The Life Cycle of an Ub3r Driver
Part 6: The Ninth Sin
Friday Paul Ayo
All Rights Reserved, Copyright 2020
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The streets were “dry,” not many people were out and about hailing rides, so I was cruising for a lucrative place to catch a ping. A few days prior, Queen had let me know her show was the next day, and she wanted me to be there to see it. It was my luck that she was pursuing a career in music, and I was all for being her peace while she worked on her dream. I figured dreams were a luxury I couldn’t afford, at the time, so I was cool getting my quick cash while driving UB3R until I figured things out.
The heat map on the driver app turned red. There was a concert at the MegaDome. The heat map cleared up the confusion as it pulsed red and the surge pricing indicator started rising. In any case, it wouldn’t hurt to drive to a new area considering there weren’t many rides jumping at me in my current spot, so I was off to the races.
When I reached the MegaDome, the ride prices were good, but I remembered all of my gripes with picking up concert goers. Finding your passengers was an absolute nightmare, traffic moved at a snail’s pace, and no one knew where they were or how to tell you where to find them.
I was lucky, though. I found my group pretty easily. The mother sent a message letting me know she had on a cowgirl hat and leather pants. I saw the hat a good distance away, and she found me without a series of phone calls and questions about landmarks.
The group was quite fashionable. Each of them had their own style. The youngest daughter had on sequin tennis shoes that sparkled in the street lights. The teenage daughter was dressed in punk attire with bright wristbands, flashy earrings, and a logo tee that read, “BECAUSE I DON’T FEEL LIKE IT.” The mom strutted along in her leather pants bouncing as if she was ready for a fashion runway in Paris. It was almost like they were walking toward a movie camera.
When they entered the car, I noticed the youngest had eyes that beamed in the night, as she nestled between her mother and sister.
Nothing out of the ordinary about the group, and I anticipated an easy ride, but when they settled in the car, the feeling shifted. A dark weight pulsed between them, and an old weariness pressed into the car like a pothole after years of neglect.
As the trip began, The teenager stared out of her window. The youngest stared at me in the rear-view mirror. Their mother thanked me with booze on her breath as we inched along in the traffic. Before the sound of her thanks left the car, her eyes narrowed, her brow furrowed, and she began yelling at her teenage daughter.
“You are worthless,” the mother yelled as her face grew bright red. “You embarrassed me. I can’t believe you acted like a slut in front of my friends!”
The teenager drew a deep breath then formed her words like an echo snapping back its original sound. “Mom, I didn’t do anything. You’re not going to remember this in the morning. You’re drunk. You always act like this when you’re drunk.”
I looked back and saw the teenager staring at her mother then I turned my attention back to the traffic and crowds outside the car. It moved slower, and I didn’t want to get involved in the affairs of my passengers, especially, the affairs of parents and their children.
I kept my eyes on the road.
“This isn’t over yet! You’re not going to act like a whore and get away with it,” said the mother.
The teenager yelled back, “I didn’t do anything. You were with your friends. I was on the other side of the suite.”
“That’s when I saw you. I raised you better than that.”
“I was with the other kids. We were watching the concert—”
The mother snarled, “You thought I didn’t see you. You thought I wasn’t watching. You thought it was fine to act like a prostitute.”
That’s when the nine year old yelled over her mother and sister. “We just saw an amazing show. We should focus on that. We had so much fun!” She said like a child restraining two elephants from a fight. For a moment, the mother and teenager drew silence in the wake of the youngest’s plea. I felt like I was carrying a bag of boulders up a hill, so I raised the volume of the radio and hoped the impasse continued.
We drove for a few more minutes then the civil peace ended.“You know,” the mother said. “This isn’t over. You’re not getting away with this.” She reached over her nine year old daughter and shoved her finger into her teenage daughter’s face. “You are a piece of s—,” she said as she started waving her finger as she spoke. “You embarrassed me. You’re never going anywhere with me, again.” She moved closer to the teenager. “You’re not doing s— for the rest of this month.”
The teenager twisted her head sharply toward her mother, and I could see a vein in her neck. “You always do this when you’re drunk. I wish you knew how to hold your liquor. Stop acting like a b—-!” she screamed at her mother.
The mother spat her next words across the nine year old. “Don’t talk to me like that. Don’t you ever talk to me like that! I pay for all of your crap. You won’t have s— when you get home. I’m taking everything!” she said with each syllable whipping against the air.
The teenager rolled her eyes then said, “My step dad pays for all of my stuff. You don’t have any money. Everyone knows it. We wouldn’t have anything if it wasn’t for Nick.”
After the teenager finished her declaration the mother looked like a tea kettle with boiling water inside and the pressure valve had been blocked. “Are you serious, right now? You don’t know what you’re f—ing saying. If it wasn’t for me you’d be walking the streets, you ungrateful whore!”
The concert traffic hadn’t moved and my ears rang from the shouting. I reached for the radio knobs,lowered the volume, and warned the passengers in the manner a professional warns rowdy guests. “Ladies,” I said in a calm tone, “I can’t drive with this noise. Save it for when you get home or I’ll have to end the ride.”
I saw the eyes of the nine year old in my rearview mirror. They looked like small stars searching for planets to warm. She looked at her mother and sister then at me. “Please, don’t do that,” she pleaded. “How are we going to get home? Mom, he won’t put us out, will he?”
“Don’t worry about that,” the mother said to the nine year old then turned back to her teenage daughter. “I’m glad you brought up Nick, because you’re nothing like him. He’s great to us, but you’re just like your deadbeat dad. He’s a piece of s—! You’re a piece of s—! You are both worthless pieces of SHIT!”
All of the air seemed to leave the car as the teenager turned from the window and yelled, “Shut-up, Shut-up, SHUT-UP!”
I saw a swift motion in my rearview mirror and then I heard a thack sound as the cowgirl hat flew into the air. A cold silence filled the car, and I finally passed the choke point in the concert traffic, and I looked at the open road ahead then I checked the backseat.
I saw the mother covering her face with her hand like she was holding a petunia at her own funeral. “Did you see that?” she asked me from behind her hand.
I imagined disappearing into the mechanics of the car. Then I recalled the events, I heard a sound and saw a hat fly into the air. So technically, I hadn’t “seen” anything. But then I thought, this might be the Ninth Sin, whereas the Eighth Sin is silence, the Ninth is seeing a problem and doing nothing to stop it.
I knew it wasn’t my place to interfere in the affairs of another family, and I kept repeating in my head, I am the tires; I am the engine; I am not involved; I am just the driver.
I thought this was best, until I saw tears streaming down the face of the nine year old. She was sniffling, wiping her eyes, then staring at me in the mirror. At that moment, I wondered if she was also pretending to be a part of the car, rolling along, becoming one with the mechanics.
I glanced at the teenager and I saw tears in her eyes as she rested her head against the window. The nine year old sniffled. I remembered when I was young and felt powerless to stop things I felt were wrong. Then I thought, powerless and sin should written on the t-shirt I’m wearing.
I turned from the road and stared at the mother. “Lady,” I said. “Lay off your kid. I don’t know what happened at the show, but this is bull— and you need to stop.” I turned back to the road and watched the lane patterns shift left and right.
The mother found my eyes in the rear-view mirror. It seemed like she was trying to pull me closer with her gaze. “Did you see her hit me?” she asked me.
I searched my mind for a phrase of absolution. “ I didn’t see anything. Leave your kid alone or I’m dropping you off at a police station.”
“You know,” she said, “I do this everyday,” her eyes filled with tears. “It’s hard. It’s so damn hard. Do you know what she did?”
“No.” I said. “I was only here for what you did.”
“She was acting like—”
“Like a what?” I interrupted her. “I don’t care. You can’t get drunk and take all your s— out on your kid because it’s convenient.” I knew what that felt like. I remembered watching it. I remembered feeling powerless. “That’s why kids end up in the therapy. You should listen to your nine year old and stop picking on your own damn kid.” I took a deep breath and exhaled slowly like I remembered from a tutorial on staying calm.
I heard the mother take a deep breath then I saw her eyes passed back and forth as if she were searching for something. I turned on the interior light, and she grabbed her cowgirl hat from the ground. “Sir,” she said. “I’m really sorry about this. I will tip you.”
I shook my head. “Don’t worry about that. I don’t want your money.”
I heard another deep breath come from the mother. Then I saw her turn to her nine year old daughter. “I’m sorry,” she said. “Are you ok, baby?” she asked as pulled her close.
The teenager stared out of the window. She turned to look at me in the rearview mirror and she mouthed the words, thank you.
When I reached their home, it was a steel and glass building of more than forty floors. I saw a posh lobby, outdoor chandeliers, and granite tiles lining walkways that led to two large glass doors. The lobby was filled with French and Italian decor, and a concierge sat at a desk anticipating any residents who entered the building.
As I waited for the mother and her daughters to exit my car, I felt like I had just driven to a funeral. They lingered in the car like they were negotiating a hoax to display the world before they left. “Sir,” the mother said, “Wait, that was rude.” She looked at the app, “Jay, can you hold on for a second? We can’t go in looking like this.”
I thought to myself that was the least of her problems, but rushing them wouldn’t serve any purpose. She started straightening her nine year old daughters’ clothes and smoothing her hair. “No more tears,” she said as she wiped the youngest’s face. “You have on such a pretty outfit and shoes,” she said then kissed her on the cheek.
The mother then moved to the teenager. Their eyes clashed, and I felt the ebb and flow of emotional overtones that have passed between them. “I’m sorry,” the mother said as she fixed her daughter’s hair and carefully laid her earrings, so the jeweled sides could be seen.
“Jay,” the mother said. “Jay,” she said again. “I want to thank you. You’re a really nice man. There aren’t many people like you, people who see things for what they are. I’m really thinking about what you said, thank you,” she said again as she started checking her face with a small mirror she kept in her purse.
The teenager moved to her mother and helped, “Your face is fine, there isn’t a mark or anything.” The teenager removed the mirror from her mom’s hand then straightened her hat. “You’re fine, Mom. Really, you look fine.” The teenager folded her arms then stared at the building.
The mother looked over her daughters one more time. “Ok, we’re ready to walk in,” she said as they began to shuffle out of the car. The nine year old took one long, last look at me and said, “Thank you for taking us home.”
They exited the car and paused as if they were waiting for pictures to be taken. Their poses were subtle to communicate a natural state, each checking the other’s eyes for preparedness and solidarity. “We’re ready,” the mother said as they walked toward the lights of the building.
As I drove away, I saw a text from Queen:
Queen: You done driving? I have a story to tell you…