One of my Uber Chronicles stories.
Next up, I’m headed to an upscale restaurant in an upscale part of northern Baltimore City.
Here, the streets are all recently paved and marked with brand-spanking-new reflective paint including the prettiest and most clearly marked bike lanes mine eyes have ever seen. These fresh, maintained and attractive streets and signage are in stark contrast to many of the streets of Baltimore’s inner city. As I drive around, it’s clear from the homes to the restaurants to the fancy streets that this is clearly a wealthier Baltimore neighborhood.
My passengers get in: a fairly nice looking white couple in their mid 40s, or so. They’ve been out for a nice dinner at a fancy restaurant, and they’ve been drinking.
The guy tells me I left a drink in the back seat and hands me a bottle of peach-nectarine Ice® drink. It’s unopened. I take it as a tip from my white-girl cheerleader passenger who asked that I detour off the journey so she could pee, urgently. I open the bottle and drink it, not because I’m particularly thirsty but more because it’s mine now, and I feel a territorial sense and righteousness around the saying, possession is nine-tenths of the law.
The alcohol they’ve been drinking manifests on the woman more strongly than it does on the man. She’s a little too loud, a little too funny and a little too everything. They’re clearly early in their courtship ritual, and she appears to be sharing her pedigree in the form of various stories from her childhood and younger years, all to help him understand who she is and from whence she hails.
He does the same, though not as aggressively or deliberately. They are giving each other information about their families, their lives, their values, their personalities. She seems to want him to know that she is a good catch, yet down to earth. Or maybe I’m projecting. I don’t know. She attempts to balance her credentialing stories with frequent cuss words, tales of cannabis use and calling me dude, repeatedly. Perhaps I am just making up a story about her. Perhaps I’m reading her spot on.
Their dynamic with me, their driver, I find peculiar. They started the ride out by engaging with me in a rather jovial way, asking me questions, having a conversation with me, talking as though the three of us were all sitting around a dining room table together…which was fine, of course. But then they moved to a two-person conversation without changing the volume at which they spoke. Interesting. Actually, a bit odd.
Usually when a couple talks in my car (be they lovers or friends), they speak to each other in somewhat hushed tones—or at least at a volume that is meant to be heard by the two of them, first and foremost, but not loud enough for me to feel invited in. People naturally lean forward from the backseat or ramp up the volume of their speech when they want to speak to me or ask me a question, but this couple, bizarrely, keeps the volume of their conversation at a public-announcement level for the entire ride despite the fact that they’ve clearly moved to intimate talk meant for the two of them. It’s a little weird, kind of like being forced into their relationships and courtship.
It’s near midnight, and they are headed to Fells Point, an historic waterfront area and bar scene in Baltimore that attracts an older and definitely more diverse crowd than Federal Hill does. I drop them off, and they walk to the Cat’s Eye Pub, a great live-music bar where I have gone dancing now and again. (More again, than now, but still …I’ve been there a few times and I like the place.) I drop them off and wish them a good night.
Key experience: This couple appears to be more in my realm for socioeconomic, peer cohort and cultural alignment than most of my passengers are, so I tune into their courtship with keener interest. While I find younger people (the majority of my passengers) interesting—as I find most people interesting—I believe it’s human nature to tune into one’s peers for a social barometer more than it is to look up or down the age ladder for such clues about behavior, dress, actions and attitude. I’m grateful, in my own way, for the lens to observe their courting and remind myself not to try too hard when out on a date. A guy’s either gonna like me or not. The more authentic I am, the faster we can both make a decision about whether relationship potential is afoot.