One of my Uber Chronicles stories.
Mall and retail pickups are often confusing to us Uber drivers because many times all we see is the address of the shopping center. The whole, entire massive shopping center. We don’t always see the store name where someone is waiting for a pickup. So when my passenger texts me to tell me the specific store where he needs to be picked up, I respond with K, and I feel gratitude for his thoughtfulness and consideration.
I pull up; he’s standing outside; he gets in. He’s the only person standing in front of this particular store at 10:20 p.m., more than an hour after the mall has closed. I laugh and say, I’m pretty sure you’re my Uber passenger, but I still need to ask you your name. He speaks and tells me his name, and I feel an unexpected surge of attraction to him.
He’s Black, maybe mid-40s, maybe older, maybe younger. He’s of medium height and build and he’s wearing a rather dorky knit cap on his head. He has a box of food, and I say it smells good; is it Chinese food? He tells me, no, it’s baked goods, from Dunkin Donuts. And I’m perplexed. I sniff the air some more and tell him, Wow, I sure got that one wrong.
We talk about all the construction around the mall and the downtown Columbia, Maryland, area, about the new retail and residential buildings going up, about the community and recent changes. He lives in Columbia, my hometown, too, and I’m taking him home tonight. I don’t know if he’s gay, straight, married, single. I just know that I love his voice: the richness, the depth, the masculinity, the humanity, the intelligence, the kindness.
I feel teary and emotional when I drop him off as I want to stay in his presence and drink him in through my ears. My response to his voice is not logically explainable. It feels—if such things are true—almost past-life-ish, or some sort of soul connection. The sound of his voice penetrates my heart and touches me deeply in a way that surprises me.
He thanks me for the ride and the conversation and tells me he hopes I won’t be out too late tonight. I laugh and tell him one of the nice things about the Uber gig is I can go home whenever I want.
Inside, I want to cry with the emotions his voice triggers in me. I want to stay with him and talk to him more, and hear his voice more, and more and more and more. I feel a wave of tears well up in me as I say goodbye to this man I barely know whose voice and essence I instantly love so dearly.
I’m also perplexed that just a couple short rides earlier another passenger’s voice and manner of speaking had me so riled up and angry because of his lack of using his voice for his own power and advancement. And here I am now, a messy pile of emotions after hearing this passenger’s melodious, rich, powerful voice.
Key experience: As my passenger leaves, I’m reminded of a quote from a book I started reading a few days ago. The book is Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts, and the quote is “The voice, Afghan matchmakers say, is more than half of love.”