of my college professor who told us that when traveling and asked his line of work he'd say "I'm in ladies underwear." And whoever he was talking to would say something like "That sounds like an interesting job," to which he'd reply "Oh...no...I mean I'm in ladies underwear...right now."
    I think Doug might have been in ladies underwear.

    11:19am More tourists; this group is from Paris.

    I pick them up at an AirB&B in my neighborhood. They're going to the Greyhound terminal.
    "à la gare routière" the young man in the front seat says.
    "Pardon?" (Maybe I should have said "Excusez-moi," but then they might have thought I actually speak French and said something like "Dépêchez-vous, chauffeur...nous n'avons pas le temps de perdre.")
    "So sorry," the rider in the driver seat says, sounding a lot like Maurice Chevalier. "The bus station. You know it. Eh?"
    I'm about to say "Oui" but think better of it.
    In the meantime, the three riders in the back are chattering away, in French of course, and probably talking about how I'm losing my hair and probably voted for Monsieur Tromp. In fact I'm sure the word 'Tromp' was in there somewhere.
    When we arrive at the bus terminal they clambor out of the car, chanting 'Merci, Merci' and yanking their French luggage out of the trunk while singing the La Marseillaise. (Not really, though I was playing it in my mind.)

    5:08pm Got a rider soon after dropping off another at the airport; just flew in from L.A. His name is Mark Hayes and he's a comedian. [This is the only time so far I have used a rider's real name.]

    He gives me an address on Douglas Avenue.
    "Here on business?" I ask
    "I'm performing at your comedy club. Zanies?"
    "Of course. It's right down the street from my daughter's house."
    "Well then" he says, "no need for directions, eh?"
    [I wonder to myself why foreigners all seem to end statements in English with "Eh?" It's as if they're looking for an approval for their translation.]
    "Performing. eh?" I ask.
    And he approves. "Yes. I'm opening for Chris D'elia."
    "Chris D'elia," I mutter, as if I've heard of him.
    "You know him?" Mark asks.
    "Vaguely," I reply.
    "He's very good," Mark says. "You should come see him."
    "And you," I add, then tack on a question: "Your accent...where are you from?"
    He laughs. "Ireland," he says.
    "And you're actually sober," I say.
    He smiles politely.
    We pull up to the address on Douglas Avenue, a little white house sitting just below the underpass for Ellington Parkway.
    Mark is looking around and is clearly confused. "Where's the club?" he asks. "Zanie's. Where's Zanie's?"
    "Across town," I say.
    He shakes his head. "They said the apartment was right around the corner."
    And I realize that WAZE has brought us to the wrong Douglas Avenue. There's also a Douglas Avenue that runs alongside Zanie's.
    I apologize and we head out to the other Douglas.

July 25, 2017

    10:17am Bill says he met a "really hot" girl last night and she asked him if he wanted to volunteer for this morning, so of course, he said yes.

    "Nissan Stadium" he says
    OK, says I, and we're off to the stadium.
    "That's where they're meeting," he says.
    "Who?" I ask.
    "The volunteers," he replies.
    I nod my head. "I see."
    He points to one of the stadium parking lots. "There."
    I pull in. "What are you volunteering for?" I ask, as I pull to a stop.
    He chuckles. "I have no idea," he says, then points. "But there she is."
    He climbs out of the car and walks to her and they hug.
    Volunteering...it's such an unselfish act.

    3:59pm James is African-American and has been a Deputy Sheriff for more than ten years. I pick him up in a predominanty black neighborhood. He's carrying a garment bag and a pair of boots and he tells me we're going to the new house he bought. It's in an upscale Nashville suburb; a long ride and we make some small talk, but then I ask him a stock question: "What do you like best about your job?"

    He doesn't hesitate. "I'm working in areas where I grew up," he says. "And I feel like I'm giving something back."
    "That's nice," I say, realizing immediately how inadequate that sounds.
    "The kids see a cop who is one of them," he adds. "The folks there know that I know what it's like."
    I nod. "So then," I ask, "what do you like least?"
    He shakes his head. "The same thing," he says.
    "Same thing?"
    "It's the same thing. It's me being the only black cop they see; like they wonder why I'm doing that. They appreciate it, but they don't understand. And I tell them we need more minority police."
    "I see."
    "Sometimes I have to put up with crap from the other officers; the white ones who are racist. They make remarks without even realizing I'm there. They're racists because their fathers were cops and they were racist and it doesn't matter what kind of training they get, it's what they got at home that makes them."
    "So it's generational," I say.
    "Yes...and even the first generation police are gonna hear it from the second and third."
    I shake my head and there's a long pause. Then he points me to his new house. It's in a very upscale subdivision; brand new and from the cars and yards I know it's the kind of place my generation dreamed of owning one day.
    He takes his garment bag and boots and steps out of the car as a woman comes out of the house, smiling at him.
    "Thanks man," he says.

    7:16pm I'm looking for this guy who has put in an address on a street that is mostly fast food, liquor stores, check cashing places, and cheap cigarette shops. There are no visible numbers on any of them, so I call the rider and the conversatin goes like this.

    "Can you give me a landmark? I can't locate the street address, but my GPS says I'm in the vicinity."
    "I gave you the damn address. Where the fuck are you?!"
    "My GPS says I'm at your location, but I don't see you.
    "I'm right here, damnit!"
    "OK...well, I'm across the street from a Taco Bell."
    "I'm not at no damn Taco Bell, Dude!"
    "I know, but where are you?"
    "Hey ass-hole! I gave you the fucking address! What...are you retarded?"
    I bite my tongue. "No sir," I say. "I'm Presbyterian."
    "What the fuck! Listen! None of the other drivers have any trouble finding me! What the fuck is your problem."
    "Well, sir," I say after a moment. "It seems that my problem is you," and I hang up.
    But I stay 'active' so that he eventually has to cancel the ride, which means I collect a cancellation fee.

July 20, 2017

    11:54am This one's a low talker, a la the episode on Jerry Seinfeld where he agreed to wear the 'puffy shirt'.

    "I'm sorry; I didn't hear you."
    "You want me to turn?"
    She's gesturing now...waving a finger that's hard to follow in the rear view mirror as it pops up and down.
    "Here? Turn here?"
    The little finger puppet continues to wave, back and forth, up and down along with the whispered noises, then...
    She heaves a big sigh and I hear the door handle unlatch. "Wait," I say. "Wait 'til I pull over."
    "Uh uh...thith...."
    The door opens and I see the back of her head as she dashes across the busy street to a restaurant.

    6:22pm A major electrical storm; lightning all around; heavy rain as I pull up to an apartment entrance behind another rideshare driver and wait.

    And wait.
    Then I check the address on my app to make sure I'm at the right place.
    The other driver checks his app.
    We look at each other and shrug in unison, then laugh.
    And wait some more.
    We're past the five minute allotted wait time and still no rider.
    The other driver pulls away, waving at me as he heads out.
    I telephone the rider. (A button on the app puts me through to his or her number via a number in California so that the rider's actual number is blocked.}
    "You have reached the voice mail of..."
    I pull away and cancel the ride.

    7:08pm Charles is going across town to a very 'tony' district. Streets blacktopped recently, brick ranch houses separated by wide, manicured lawns.

    I turn a corner and find a couple of families gathered in the middle of the road. There are no sidewalks or lines on the road, so maybe they think the street is a park.
    "Take a right," Charles says.
    Five adults and six kids are in the way. The kids are oblivious; the adults look at me as if an alien spacship has just landed. I stare back.
    A toddler on one of those 'bikes' without pedals pushes her way toward me.
    One of the adults yells at her, then walks to her, picks her up under one arm and picks up the bike with the other and looks at me and shakes her head.
    Slowly, the group steps back just far enough to let me by.
    I drive two blocks to let out my rider, then turn around and head back to face the affluent street gang.
    They have moved back to the center of the road.
    I stop and rev the engine.
    No one looks at me.
    A few moments of the standoff, then they step back, acting as if that's part of the plan.
    And ever so slowly, I creep by them.

July 17, 2017

Sometimes riders want me to disregard the navigator's instructions. ("Just go straight here. Don't turn.") So I tell them I'm happy to follow their directions, but they need to understand that they are then responsible for the outcome. No matter. If they screw up they blame me. ("You should have turned left back there.") And then they post two stars and leave unkind messages, like this (actual quote): “Didn't take my direction. I know my way home better than anyone!” Unfortunately, there's no way I can respond. If I could I would have said: "Yes; you know your way home better than anyone...but NOT WHEN YOU'RE DRUNK!"

    1:32pm Three guys with luggage (two with two bags each and one with a large bag and a backpack) so I assume they're going to the airport.

    "OK...aiport. Right? What airline?"
    "Hattie's," the one in front says
    "Hattie's" I mumble.
    "Hattie's chicken," he says.
    I nod; bemused.
    "Our flight's not 'til 5 o'clock."
    "So we're gonna check this Hattie's place," one in the back says.
    "Hot chicken," another intones.
    "Hattie's hot chicken," I say, "Hattie B's actually" -- and we're off.
    Soon, we turn the corner of 19th Avenue and the guys can see the line; it goes down the street and up the alley. I can sense their surprise.
    "OK..." the one in front says, climbing out. "Thanks man."
    I open the hatch and they unload the bags and struggle to take their place in line.

    4:22pm Charlotte moved here from Australia. She witnessed an accident downtown and I pick her up outside the courthouse.

    "I was trying to do my duty," she says. "I got her at 9:00."
    "It took all day?" I ask.
    "For nothing," she replies.
    "How's that?"
    "I never testified," she says. "They tell everyone with a case on the day to arrive at 9 o'clock. Then you sit and wait."
    "How many cases?" I ask.
    "Seven," she says. "Seven ahead of me." She pauses and sighs. "And they never got to me."
    I shake my head.
    "I took off from work," she says.
    "That sucks," I add.
    She nods. "I think maybe I should go home."

    7:08pm I pull up in front of The Sutler Saloon. Al gets in, and I make the mistake of asking him "How was your day."

    "Honestly, man" he says. "The worst day of my life so far."
    "Sorry to hear that," I say.
    "Spent the day in court," he says. "I'm in the middle of a divorce."
    "Yeah man. And I still love her. You know?"
    I don't reply.
    "No," he says. "I do. I still love her. But that judge...the restraining order. He says I violated the restraining order. But I didn't."
    I nod. I'm not sure how I should react.
    "Alls I did was send stuff for my pets. She got my pets....you know?"
    I squeeze out a 'Yeah.'
    "My dogs and my cat...and all I did was go on Amazon and had food sent to the house. I mean I just wanted to take care of them.
    "Uh huh."
    "And toys," he adds. "I sent toys for them. My dogs love toys. I always played with them."
    He's now teary eyed...and sniffling."
    "And I still love her, man."
    "I know," I say. "It just takes time. Believe me."
    He sniffles and sucks it up.
    "I've been through it," I say.
    "You've been divorced?" he asks.
    I nod. "Twice," I tell him and then tell him the story of my marriages and divorces and how, after 18 years, I remarried my first wife.
    "Really?" he says. "Eighteen years?"
    "Yes," I reply as we pull up to the hotel.
    Suddenly he leans over, wraps his arms around my neck and hugs me. "You're the best, man," he says, then leans back and extends his hand. "Thank you," he says, vigorously squeezing and shaking the hand. "Thank you. Thank you."
    He steps out and turns. It seems like he's about to say something, but stops, so I lean forward. "Hang in there," I say.
    He nods, grinning broadly, closes the door, and walks away.
    And I'm thinking that maybe bartenders and drivers should charge for therapy.

July 14, 2017

In addition to awarding a 'star' [from 1 to 5] to their driver, riders get to make comments about the ride and I've received everything from “Best driver ever!!!!” to "I don't want to ride with him ever again." My star rating at this point is 4.76 (out of 5).

    10:34am Maria is heading downtown to set up things for a bachelorette party; however, I soon learn that she's the exception to the usual group of 'woot' girls.

    "And you're from?
    "Californa, but the others are from all over. We went to nursing school together."
    "So it's a group of nurses."
    "Not the typical bachelorettes."
    "God...I hope not."
    "Matching tank tops?"
    "No...but maybe we'll wear our scrubs."
    I like that idea.

    5:39pm Small world department. Group of three local guys start a conversation about Nashville

    "Went to high school here together."
    "What school?" I ask.
    "Father Ryan," they reply in unison.
    "Really," I say. "My son-in-law was a coach there."
    "What's his name?" one asks.
    I tell them and they break out in cheers.
    "He was my wrestling coach," one explains.
    "No kidding," I say.
    "He was great...he told his that when he wrestled for Father Ryan he told his opponents he was..."
    And there I have to stop; out of respect for my son-in-law, who truly is a great guy. You see, he was a student at Father Ryan High School and after college he came back to coach their wrestling team. And I don't think he'd appreciate my telling you what his students said (even though it was all good).

    7:08pm He's the stereotypical-looking nerd, carrying a paper sack in one hand and his cell phone in the other, and giving off an odor that's somewhere between hard salami that's gotten moldy and that guy in gym class who never showered.

    I start driving until, according to the gps, we're alomst at his destination.
    "How's it going?" I ask.
    "Yeah..." he replies.
    I start to turn onto Main Street.
    "Don't go that way," he says.
    I stop the car.
    "Down there," he says, gesturing to the cross street.
    I turn the corner and head down Shelby Ave.
    "Yeah...at the light; turn."
    I start to wonder if maybe the odor is from what's in the bag.
    "That alley...there. Turn there."
    I turn into the alley.
    "By that green car."
    I pull over and he jumps out and closes the door, then almost immediately, opens it, reaches onto the seat, and retrieves his paper sack.
    "Have a good night," I say, but I don't know if he heard me. He's already reaching into the sack, but I pull away before he takes anything out.
    One needs to have a little mystery in one's life now and then.

Number of Rides Given = 374 / Total earnings = $2,406.99
Miles Driven = 2406.99 / Gas Cost = $514.05

July 10, 2017

I'm never sure of the relationship between couples I pick up. Husband and wife? Boyfriend and girlfriend? Dating? On several occasions I have made a wrong assumption and been corrected: "No...no...we're just friends" or "We're not married...not to each other anyway."

    9:54am Tony gets in and asks to go to the fairgrounds. He's going to get his car.

    "Not the fairgrounds, actually...around the corner from there."
    He explains that he was helping a friend at a festival that was held there yesterday.
    "Couldn't pay me," he says, "but I got all the beer I could drink."
    I laugh. "Sounds like a deal," I say. "What were you helping with?"
    "Guitar straps. My buddy does custom made guitar straps."
    "Yeah," he says. "Makes a good living at it. You've probably seen his straps...fancy stitching, the singer's name...stuff like that."
    I nod. I probably have seen them; just never gave it much thought.

    11:34am I pick up Barbara and three others; bachelorettes heading to the Loveless Café; I can hear snatches of their conversation.

    "She's, like, so controlling, you know, but not, like, in a controlling way. You know?"
    "So what was that like?"
    Well she, like, invited everyone in my group, like MY group, you know; all of my friends, everyone I hang out with, but, like, she didn't invite me."
    Sympathetic responses ensue. One of the girls is frantically typing a text message.
    "It's Cynthia" she says, as she reads text message. "She, like, wants to know which was, like, the better therapy for me, the beer or the pie. So I told her, like, the pie, like absolutely, the pie."
    They all laugh.
    There's a momentary silence. Then the girl seated directly behind me taps me on the shoulder. "You're going the wrong way," she says.
    I blink. "Oh," I say, as calmly as possible. "What's the right way?"
    She snorts. "Well, I don't know. I don't live here."

    10:06pm 'HOME'.
    That's what this rider has given as his destination. No address or place name. Just 'HOME.'

    I find him, or rather he finds me. He's waving as I drive by the string of bars on lower Broadway. Can't tell which one he came from. (Or maybe he did the lower Broadway crawl.)
    He gets in and I ask where he's going.
    "Home," he says.
    "I know that," I say. "But where is home?
    He takes a deep breath. "It's where I live," he replies in a tone that suggests he thinks I'm pretty stupid if I don't know where he lives.
    "I need an address," I say. "A street and a number."
    There's a long pause. I'm pretty sure he's searching his memory banks. Then, at last, he gives me the address.
    I thank him and as we head off I can hear him muttering "Home...home..."

July 7, 2017

You may recall that I have mentioned the bachelorettes I've driven. Now The Nashville Scene (a weekly publication about events, eateries, and the like) has an article about the phenomenon Here's a link to the piece: Bach [pronounced 'batch'], Please! Get Off Of The Bus!

    Kelly is angry. I'm taking her to her boyfriend's house. And I'm pretty much at a loss for words.

    "I'm sorry," she says. "I'm just very pissed off right now."
    "He hung up on me."
    "Won't deal with it, you know?"
    "So he hangs up. Just because I get upset."
    "Mmm hmmm."
    "Down there...the beige house."
    I pull over and she opens the door and turns to me.
    "Can you wait?"
    I shake my head. "Not really...I mean..."
    "OK...I can walk." And she slams the door.
    "Hell hath no fury..." I think.

    Australians...going downtown to Lower Broadway.

    "OK," I say, "I have a question."
    "Sure a'right."
    "'Crocodile Dundee' or 'Priscilla, Queen of the Desert'?"
    They laugh. "No contest," one says. "Priscilla," the other adds.

    Turned off my phone during lunch. When I turn it back on, the name 'Bill' shows up. And within seconds, the phone rings and it's Bill

    "This is Bill."
    "Are you my Uber driver?"
    "No...I'm not an Uber driver."
    "Can I talk to the Uber driver?"
    "There's no Uber driver here."
    "What happened to him?"
    I tell him who I drive for.
    "You're not Uber?"
    "Is the Uber driver there?"
    "No Bill. You didn't call for an Uber driver"
    "Are you sure?"
    "Yes...I'm sure."
    "Can you give me a ride?"
    "No...I can't do that. You have to order a ride from my company."
    I tell him the name of my company.
    "I don't have that one," he says.
    "You must have it" I explain. "Your name came up as a rider for me."
    "So you can give me a ride?"
    "If you redo the order...yes."
    "And that'll make you my Uber driver?"
    I take a deep breath. "Sure," I say.
    "OK" he says, and hangs up.
    And my display shows he has cancelled his ride.

July 3, 2017

    Crystal wants a ride to Walmart, with two stops.

    "Can you stop at the KFC?"
    "On Dickenson."
    And soon she points out the KFC.
    And I pull in and park while she goes inside, returning shortly with a KFC bag.
    "Oh...and I need to stop at the Dollar General."
    "Dollar General."
    "Yes...the one on Gallatin Road."
    "Gallatin Road," I say, wanting to add "Sure thing. Miss Daisy."

    Picking up two women...girls really, in their late-twenties. They tell me they're teachers, in town for a conference.

    "Where you from?"
    "Milwaukee," they say.
    "Milwaukee," I repeat. "So..." I add. "When you go back, tell LaVerne and Shirley I said hi."
    A long pause, then, one of them says "Who's that?"
    And I figure I don't need to say they're friends of Joanie and Chachi.
    And I sigh.

    This pair of women in their late thirties are picked up at the Performing Arts Center and are heading to the Post Office where they parked their car. I might make three dollars on this ride.

    "Coming from the show?" I ask.
    The touring company of Wicked is in town.
    "Yes," one replies.
    "How was it?" I ask.
    "Good" the other says, "But I liked The Sound of Music more."
    "Oh yes...Sound of Music. That was good. But it wasn't as loud as Phantom of the Opera.
    "Yes...I suppose you're right," her friend says. "Or Cinderella. The colors were amazing for that one."
    "Oh yes...the colors. Not like Mama Mia."
    "And that wasn't anything like the movie. Did you see the movie?"
    "No," I say, not realizing the question was to her friend, who replies immediately.
    "Hated the move," she says. "But now, Chicago. Now there was a show."
    You liked that?"
    "Not really."

June 30, 2017

    Frustrations: The app goes off and I grab the phone and my keys and go to the car. I climb in, start the engine and begin to back out of the driveway when suddenly, PLING! The rider has cancelled.
    Maybe it's because the dot showing on their Rider App, denoting my car, didn't move. Or maybe it seemed to be going away from them, which may have been true when the alarm went off. I think a lot of them don't realize that I'm heading out from home, or that there's a railroad track I must cross and if a train is coming, I can't move. Or that I'm taking a different route or I'm in the far right lane when WAZE says "Turn left!"
    Or maybe they just don't like me.

    Two couples; late twenties; nicely dressed; the two guys arrive first and get in, chatting like they're in an episode of "Friends.".

      JOEY: Maybe we should honk the horn.

      ROSS: No.

      The two girls emerge from the house and scurry to the car and get in.

      ROSS: You guys took too long to get dressed.

      JOEY: Yeah. We have to be there in half an hour.

      ROSS: No, four minutes ago we had a half hour; now we have to be there in twenty-six minutes.

      JOEY: Relax Ross, we'll be fine. It only takes ten minutes to get there.

      ROSS: Well, you know, I'd feel a whole lot better if we had more time.

      JOEY: Which we would if they hadn't taken so long to get dressed.

      RACHEL: We're sitting right here you know

      ROSS: Really.

      RACHEL: Ooooh! Wow!! Really. Yes.

      ROSS: (To Ross, who is seated next to me, in front) I think you're in my seat.

      RACHEL: What does it matter what seat?

      ROSS: I don't know, but I called shotgun.

      JOEY: Hey, Ross, want some of my water?

      ROSS: No. (to Rachel) So, you're all dressed?

      RACHEL: Is something missing?

      ROSS: No! You're perfect. You look great. Doesn't she look great?

      JOEY (to Rachel) You want some water?

    Picking up Laura at Rocketship Elementary School. That's really the name of a school here in Nashville.
    Here's a photo:

    I ask how long she has been teaching.
    "Two years."
    "What grade?"
    "You like it?
    "I love it," she says. "It beats what I did before."
    "What was that?"
    "I drove the Oscar Meyer Weiner Wagon."

    I get a PLING from Cassandra, but before I can respond, the name is replaced by Shondra. WAZE tries to adjust, but seems confused (as am I.) I'm now hearing to sets of directions.

    One voice says: "In five hundred feet, turn left."
    Then the other voice says: "Turn right. And then turn left."
    But then the first voice says: "Exit to Ellington Parkway."
    And immediately, the second voice says. "Stay to the right."
    And I wonder...is this what it's like to be schizophrenic?

June 28, 2017

    Bachelorettes at an Air B&B to Pinewood Social Club. Seems it's a popular place for them, but they can't agree on how to get there.

    I point to the screen; WAZE shows a map. "This will take us."
    "Is that right?"
    I point to the destination: Pinewood Social Club.
    There's mumbling from the back seat. The girl at my right reaches for the dashboard. "Watch out."
    "Sorry," I say, though we were well beyond the space needed to avoid the car that cut us off.
    "Here it is," one of the girls in back says and holds her phone over the seat for me to look.
    "Please don't do that," I say.
    "It's on Pinewood."
    I point out the window to the street sign. It reads Pinewood. I turn left.
    The girls are silent. The street is crowded with construction workers and the road is blocked. One of the workers is motioning for me to turn left. I oblige.
    Another of the girls points. "It's down there," she says.
    "But we can't go down there," I reply. "So I'm letting you out here."
    One of the girls mutters: "We have to walk?"
    A second one opens the door and replies: "Oh...my...god."
    I call after them: "Have an awesome time!"

    Royshon lives nearby. His mother operates a small child care business. He waves me down and climbs in.

    "How yer durrin?" he asks.
    "Splendidly," I reply and he gives me a strange look. The navigator shows an address north and west, an area I'm unfamiliar with, but the voice in my ear tells me where to turn.
    Royshon says something.
    "I say this what on how it for me."
    I play it back in my head, but come up with the same thing.
    "I'm not from here," I say. "And I have trouble understanding the accent. I'm from the East."
    "East...yeah," he says. "My sister from there."
    He goes on to explain that he will be a senior in high school this fall and that he works at a fast food resyaurant.
    "I shoulda been sleepin'" he says, obviously making the effort to help me understand him.
    "Why's that?" I ask.
    "Cuz I got some late shifts comin' up in a coulple days."
    "So you want to sleep now?"
    I pause for a moment. "OK," I say, "but that's not the way it works."
    No reply.
    "It's not like a bank account. You can't save up sleep hours and cash them in later."
    He laughs.
    "This what on how it for me," he says and I can hear my wife in the background. "Belltone," she says. "Belltone!!"

    Two therapists from Michigan want to go to Green Hills Mall. Husband and wife, I assume. But maybe not.

    "We work together," he says.
    A team of therapists, I think. I wonder if they play good therapist/bad therapist.
    "Of course you love your mother," she might say. "Every boy loves his mother, but..."
    "But not like that," he says. "That's sick!"
    "We'll get out here," she says, shaking me out of the reverie.
    I drop them off at Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville bar.

June 25, 2017

    Took Charles to get his car.

    Took Fredericka to get her car.

    Took Louis to get his car. (Love those Sunday morning 'hangovers.')

    Two couples..probably mid 40's...dressed in official tourist-wear. Pick them up at another AirB&B. (There's at least one on every block in this neighborhood. So much for knowing your naighbors)
    "We're going to Broadway," says the Alpha male.
    "Any particular place?" I ask.
    They mumble among themselves.
    "Music..."says one of the women. "A bar with live music," the other woman adds.
    "OK," I say. And we're off.
    I turn left onto Broadway from 8th Avenue. And there it is:

    A small part of the Broadway bar scene.

    "Oh..." the first woman says.
    "We'll get out here," the Alpha male replies.

    It's Juan again...so I accept and as I step out the door he cancels.

    Andrea wants a ride. I accept and WAZE says she's six hours and forty-two minutes away.
    I cancel.

    Samantha and Tom are going to a costume party (she explains as they climb in). He's wearing plaid pants, a green and yellow print shirt, and a giant red tie.
    She's wearing a fur coat. The outside temperature is 87 degrees.

    "Could you turn up the air conditoning?" she asks.
    I turn it as high as it will go.
    "Is that it?"
    Boyfriend shakes his head.
    Girlfriend sighs heavily. "No one else will be wearing it," she says.

June 21, 2017

    Paul is a regular; he lives a few blocks away. I get notified and go to pick him up. The ride is always the same. Down the road to a convenience store where he's quickly in and out, always with a black plastic sack the contents of which are not visible, so I speculate (to myself) -- a drug deal? a money drop? a beer run? beer and cigarettes?

    "Woah!" Paul hollers as we pull in and a car is pulling out and doesn't see us and we almost collide. I have to hit the gas to jump us out of the way and barely evade the other car.
    Paul leans over and blows my horn and yells: "Hey man! Watch out!"
    I have stopped the car and I'm watching the other car drive away.
    "I'm sorry, man," Paul says. "I mean that guy was a jerk."
    "Yes...well" I explain,"sometimes the jerks stop and get out of their cars and..."
    "Hey," Paul says, patting me on the shoulder. "I got your back, man. Don't worry."
    But I'm also thinking that some of the jerks even have guns.

    Dennis is a musician. He's on his way to a gig at a little out-of-the-way music spot called Santa's. And he's late.

    "Hey man...thanks. I'm running late, ya know...like, I gotta be there by four.
    "I'll do my best."
    "I appreciate it," he says. "I don't want to lose this gig. We've been doing Wednesdays for over a year," he adds.
    "Nice," I say.
    "Yeah man..."
    "What kind of music do you play?" I ask.
    "Country classics..." he says, "...mostly."
    "Any Willie...Wheel...Bob Wills?" I ask, trying to sound knowledgeable.
    "Yeah..." he explains,"but more Hank and Marty...Red Foley." (I presume Hank is Hank Williams and Marty is Mary Robbins, but Hank could be Hank Snow. What do I know?)
    We arrive at Santa's at five 'til four and Dennis unloads his gear, thanks me profusely, and invites me in for a beer. "On me," he says. "I'm buyin' for as long as you're stayin'."
    I thank him, decline respectfully, shake his hand, and drive away, considering that the invitation was hard to pass up.

    Two girls, look to be in their mid-twenties, climb in; they're going to a residence that's not too far, but this is my neighborhood and as we round the corner we drive by a guy dressed in black walking alongside the road.

    "Not too smart," I say. "He needs to wear something white."
    "Mmm...well...you know why they do that..." [The 'they' is the first clue to this woman's attitude.]
    "Because no one taught them how to be safe."
    (She snickers, softly.) "They don't want to be seen," she says.
    "What can you expect..." the other one chimes in. "...in this neighborhood."
    Shades of Trayvon Martin., I think. "What do you mean?" I ask.
    "We're in 'the hood,' the first girl replies.
    The hood...in a hoody in the hood.
    "I'm just glad we don't live here," the second girl adds.
    I nod. "Me too." And they think I'm agreeing with them.

June 18, 2017

    Picked up Greg at home and took him downtown to retrieve his car. He left it in a parking lot and took a rideshare home. Which is a common ride I give on Sunday mornings. It always makes me think of the Kris Kristofferson lyric: "On the sunday morning sidewalk; Wishing lord that I was stoned; Cause there's something in a sunday; That makes a body feel alone." And I have to wonder if this ridesharing thing makes people more apt to do this and thereby cut down on drunk driving. I hope so.

    Anna and Timmy are standing at the curb; he's holding jumper cables. I'd like to think they're headed for some kind of kinky sex party, but no.
    "Kroger," he says as they get in. "On Gallatin."
    "Bad Koger or good Kroger?" I ask. [There are two Kroger Supermarkets about a mile-and-a-half apart. The 'bad Kroger' is older, grungier, fewer 'gourmet' items , non-gma, and organic foods and more cheap wine. The other...well, you get the picture. That's the 'Good Kroger.' They're bigger and not the sort of place anyone would go with jumper cables.]
    "Say what?" he asks.
    "The one on the corner of Eastland?"
    "Yeah...that one," he says.
    I nod. "The Bad Kroger."
    "Yeah," he says.

    Juan wanted a ride...then cancelled almost immediately. He does this two or three times a week. I have no idea who he is, but my paranoia makes me wonder if he cancels the moment my name comes up as the driver. Or worse yet, maybe it's my face. Should I delete that serial-killer photo? And what if I were Jorge? Or Juanita? (Why, just last week I picked up Julio down by the schoolyard.)

    Alex gives me an address and we head out as he gets on his cell phone and begins texting.
    "Oh...wait...not there."
    "Wrong address," he says. "I'm hooking up with some friends and..." He's interrupted by another message. "Pearl Street...by the railroad..."
    A change of address pops up on the Navigator. The voice in my ear says "In five hundred feet, make a U-turn."
    My passenger is texting.
    I make the U-turn and we drive toward the new destination for about five minutes, then...
    "Wait...not there."
    "Not where?"
    "There," he says. "Hemingways. You know where it is?"
    I shake my head. "No."
    "Hang on," he says and I see him typing and after a minute a new address emerges on the Navigation screen. "There," he says.
    The voice in my ear says "Turn right on Pealr Street. Then turn right." And we navigate to Hemingways, only Hemingways doesn't look like a bar; it's a stone building with a single light shining from a solitary window.
    As soon as I stop, my rider jumps out and heads to the building.
    And I head home.

June 15, 2017

    Paul signs on from downtown for two stops, the first at his house (to get his 'stuff') and the second at his girlfriend's. He strikes me as a very 'slick' fellow, talking primarily about his work, though it's not entirely clear what he does.

    "Just pull up in the driveway," he says, pointing out the 1950's style ranch house sitting uphill above a neatly manicured lawn. It's then that I notice his cufflinks. (Does anybody wear cufflinks anymore?) "I'll be right back," he says, and bounds across the lawn to the front door.
    A few minutes later he emerges, a hanger bearing a sport jacket and slacks slung over his shoulder and a black tote in his other hand. He opens the back door, hangs up the jacket and pants and places the tote alongside himself. I click on the app to indicate we're ready.
    The girlfriend's is acrosss town, near Green Hills Mall. He is immediately texting on his cell phone, perhaps to tell her he's on his way.
    The girlfriend's house is a good deal more modest than his, a frame structure with a carport, no front lawn and a gravel driveway. She's waiting for him at the door.
    It's rides like these that have me conjuring up a back story--the girl from a farm somewhere away from the city; the guy from a metropolis in another state who was first in the family to college and has adopted cosmopolitan ways of the sort that had her assuming he was from better roots. And I picture how it all unravels when he takes her home. (But no problem when she takes him to her family to meet Dad in his bib overalls and corn cob pipe.)

    Picking up a Rideshare company employee from the downtown office. The fourth this week.
    "Maybe you can answer some questions for me," I say.
    She smiles. "Sure."
    "Comments," I ask. "Somebody put in a comment that I was speeding. The message I got said 'A member of the community has reported that you were speeding...' What does that mean: 'a member of the community?'"
    She's a bit evasive. "That's an automated message," she says. "Somebody turned in a report."
    "OK...but was it a rider...a cop...the app (because it measures my speed)...? They're all part of the community--not to mention the old folks at the neighborhood community center. There's an old biddy down there who thinks anything over twenty miles an hour is in the Indy 500."
    She laughs. "Oh no...no...don't worry about it. We look at those messages and delete most of them."
    "OK," I say. "But if the message is from a rider and I post a message that says a particular rider was drunk and abusive does anyone correlate the two?"
    "I don't know," she says. "I'll check into that."
    Ya think?

    A bachelorette party group. Nashville is reportedly the Number One destination for Bachelorette parties. (Vegas is Number One for Bachelors.) This is the fourth group of party girls I've had as riders.
    "So...we're, like, going to Broadway. OK?" (They giggle.)
    "Any particular place?"
    One girl to the others: "So...like..what's the name of that place?"
    Another: "I dunno."
    The third. "I can look it up. OK?
    The first: "OK. For sure. Look it up."
    The third: "OK."
    As I head toward Broadway I have to wonder if they're aware of how they sound. Does anyone who's a stereotype know when they're behaving like a stereotype? Do they do it intentionally?
    "OK..."the third one says. "Here it is. It's called 'Pinewood Social Club.' Do you know where it is?"
    "Sorry," I say. "I don't." Then she gives me the address: 33 Peabody. "OK?"
    "OK," I say. "Fer sure."

June 12, 2017

    I'm starting to feel like I'm the official musicians driver for East Nashville -- struggling artists as opposed to the big names; some with regular gigs dowtown (on Broadway, the pseudo Honky Tonk mecca of Tennessee)

    Andrew emerges from his house with a guitar slung over his shoulder. He places it carefully on the back seat and climbs in front next to me.
    "Broadway," he says, but I know that from the app.
    "To work?'
    "Just got a call. This girl singer got a gig down there at Tootsie's."
    I nod and we head out toward downtown. "How does that work?"
    He explains. "Usually a single performer cuts a deal with the bar, then he or she hires backup players. We work for the performer, not the bar."
    "And that works OK?"
    He shrugs. "It works. OK or not. That's how it works."

    Henry; leaving St. Thomas hospital
    He's visiting from Great Britain; had a touch of bronchitis.

    "On vacation, are we?"
    "So what have you done while you were here...beside being a guest at the hospital?"
    "Oh...well...the museums; country music, you know."
    "You're a fan then."
    "Yes...you might say. I did a bit of karaoke at that place...Wannabee's."
    "I've heard of it. Never been there though. So you're a singer?"
    "Not really...just wanted to tell my friends back home that I sang in Nashville."

    Picked up Autry and friend at a hotel downtown.
    "Suzie Wong's restaurant. You know where it is?"
    "Sure do...not far."
    "Have you ever eaten there?"
    "Actually, I have."
    "And is the food very good?"
    "Yes" I say, "it's Asian, noodles and the like; a lot of it spicy."
    "No problem," one of them says and I wonder if they know it's a very popular gay spot. Maybe they do. And what does it matter. I'm just the driver.

    June 9, 2017

    Teresa; going to work at the Calypso Bar
    "Can you stop at a convenience store?"
    "Sure...is this one OK."
    "No...the one on Fifth Street."
    "Oh...OK" and off to Fifth Street and a stop at the convenience store. Teresa goes in and comes out immediately.
    "I forgot my wallet. Can we go back to my house?"
    "Your house? Sure..." And back to her house to get the wallet and then back to convenience store.
    And to the Calypso Bar.
    I leave, singing Daylight come and me wan' go home!"

    Picked up Audrey and friend at a hotel downtown.
    "Hi...we want to go to a shopping mall. What's a good one?"
    They tell me they're from LA LA Land and I have to wonder why anyone would come to Nashville and want to go to a place that looks exactly like a place I'm sure they have back home.
    "Well," I say, "There's Opry Mills."
    "Great," one of them replies. "How far is that?"
    "Twenty minutes."
    "OK" she says, and off we go to Opryland and Opry Mills and Opry World. Hee Haw y'all!

    Here comes Adam and I help him load his stuff into the car: a turntable, two cases of vinyl (records), an amplifier, two speakers, a backpack and a dufflebag. He wants to go to the Hilton Hotel.
    "I'm a DJ" he says. "But I need to stop at a friend's to pick up my laptop."
    He gives me the address and we drive to the friend's house. I watch as he retrieves the door key from underneath a potted plant. (Too much information?) He goes inside and returns quickly with a laptop and puts the key back in its 'secret' place. Then we're off to the Hilton where we unload it and put it on the bellhop's cart. And the bellhop rolls his eyes.

    Somehow the vinyl semms appropriate for Nashville.

    June 7, 2017

    Joe and Ryan, from New Jersey
    Joe moved here a year ago. Ryan Is his buddy from college days. They went to Rutgers.
    The app says they’re going to Acme Feed (a local bar downtown). “Anywhere near there is fine,” Joe says.
    Joe yawns. “Did I sleep last night?” he asks.
    “Yeah,” Ryan replies.
    “I don’t remember sleeping.”
    Ryan laughs. “Do you remember talking to that guy in the cowboy hat last night?” he asks.
    "Cowboy hat?” Joe asks.
    “Yeah,” Ryan says. “He liked you.”
    “Really?” Joes asks.
    “Yeah,” Ryan says. “I mean, he really liked you.”

    Matt and Jenna, from Canada
    “Welcome to Nashville,” I say. “Did you come here to see a real hockey team?”
    They laugh politely.

    Zack, a local dude. I ask “How’s it going?”
    “Awesome,” he says, “so, like, man, like where’re we goin’?”
    I smile. “You’re supposed to tell me.”
    “Oh…yeah.” He pauses and takes a breath. “Home,” he says.
    I look at the app; it says Oneida Avenue. I tell him that’s my address.
    ‘Awesome,” he says.
    The hippy-dippy weatherman lives!


    In early October of 2017 I received the following e-mail:

      From: Driver Support
      Sent: Tuesday, October 3, 2017 10:24 AM
      To: George Wilkerson
      Subject: Follow-Up from Trust & Safety

      My name is Danny and I am reaching out to you from the Trust & Safety Team. We are investigating a potential violation of our community guidelines and Terms of Service. According to policy, I've placed your driver account on hold while we investigate.
      The safety of our community is our top priority. During this time, you'll be unable to drive on our platform. I know this is a difficult situation, but it's our policy to investigate all reports we receive. I'm following up on feedback I received about one of your recent passengers.
      This feedback alleges you made unwanted close contact with a passenger well after a ride had been completed. Can you give me more details about this?
      Because our Trust & Safety team doesn't take inbound phone calls, communications or questions about this investigation or email should only be sent through this email thread. Email replies ensure you'll get the quickest and most thorough response.

    As you might guess, this strange and vaguely threatening message had me perplexed. I hate it when people 'reach out' to me. It sounds like a throw-back to the old AT&T advertisement (pre-sexual harassment days) encouraging us to "reach out and touch someone," and I wasn't sure what sort of "unwanted close contact" I was supposed to have made, So I replied, asking for more detail.

      From: George Wilkerson
      Sent: Tuesday, October 3, 2017 4:43 PM
      To: Driver Support
      Subject: Follow-Up from Trust & Safety

      Hi Danny
      I have no idea what you’re talking about. If you provide me with specifics (i.e. time and date of service, where it allegedly occurred)
      I can respond better.

    I didn't hear anything for two days, so I followed up with a second message.

      From: George Wilkerson
      Sent: Tuesday, October 5, 2017 7:19 PM
      To: Driver Support
      Subject: Follow-Up from Trust & Safety

      Please note that I did not request the notice I received. I’m not sure why (as in the message below) it says “Your request” when it’s not mine.
      But that aside, I want to reiterate that I cannot provide you with “more details about this” as requested without specifics regarding the day and location of the alleged incident. I keep extensive, detailed records of every ride so given the date and time of the ride I will be able to review my records and respond.
      I am anxiously awaiting your response.
      George Wilkerson

    When the reply came I realized that I wasn't communicating with the rideshare company at all. Instead, the messages were coming from a company called Zendesk. I investigated and learned that they are a 'service' company with whom the rideshare company contracts to do customer (and driver) support.

    By October 7th, I still had no reply to either of my messages, so I sent one more.

      From: George Wilkerson
      Sent: Tuesday, October 6, 2017 3:59 PM
      To: Driver Support
      Subject: Follow-Up from Trust & Safety

      I have just received my weekly driving report for the period September 29 through October 5. My Safety Rating for that period is “Perfect.” Therefore, I must assume that the circumstances referenced in Ms. Annie’s e-mail (below) occurred prior to September 29th.

      I have scanned my personal driving records for the two week period prior to September 29th and can find no record of any ride where such an incident occurred. As earlier, without further detail from you I cannot respond to this inquiry.

      And please note that three days have now passed since this issue arose, during which time I have sent three e-mail responses and had no reply from anyone at Zendesk, despite the assurance that my e-mail to you would ensure “the quickest and most thorough response.”

      I would appreciate some sort of response from someone.

    Then, as if to confuse matters further, I got a package in the mail. So I sent this message.

      From: George Wilkerson
      Sent: Saturday, October 7, 2017 3:44 PM
      To: Driver Support
      Subject: Follow-Up from Trust & Safety

      Does anyone realize the irony in the fact that I received in today’s mail an Amp front emblem for my car?

      This all makes me wonder if my situation is even being handled by a human. Is there really a “Trust & Safety Specialist” named ‘Danny’? Are all of the replies I get automated? (Let’s see…if this message gets replied with “Your request (525558010 HAS BEEN UPDATED” I suspect that’s how it works.)

      Which makes me question why I should even bother responding.

      George Wilkerson

    The next day I received the reply below.

      From: Driver Support
      Sent: Sunday, October 8, 2017 2:38 PM
      To: George Wilkerson
      Subject: Follow-Up from Trust & Safety

      Hi George,

      Thank you for your patience. Due to the nature of the allegations, your account will remain deactivated while there is an ongoing investigation.

      To protect the privacy of those involved, we are unable to disclose the specific details of the report. The feedback alleged you utilized a passenger's address after a ride had been completed. Can you give me more details about this?


      Trust & Safety Specialist
      Help Center

    This is why people get migraines. I considered how this would work if a real 'crime' was at issue. Would they have said "To protect the privacy of those involved, we are unable to disclose the specific details of the report. The feedback alleged you murdered a passenger. Can you give me more details about this?"

    After much consideration and frustration I replied as follows:

      From: Driver Support
      Sent: Tuesday, October 8, 2017 8:41 PM
      To: George Wilkerson
      Subject: Follow-Up from Trust & Safety

      Mr Danny

      I am now completely confused. Your original message said that a passenger alleged that I “made unwanted close contact with a passenger well after a ride had been completed.” But today’s message says I “utilized a passenger's address after a ride had been completed.” Which of these is at issue?

      In either case, you are asking me to provide information about situations for which you have given me no frame of reference. Neither of them is reflected in my personal driving records. I do not recall, at any time, that I made close contact with a passenger “well after “a ride was completed. In fact, that phrase (“well after”) is too vague for me to reflect upon. Is “well after” five minutes after or thirty minutes after? And what purpose would I have for using someone’s address after they completed their ride?

      The only possible explanation I can offer for either of those alleged incidents is that those individuals making those claims were inebriated. Nashville has a reputation as a ‘party town’ and I get a large number of riders who have been drinking. As I tend to be forgiving, I don’t report them, nor do I rate them poorly, as I feel I’m actually doing them a service; however, I do retain the information in my records, which is why I am asking for more detail so that I might see if these reports came from one of those riders. Please give me an estimate of how long this “investigation” will be “ongoing.” And please respond to the requests and questions I have asked. If these matters are not cleared up by the end of the week I will need to look into alternative solutions.


    I waited a few days but, of course, I got no response, so I sent another message.

      From: George Wilkerson
      Sent: Saturday, October 14, 2017 3:01 PM
      To: Driver Support
      Subject: Follow-Up from Trust & Safety

      Mr Danny or Whomever is Behind this:

      I am attaching to this message a complete record of all rides I have given since beginning to drive for your company. As you will see, my records are thorough and detailed. In addition to the dates, names of riders, and notes about each ride, they include items like rider feedback, gasoline purchases, mileage accrued, and maintenance on my vehicle. Some of the notes may not be entirely explanatory as I use a code to identify some aspects of the ride (e.g. drunken, rude, or angry rider). If you have questions about any of them feel free to ask me. I assure you that the promptness of my response will exceed your responses to me.

      Having said this and given the absence of adequate responses to my inquiries, and the fact that none of these matters were cleared up by the end of the week (10/13) I am now forced to seek alternative solutions. I regret having to do this, as my experience with your company was very positive before all this began.


    The 'alternative solution' I'm referring to is my lawyer, whom I called and who searched the lengthy "Terms and Conditions" and found a section that would apply. So I sent a certified letter to the CEOs of the rideshare company AND of Zendesk and I sent the following e-mail message:

      From: George Wilkerson
      Sent: Friday, October 27, 2017 2:19 PM
      To: Driver Support
      Subject: Follow-Up from Trust & Safety


      Please note that I am responding to the inquiries shown in your messages below. In keeping with Section K of the Terms and Conditions document cited in your earlier message, I am attempting “to negotiate any dispute, claim or controversy informally” within the prescribed 30 day period.
      I have thus far provided information in an attempt to resolve the issue allegedly raised by a rider. The following is in addition to that information as I believe it might relate to the case although, as I have said, without specifics as to location, date, and time I cannot be sure.

      The first possibility concerns a small project I undertook to thank those riders (approximately 30) who used my services on a regular basis. I enlisted the help of local businesses who donated ‘gifts’ for the riders and distributed those gifts along with a ‘Thank You’ note to each of those riders. (A copy of that note is attached to this message.) When I began this project, I contacted the company to ask for support, thinking they might add something to the gift bag (e.g. a keychain with your logo). I was told that you do not do this, but I was encouraged to go ahead with the project. I then proceeded to drop off the gift bags to each of the ‘regulars’ and in some cases handed them to them personally. A number of them were very pleased and thanked me.

      The second possibility concerns a ride that was ‘flagged’ on August 4th. The note concerned a navigation issue which I wrote to you about. A drunken rider insisted on having me disregard the navigation system (WAZE) and follow his directions, which turned out to be wrong. Nonetheless, he blamed me for the error and was not very polite about it.

      The third possibility concerns a comment made by one of my riders on August 11th. He wrote .“He was being very smart with me and argumentative and im trying to tell him how to get to my building and he being smart and he is disrespectful. I don't want to ride with him ever again.” According to my notes this rider, whom I believe was named Jeffrey, insisted on calling me “Dude” and was extremely belligerent when I tried to explain to him that the reason I was having trouble locating him was because most of the buildings did not have numbers and I gave him a landmark (Taco Bell) to which he responded by shouting “I’m here ‘Motherfucker!” to which I responded by cancelling the ride and indicating there would be no charge. I communicated this incident to you and requested that I not get assigned to him again. On August 12th I submitted a handout I created which I provide to riders who cancel quickly. And on the 13th I received the following reply: “First of all thank you very much for the useful information, you are so kind! Drivers like you help us make a better Us! We really appreciate for you taking the time to do this, since we know you work really hard! I'm glad to inform you that I have escalated this information so we can share it and help other drivers as well!”

      I believe that any or all of the above might explain some of your concerns and help to resolve this issue.
      I look forward to resuming my driving for you.


      Dr. George Wilkerson

    And it worked. Or so it seems, as two days later I got the following message:

      From: Driver Support
      Sent: Tuesday, October 29, 2017 6:56 AM
      To: George Wilkerson
      Subject: Follow-Up from Trust & Safety

      Hi George,

      Thank you for getting back to me and following up on the matter. After further consideration, we have elected to reactivate your account. Please keep in mind that any future reports of this nature may lead to the immediate and final deactivation of your account on the platform.

      Please let me know if you have any additional questions or concerns.


      Trust & Safety Specialist
      Help Center

    As all of this went on, I looked into driving for a different rideshare outfit and found it easy to do. (The companies don't talk to each other or share data, so to them my record was clean. But on closer scrutiny, I learned that the other company had been having problems, including a class action suit by their drivers for having been short-changed. With my problem resolved I decided to stay with my current group, but to assume a more defensive posture. If there was any chance a rider might want to cause me problems I vowed to head them off with a complaint of my own.