My next passenger had a strange house. It had large rectangular windows that looked like they belonged on the side of a skyscraper. The windows were sloped at a 45-degree angle and off-set by a balcony and steps that sat above a garage.
Off to the side, a small distance from the house, I also noticed three large tree houses built into three trees. They were connected by bridges and sat above a small creek.
The passenger emerged from the house wearing a baseball cap, a faded blue t-shirt, and shorts. He rushed to the car, rolling a large suitcase and went directly to the trunk of the car. I opened the trunk, and before I got out to help, he fitted his bag into the trunk and closed it.
I stood by my car door, half-in and half out as he started walking back toward his house.
“Can you wait a minute?” he said as he started fiddling with his keys. “I have to turn on the alarm, and I need to leave a note for my wife.”
I said, “OK.” and slid back into the car.
He sprinted back into the house, and I kept eyeing the odd structures in the trees. The creek was lined with ivy on sloping hills. I also noticed string lights draped along a bridge connecting the wooden treehouses. I counted them, 1-2-3. The third tree house had windows and a french door. It made me think of Peter Pan and the Lost Boys.
He sprinted back to the car and said, “Thank you, most drivers are impatient.”
“It’s cool. People need a little patience sometimes.”
“Can’t argue with that. I have to be at the airport in 30 minutes. Do you think you can make it?” he asked.
I started driving and said, “It’s twenty minutes away, and traffic is light. I’ll make it. Side note, What’s up with the glass on your house?”
“Oh that, an architect built it. The glass was supposed to go on the side of a skyscraper, but the fabricator added the wrong tint, and it was unusable for the project. He paid to have it hauled away and built this house out of it.”
“That’s pretty neat,” I told him.
“The house has no walls inside. It has a completely open floor plan. It’s better than any of these MCH, Modern Contemporary Homes, they’re building these days.”
“Yeah, the square houses.”
“Yeah, those things, but did you see the tree houses? That is the number one Free-Air & Bee in the world.”
I laughed. “Really?”
“Really,” he said like he said with punctuation. “I wanted to build a treehouse when I was little, but what I built, amounted to a cardboard box in a tree. When I got older, I built something worthwhile. I call them Mind, Body, and Spirit. You can look it up.”
Of all the stories I heard while driving, I thought this was the wildest. “I thought they were for your grandkids.”
“We don’t go up there often, but people from all over the world stay in those treehouses. But enough about that, what do you do when you’re not driving?”
“That’s the number one question passengers ask me. It’s right up there with how close we are to the destination and how much do you make per week.”
“This must be a profitable job,” he said then laughed. “Not unless you’re a bank robber in your spare time, or you could be a serial killer and this whole time you drive people to their death.” He laughed again. “If I was going to do it. I’d use those mints you got there or that water. No one would suspect it. Ha, ha, I’m just kidding.” He laughed again. “People like murder stories and stories where people do awfuly things to each other. Someone could make a movie called the mint and water murderer, but you gotta do something else. You’ve got to.”
In my mind, I saw Queen asking me the same question: What else do you want to do? I drew an empty bucket from my mental well, and my response was still the same.
“I’m just out here making money. Nothing special.”
“That’s honest. It’s just that you seem like a deep thinker. Are you a philosopher or something like that? I bet you hear a lot of stories.”
I thought of the notebooks I could fill with stories from passengers, “I’m not a philosopher, just a guy in a car.”
“Oh, you’re more than that!” He leaned toward the front seat. “I really like writing and acting. It wasn’t until I built my tree houses that I was able to focus on what I really loved.”
I considered putting words on paper for the rest of my life.
My passenger interrupted my thoughts. “It’s funny that you say, you’re just a guy in a car. I don’t agree. That’s what people say to make sense of what they’re doing when they’re trying to find themselves out. Don’t ever believe any of that bull—-. Just keep listening and get some courage. That’s all you gotta do.
Honestly, it takes more self-discipline to do this than a lot of other jobs. You make your own schedule, you keep your own hours, you’re accountable to yourself, no one else, and you have one of the best ratings I’ve seen. You’re doing a lot better than most. You just gotta go out on a limb. Then you’ll really make something happen.”
He checked his phone. “ Aww man, flights delayed. No worries. Keep driving. I can read when I get to the airport. I used to manage organizations until I made the tree houses for Free-Air & Bee. The technology came along at the right time, and I went out on a limb and made something that really pays the bills.”
He placed his cellphone in his pocket and took a notebook from his bag. “There is a book you need to read if you write. It’s hilarious. It talks about finishing your work Bird by Bird.”
He wrote the title and gave me the author’s name. He asked me to send him a copy of my book if I ever wrote one.
“I don’t like writing,” I said.
He kept talking about writing. “You can write mysteries, suspense, or that romance stuff. I don’t do erotic lit, or whatever it’s called, but you could probably write about real life and the things that happen everyday.”
“Sounds boring,” I said.
“Not the way I see it. I bet the people you pick up tell you a lot of stuff. Change the names and embellish a little bit. You might have something. Go out on a limb.”
I glanced at the clock on my dash. It was close to dusk. My passenger started with his phone again reading and thinking out loud while he responded to his Free Air and Bee clients via text.
“I told this woman she cannot stay for three weeks. It’s peak season…”
As we continued, I thought about my direction. I could cling to my routine or choose another goal. It would be interesting to do something different, but what for? I thought to myself. I knew there was more to life than paying bills and cash, but at the moment that was the immediate challenge. Maybe there isn’t anything greater if I don’t see anything greater than the immediate concerns.
When we arrived at the airport, he exited the car, and I helped him retrieve his luggage from the trunk. When he had his rolling suitcase on the ground he looked me over. “Let me know if you ever decide to write a book. It may be something. Even if it’s not, at least you got something you can show the grandkids.”
“If I ever write one, I’ll be sure you get the first copy,” I said.
“That’s a start. I’ll hold you to it,” he said as he walked off.
I drove away from the airport and started taking trip after trip. There weren’t any stories, just routine rides. Before long, it was dusk and the sun’s rays beamed down making everything golden. My car was steamy. The funk of 20 or more people had filled the car and the outside air was stale with smog. I found a department store parking lot where I could wait on another trip.
A few people strolled by, and a few sparrows picked at chicken bones near a discarded styrofoam food container. I saw a cab driver park then he emerged from his car. He gathered a water bottle from his trunk and placed a mat on the ground. He washed his hands and feet then began his prayers. I wondered whether he was praying for life, providence, or both.
Another trip alert sounded and I watched the timer tick down to silence. A warning that I would be logged out of the system if I missed another trip appeared and I deleted it. I imagined picking up another passenger, watching them enter, cataloging their clothes, their mannerisms, their advice, all to watch them leave. I envisioned a car door opening and closing a million more times. The one constant, the sound of my voice, it had life until it faded away.
Another trip alert sounded, but a call from Queen interrupted it. She had sent several texts earlier. The last read, THIS IS THEE LAST TIME I CALL YOU. I looked over the phone, my hand hovered above the option to accept or decline. The alert faded, and I said, “Hello.”
Posted in: Life Cycle of an a UB3R Driver