On a Friday night I called an UberPool to take me over the hill to West Hollywood. As I stood outside my apartment waiting for the car to arrive, I pulled up the profile image for Tommy, the driver Uber had dispatched to pick me up. The picture showed a muscular, thick-necked man in his mid-40s, wearing a tight T-shirt, a backwards baseball cap, and a manic grin that said, “I want to tell you all about my softball team.” My thumb was hovering over the “CANCEL RIDE” button when Tommy’s black Prius came to a stop beside me.
“Hey Truman, welcome to the party!” Tommy brayed as I clambered into the backseat, immediately confirming all my worst fears about what this ride would be like. He indicated the other passenger in the back seat – a beautiful black woman, done up for a night out, staring pointedly at her phone. “This is Monica. Monica, this is Truman.”
“Hey,” she muttered without looking at me.
“Hey,” I muttered without looking at her.
“Alright, here we go!” Tommy said, hitting the gas. “You guys got any radio recommendations for me?”
“No,” I said.
“No,” she said.
“Aw, come on! Seriously, what’s your favorite station?”
As a person who doesn’t listen to commercial radio, my favorite radio station is whichever one is not currently playing the song “Closer” by The Chainsmokers. I was subjected to the sonic chlamydia that is “Closer” on probably two thirds of the Uber rides I took in 2016. I don’t even want to think about how many cumulative hours of my life I’ve spent as a captive audience to that human rights abuse of a song about tattooed douchebags fucking in Land Rovers. If you gave me a choice between listening to “Closer” or an audio recording of Sean Hannity describing his latest colonoscopy in detail, it wouldn’t even be a choice.
Eventually Tommy tuned the radio to a Top 40 station Monica suggested, which was playing a heavily produced remix of “Closer” by The Chainsmokers. We rode in silence for a moment or two.
“Dang!” Tommy exclaimed, in reference to the radio. “The DJ sure is kickin’ on this one, huh?”
I tried to picture Tommy puttering around his house alone on a lazy Sunday: “Alright, Fruit Loops, get into that bowl! Here comes some milk; hope you’re ready for that, ha ha ha! What up, eyeballs? Yeah, just focus on the TV for awhile while I watch these three back-to-back episodes of Ballers!”
Monica’s phone rang and she answered it, rescuing me from any further conversation with Tommy.
“Hey,” she said. “No, I’m in the Uber now.” Pause. “We’re on Mulholland.” Another pause. She snorted, evidently unhappy with what she was hearing, and the conversation took a pretty sharp turn. “Okay, wow, you’re really gonna be a dick about this? I told you what time I was leaving. I just wanted to have a nice time tonight – I didn’t want to fight. Maybe if you came and picked me up like a real man, it wouldn’t be taking me this long!”
I accidentally made eye contact with Tommy in the rear view mirror. “Uh oh,” he said. “Sounds like somebody’s in trouble.”
Monica raised her voice, really laying into her beau on the phone over the course of about five minutes. “No, no. Don’t even start. Don’t. You know what? Forget about it – just go to the concert and have a great time there alone. I don’t need this. No. You blew it, okay? I’m just going home.” She hung up with a flourish and groaned loudly.
“Woah,” Tommy said. “Change of plans, I guess, huh?”
“He’s just such a baby. We’ve hung out a couple times and he seemed cool, but I don’t need to be with anybody who’s going to go off the handle just because it takes a long time to get across town. Forget him.”
“Hell yeah, girl!” Tommy chortled, thrusting a palm into the backseat for a high five.
I was beginning to believe that Tommy had been conceived in a government lab where idiots were paired with other idiots in hopes of breeding a new generation of mutant super-idiots.
“You can just drop me off at the bottom of the hill,” Monica said, weakly returning his high five. “I’ll get another Uber back to my place.”
“Aw, it’s Friday – you don’t have to call it a night just yet! Hey, I’m dropping Truman off in West Hollywood. Maybe you two can do something together, huh?”
I said nothing. Monica snorted incredulously. “No thank you…” she said under her breath, in a totally unprovoked diss on the only person in the car who hadn’t been wiping his ass with the social contract for the past 20 minutes.
Not long after, we approached the bar I was heading to, which lay on the opposite side of the street. Tommy slowed down, gauging oncoming traffic to try and make a U-turn – which, on a Friday night, would take awhile.
“You can drop me off here,” I said, pointing to the nearest street corner.
“Aw, it’s no thing – I need to turn around anyway-”
He was coming to a rolling stop. I opened the door and jumped out of the car like it was on fire and plunging off a cliff. “Thankshaveagoodnight!” I called back to Tommy and Monica, meaning exactly none of it.
I’ve never read anything by Jean-Paul Sartre, but I have read the Wikipedia article about a play of his called No Exit, which apparently includes the quote, “Hell is other people.” If I was the sort of person who was into body art, I’d get that quote as a tattoo – maybe a tattoo my shoulder, just like the horny club rat protagonist has in “Closer” by The Chainsmokers.