Tales from the Driver’s Side: Confessions of a Ride-Share Driver. Chapter One (Edited)

Chapter One:

Times I pushed it too far.

(Or: Planes, Trains, and WTF is that??)

 

In the year of our Lord 2016 I spent seven months as a driver with a popular app-based ride-share company.  Why would I subject myself to such demeaning lifestyle, you ask?  Because life sucks, now pay attention.  With a job like this and a desperate for business as I was I found myself often pushing the hours and telling myself  “One more ride.” One turns into two, three, etc. Several times I got too caught up and desperately needed to stop, but I just kept pushing.  I would think about the the things that motivated me to keep going and I would do it for those reasons.  Mainly because I have kids to feed.  But the difference between being successful in this career and being in the newspaper the next morning is knowing when enough is enough; knowing when you are too tired.  Often I would push that line.  Very stupidly, I would flirt with disaster and take risks I should have never have taken.  It should have taken just one incident to keep me from repeating mistakes but apparently I’m a slow learner.  Several times I have told myself “I’m done, go home” just to pull away from the drop off and have another request come in after hour eleven and have me screaming at my phone. I would start work at 5PM just to be turning down rides at 4AM that were coming in so often, I couldn’t turn the app off. I am very grateful and lucky that I did not have any accidents or other tragedies during these times. (Well, I did scrape paint with someone, but that wasn’t my fault.)  The Universe has other plans for me. But these are a few times where I should have stuck to my plan. Enjoy, and learn from my mistakes.

 

Fatigued driving can be just as deadly as drunk driving. Know your limits, don’t be stupid. I made mistakes and I would not suggest that anyone try it. I regret doing it, and I am not trying to glamorize it. I now make extra efforts to prevent driving while tired and have spent many hours sleeping in parking lots or on the side of the road if I’m too tired. Life is too precious to waste being foolish.

 

Part One:

Blue light special, part one.

 

Driving in a major city with so many large outlying cities you can get stuck going from downtown to a city 30 minutes away and getting stuck doing rides in that city for hours, just trying to get back to familiar territory but not willing to turn down rides. I ended up in a hateful relationship with one city my first big weekend driving, and found myself actively avoiding this place from then on. Seriously, fuck this place. I had taken a call from downtown big city to this little artsy town. (That story is in here, too. The one about the guy verbally assaulting and trying to fight me for missing an exit.) So, using context clues here, we can assume I’m already pissed off. After dropping of that failed abortion, I got another call from a house to a bar that was closed then back to his house; then a call from a bar to a different house. The downtown area of this city was very nice and well kept-up, decorated with string lights everywhere. The ambiance was pleasing, and I thought it might calm me so I decided, “One more and I’m done.” That one more came a moment later, pick up at a bus depot…on a hill…that I couldn’t get to. I followed the GPS step by step and the place it took me was the middle of the road at the bottom of the hill. I contacted the client who informed me that he couldn’t help, he had never been there before. But it was okay, I had time, because this douche nozzle was still on the fucking bus.  After 20 minutes, several illegal U-turns, screaming myself hoarse and possibly hopping a curb or two I found the bus depot.

The client got in the car and I knew this might be comical. He was extremely well-mannered (He kept calling me “Sir.” I felt like I was back in the South), but he was a big one. As he approached, I pulled the passenger seat up so that he and his luggage could easily fit in the back seat. (I had a hatchback at the time, not much trunk space.) As I’m making room for him, he places his bags in the back seat and greets me; then proceeds to get in the front seat, which I just made smaller. As he wedges himself in and knocks me around trying to buckle his seat belt, I mention that the seat slides back so he can have more room. I think the same thought dawned on us simultaneously; neither of us could reach the lever and it would be too much work to get back out. Plus I’m not reaching between his legs to try it.  He clicked his door to a slight close. (You know, the first click, where the door’s not fully secure but the cabin lights go off.) I shrug this off and off we go. I spend the next eleven minutes jamming my shift knob further into this guy’s leg with every gear. To make things worse, I’m pressed against my door at an angle so my foot keeps sliding off the gas and we are basically arm in arm just for me to shift. It goes without saying, but we got to know each other on an uncomfortable level.  I get him to his parent’s apartment and that’s it. I’m done. But the calls… they just keep coming. I have no idea where I am or where I’m going. I turned down several rides just trying to get back to the interstate. For some reason, I didn’t turn the app off though.  Like I said, slow learner.

 

With no interstate in sight I end up back at the bus depot somehow. I know that from there I can make it back to civilization. I think.  Not much civilization because there is not a soul in sight, but they have bars and string lights. I pull up to where shopping centers and street lights exist again, just getting excited about the possibility of making it to the interstate and eventually back towards home. (I had to use the GPS, it was far away and I thought could handle it myself after I found the interstate) I was getting close to freedom when another fucking request comes in. I take my hands off the wheel to pull my hair out and scream at my phone. I swerved a little, corrected, and for some reason accepted the ride anyway. What the fuck is wrong with me? I didn’t give swerving a second thought because I was the only idiot on the road, but like many aspects of my life, I was wrong. I heard tires screech like the movies and the interior of my car was filled with a fantastic shade of blue.  My cabin was filled with strobe light like an epileptic dance party.

 

I have tremendous respect for law enforcement, as well as all first responders for everything that they do to keep us safe. And if you don’t, fuck you.  I calmly pull over to the side of the road and roll down my window while collecting my paperwork and canceling the ride I was on. (License, registration and proof of insurance.  I know the drill.) A rather young and attractive female officer approaches my window and I decide it’s time to lay on the Southern Charm and flirt my way out of this one. I mean she was fit. She shines that million-candle power light in my fucking face so I can’t see a fucking thing.  Even if my face was semi-pretty, it is now a contorted heap of squinting and aversion. As if someone was shining the fucking sun in my face. Hmm. Fancy that.

 

Officer Hotness: “I saw you swerve a little back there. Had anything to drink tonight?”

 

Me: “No, ma’am. I am actually a driver for [insert rideshare company name here]. I took my hand off the wheel for a second to accept a ride and I guess I moved too much.”

 

I gesture towards my phone, drawing her attention to the open app and smile at her the best I can.

 

Me: “I am terribly sorry about that, ma’am.”

 

OH: “I gotcha. I’m glad that there are drivers  out there. Hopefully it’ll catch on and DUIs will drop.

 

Me: “Well I am glad I could be of…service…ma’am.”

 

I smile thickly at her. You know, like a creep.  I’m all for the sentimental and glad that an impact is being made for the benefit of society. (I’m just in it for the money.)

 

OH: “I’ll tell you what,I’ll just do a quick warrant check on your license and get you on your way. Sound good?”

 

Me: “I would greatly appreciate that, ma’am.”

 

She heads back to her cruiser and I joke to myself something about hoping she doesn’t find out about the trail of dead hookers I leave in my wake or the 32 grams of sweet Colombian smack in the trunk. Then something happens that quickly pulls me out of my good mood. I get another fucking request.

 

Me: “You have got to be fucking kidding me! Hell naw! Fuck you and fuck your drunk ass wanting to go home you can fucking walk you piece of shit.”

 

I shout quite loudly as I decline the ride, enough to rip a nice scratch in my throat.  I can only imagine what anyone who might of heard that would’ve thought.  I pause accosting my phone, either to calm down or repairing a further tirade; I don’t remember. What is important is that during my brief moment of labored breathing I managed to glance down into my side mirror.  My lady in Kevlar was walking back towards me with my paperwork in hand. This is the moment when all the bad shit you’ve ever done in your life comes flooding back and you think to yourself: “Wait a minute.  Do I have a warrant?”

 

OH: “So, why’d you turn me down?”

 

Me: “I’m sorry? I wasn’t aware an offer was being made for me to turn down.”

 

(But if there is one, your car and keep the utility belt on.)

 

She pulls out her personal phone and smiles at me while leaning closer and resting her arms on my door.  She’s almost face to face with me, this time without blaring a supernova in my face. Being able to see her features better, I notice that she was prettier than I originally thought; although slightly heavy with the powder foundation.

 

OH: “I sent you a ride request. Just trying to see if you were trying to get one over on me.”

 

Me: “Oh, wow! That was you? Yeah, I’m so sorry.  I couldn’t accept it. It seems I’ve been bad and gotten myself into a little trouble with the law.”

 

Down boy.  I smile at her the best I can while a feeling of dread falls over me that I can’t fully explain.  Then it hits me…

 

Me: “You didn’t hear all those things I said did you?”

 

OH: “Every word.”

 

Me: “Ma’am, I am so sorry. It has been an extremely long night.”

 

OH: “I understand completely. But I don’t feel like walking home. I might need a ride.”

 

Get the fuck out of here. Did she just?

 

She winks at me while rising, pats the top of my car, walks away and wishes me a good night. I giggle to myself a little about what just transpired and wave to her cruiser as she passes me. I’d like to say there was potential there, but I’m not that naive, I did a ring check. And, as it turns out, I was wearing one. I made it to the interstate about fifteen minutes later.

 

Part Two:

Blue light special, part two.

 

Fatigue can lead to a lapse in sound judgment, or so I’m told. One hectic night I was feeling a little drained. I wasn’t quite sleepy so I pounded an energy drink and kept going. I had picked up a ride from a bar downtown whose friends took off and left him there. You know, like friends do. I scooped him up and we headed towards a local Military installation.  The client looked like he was maybe 12.  He was a kid, barely out of High School and fresh from his mother’s teat.  He wanted to see the world and impress a girl so he left home and joined the U.S. Military. To which I applaud him for; no matter his reasons behind it.  You could tell he was still wet behind the ears and didn’t really know much of the ways of the world. One of those kind of kids that you could just tell the last time he saw a vagina in person he was coming out of it.

 

He was incredibly polite and respectful, just like a young Soldier should be.  He tried to make conversation he started telling me “War Stories” from Basic Training. Cute, but he has barely felt the tip of Satan’s dick; better known as enlisted life.  Hearing about how hard basic training is makes me giggle and I have to suppress the urge to say “Just wait, kid. It gets worse.”

 

He’s a young single Soldier so I can only assume I’m taking him to one the Barracks on Post.  As we get closer to the installation he starts to worry about how I’m going to get through the gate.  I assure him that it’s not going to be an issue and can instantly tell by his reactions how wasted this kid is.

 

Kid: “You’re heading towards a side gate, you’ve gotta go to the main gate and get a pass.”

 

Me: “No I don’t.  I can get on.”

 

Kid: “Oh, do you have a taxi pass or something? You’re gonna have to get inspected, so head towards the inspection gate. You don’t have anything in here do you?”

 

Me: “There’s a dead hooker in the back. And no, no pass, no inspection.  Even if I couldn’t get on myself, you can get us on.”

 

We pull up to the gate and a Military Police Officer asks us for our identifications. The officer recognizes me immediately.  It’s the third time I’ve been through his line tonight.

 

Kid: “Man, you don’t understand. This is a Military Installation. We have rules.”

 

I hand the MP my identification and he looks it over and makes a crack about being on “drunk patrol” before handing back my ID and letting us through. The kid is astonished that I was able to get on without issue.  I tell him I paid off the guard.  He’s a little hammered, so he probably won’t remember anyway. If he asks again, I might have to convince him that he blew off the gate guard to get us on.

 

I’m cruising along right at the speed limit and his building comes into view; or so I think.  The majority of my on-post rides are typically to or from the same four buildings and the address loaded on the app seems very familiar.  I’m following the GPS and I’m rolling up to a stop sign about a block away from the destination.  Another quiet ride, completely uneventful.  Then why is this story even in here?

 

Because this fucking douche canoe gave me the wrong fucking address.  I’m sitting here thinking I’ve got a block and a half to till I hit the parking lot of his actual building and this fool starts shouting: “Take a left right here!” I roll a few feet into an opening and pull a quick left.  Did anyone catch where I said I was rolling up to a stop sign?

 

Before I complete the turn I see the lights come on in my rear view. Shit. My passenger looks behind us and asks if that’s for us and I just nod. Well, this is certainly embarrassing. I know right off what I did wrong. I wasn’t speeding, I wasn’t drunk, there’s not really a dead hooker in my trunk. I ran the fucking stop sign. I pull to a stop in the parking lot and gather my paperwork. Here we go again. Just to make this situation so much better the client is freaking out.  Just putting this out there: I’m blaming all of this on the dumb shit sitting next to me. Getting wrapped up with the MPs, even if it’s just a ticket is bad JuJu, especially if you’re in the military. Let’s just leave it at they tell your Commander and shit rolls downhill.  So, yeah, the client is freaking out.  

 

I tell the kid to calm down and that I’ll handle it as I watch the MP approaching through my side mirror. I didn’t get the cute, mousy female with the killer body like last time. Nope, big black guy this go round. Like “I’m getting punk’d by Terry Crewes” big black guy.  Yes, I am aware of how racists that sounds.  The Officer leans down to my window (He has to, he’s like 6’8”) and asked if I knew why I was being stopped.  It was just like you see it on LivePD.  Weird, huh?  I responded that I had a pretty good idea as I handed him my paperwork. I explained to him that I am on duty as a rideshare driver, that my passenger is my current customer and that this is his building.  The kid didn’t do anything wrong, and he is almost in tears and mumbling something about his career being over.  I asked the MP if he could go, because he had nothing to do with the situation; even though it’s 100% his fault.  The MP was cool with it so I told the passenger he was good to go.  The skinny white kid next to me bolts out of the vehicle and runs toward the barracks. I mean sprinted. Like he was breaking out of Sing-Sing and being chased by a pregnant stripper seeking child support.

 

MP:  “What’s his deal?”

 

Me: “I have no idea.  Still too new for his own good.  You should go chase him down, we could probably get him to cry.  Besides, he looks pretty sketchy.  Most likely a racist.  I’m pretty sure he muttered something anti-semitic earlier.”

 

MP: “I would, man.  But you can imagine the paperwork I’ve gotta do if he falls and hurts himself.”

 

Me: “That’s probably going to happen anyway.  He seems like a bit of a klutz.”

 

At this point, the MP informs me that I ran a stop sign.  What?  No.  Not me.  Never.  It wasn’t me.  It was the one-armed man.  When that asshat made me turn before I expected to, I accelerated to get to a clear turn in and made a sharp left; blowing through the stop sign I was approaching. I wasn’t paying attention, I was tired and just wanted to get the ride over, now I’m in a heap of trouble.

 

The MP came back a few minutes later and had written me a warning, which doesn’t usually happen. I asked the MP why I was only getting a warning and he held his hand out and shook mine.

 

“Because of what you’re out here doing. Yeah, you’re making money off it. But that Soldier is safe, at home. His career isn’t ruined, I’m not cuffing him, and I’m not picking up his body parts. Yeah, it’s a job, but it’s also a good thing.”  That kinda stuck with me.

 

Part Three:

Trying (and failing) to do the right thing, part one.

 

It had been a busy night in the big city. I had gotten lost a few times, got called a communist; just a typical Saturday night in my world. I did my usual stupidity and was saying “one more ride” after 3AM and over an hour from home. I get a request from the south part of town and that little voice in my head was like: “I’m south, they’re south.  Maybe they’ll be heading south so I end the night closer to home.  And we could really use some chili cheese fries.”  If they were headed my direction and I could just drop them off on my way to get some much needed sleep.  Like usual, I didn’t get lucky.  Take that whatever way you will.  The next clients are instead catching an early morning flight.  I need to be heading south but the airport is forty minutes in the other direction.  I’m not making it home anytime soon.

 

The actual ride was uneventful.  They mainly talked to each other while I dropped some eaves. (Eavesdropping, get it?  Lord of the Rings fans do.)  Like I do on many rides where the client does not interact with me, I let a Mystery Science Theater 3000-style commentary play in my head. I had to entertain myself somehow to keep myself awake.  By the time we arrived at the gate the clients maybe said two sentences to me.  Which is cool, but doesn’t sell books. keep me alert. I dropped them off with barely a word exchanged.  

 

I left the terminal and was heading home. This particular airport is quite far away from the general populace but conveniently has a 24-hour convenience store and food court out by the parking lots. It’s after 4AM and I am feeling it.  My body needs sleep.  I come up with a plan to get some rest and still make it home.  My genius idea was to pull into a spot away from everything and sleep for a couple of hours, maybe rub one out, wake up and get right back to it. It sounded good in my head.

 

I drove towards the rear of the parking lot by a street lamp and let the engine idle.  I kicked off my shoes, pulled up the emergency brake and laid my seat back. Did I mention I was at a major airport? Because I didn’t take that into account when I came up with this plan.  It felt like I had only closed my eyes for a matter of seconds when I was jolted awake by jet noise. My car was being rocked by a Boeing 747 taking off into the distance.  It was a lovely sight as a clear dawn was approaching, but fucking inconvenient. My heart rate was elevated and I began to mumble in aggravation.  I tried my best to get comfortable again for the next few minutes just to be shaken to frustration as another plane rocketed overhead. Like I said, genius fucking plan. After that I decided to say “fuck it” and get on the road.  I’ve already got adrenaline pumping right now from trying to reenact the airport scene from Wayne’s World.  I hobbled out of my car and stumbled into the store to grab a cup of coffee.  I never drink coffee but it does the trick when you’re trying to stay awake; especially with about 23 packets of sugar. I grabbed a couple of other drinks and headed back to my car.  Having already decided to make the trek home, I know I’m not going to want to stop again.  

 

I pull around to the the front of the store and gas up the car. There was a guy at the other side of the pump in one of those rock-crawler style Jeeps.  He recognizes the company logo sticker in my window that shows I’m a rideshare driver and decides to get my attention. He greets me saying that he’s an avid customer and starts to tell me about how a driver got him out of a jam one times. He said he wanted to show a little appreciation and handed me a bottle of Gatorade.  He followed it up with a “I can’t take it on the plane anyway.” which makes the whole sentiment seem half-hearted.  He shook my hand and got on his way.  He seemed like a cool dude.  I should cancel plans on him some time.

 

I had thought that I had prepared accordingly to make it home and I had decided to take the next day off.  I had a coffee with a metric fuck-ton of sugar; a 5-hour Energy and 2 big ass Red Bulls.  I flopped down in my seat armed with a ridiculous amount of caffeine, a full tank of gas and a pack of cigarettes. I slid KoRn: Unplugged in the CD player and headed out; a man on an ill-advised mission.  Sometimes you just gotta say: “Fuck it. Let’s do it.”  This probably shouldn’t have been one of those times.

 

I poured the 5-hour Energy into my coffee because I hate the taste of both.  Pulling out of the airport I cranked up the jams, rolled down the windows to get the cold wind in my face and hit the road.  Responsibly for the moment.  By the time I hit the interstate I was half a Red Bull and most of my coffee down and I am wired for fucking sound. I can’t decide if my body is shaking from the cold or the caffeine but it is fucking go time! I’m in cruise control and I am bouncing off the friggin walls. I’ve got one hand on the wheel, the other out the window waving and pointing at passing cars while I’m yelling about conspiracy theories to everyone I pass.

About forty miles from my house, I begin to feel really nauseous and have come to terms with the idea that my heart could potentially explode at any second; if an aneurysm doesn’t get me first.  I’m not sleepy.  If anything I’m ultra-attentive and I am determined to make it home. My hands are locked on the wheel at 10 and 2 and I am unable to blink. All of my caffeine is gone and I am pretty sure that Gatorade might save my life.

 

I pull up to the house I’m living in temporarily and head to my room in the basement. I’m trying not to wake anyone but I am stepping on everything in sight. Or, rather, out of sight.  I didn’t turn the lights on.  Every time I brush against a toy or anything like it I’m jumping four feet in the friggin air because I am becoming more and more easily startled. Now, what could have caused that?

 

I get to my room and get strip naked for bed.  That’s when it hits me. Two Red Bulls, a Gatorade and a 5-hour coffee cocktail all in less than ninety minutes. I skip out of my bedroom and gallop in a circle around the basement solely because the idea of skipping around naked made me giggle. After getting short of breath because I’m out of shape I made my way to the bathroom.  I get in position and assume a three-point stance that you typically only get into when you’re drunk and have to piss.  In fact, that’s how I know my buzz is kicking in.  If I’m standing at the the toilet or urinal or back-alley dumpster and I’ve got my feet more than shoulder-width apart, one hand attempting to aim my dick and the other hand on the wall or car, or tree, or random person in front of me, holding me up so I don’t fall into my own piss. I usually stand like Superman to take a leak.  I’ll stand there all majestic like with my hands on my hips and hanging dicks out for Harambe; of course with my cape flowing in the breeze.

 

I hold myself up and get ready to go.  I’ve been holding it in for so long that I feel like it’s going to be one of those “feel-good” relaxing pisses gives your soul a massage.  As I The hairs on my neck began to stand up and I felt relief wash over me in waves.  I quickly got all tingly.  It wasn’t one of those hard “feel-good” pees that are borderline orgasms, but the other kind of feel good pees that makes your whole body shake. The kind of piss that after it starts you think to yourself: “Man, I should’ve timed this one.”

 

Any way, I’m feeling relaxed and close my eyes, letting the sensations roll through and out of me.  I’ve probably been pissing for over a minute already. I slowly began to realize that I forgot to open my eyes back up. I felt my equilibrium fail and my knees buckled slightly before I righted myself. I have fallen asleep standing up loads of times before, but I think I just fell asleep peeing. It makes things even weirder because up until now I wasn’t feeling sleepy.  So, what could it have been.  I shook it off, both figuratively and literally, and headed back to my room. I was expecting to crash hardcore.  I crawled under my covers and closed my eyes.  It was not a pleasant experience.  I haven’t came down from my caffeine colonic.  My heart was beating so fast and so hard that I can feel my pulse in my ears.  Things were starting to get scarier by the minute.  I remember trying to control my breathing and calm my heart rate.  I was almost to the point of calling an ambulance but I decided to call my wife instead.  When I told her what happened, she gave me the words of encouragement that only someone who truly loves you can properly give. She called me a dumbass and hung up on me.

 

Part Four:

Trying to do the right thing and failing, part two.

 

Typically I would drive in one of two large metropolitan cities that are a little over an hour away from each other, and the outlying cities in between.  The one I lived in at the time was quite nice and large,  so I typically refer to it as “the-not-quite-as-big-city.”  Why do I call it that?  Because the other city I drove in was bigger.  It’s called “the big city.”  Keeping up?  Good.

 

It was a busy night in the city; I had put a fair amount of time in and was feeling like it was time to head home. I texted my wife to tell her the plan and check on the kids.  I had been texting back and forth with my wife all night because she was having trouble sleeping and it was keeping me awake.  I’d like to point out that none of the aforementioned texting occurred while a client was in the vehicle, and most definitely zero of it took place while the vehicle was in motion.  I stopped for gas and then headed on to my monotonous ride down South.  I feel fine most of the way, but about 45 minutes into my drive fatigue starts to set in. I feel my eyes getting heavy. I my speed has dropped. I decide to call the wife to have someone to talk to to keep me awake.  Dick move on my part because she had finally fallen asleep and I woke her up when I called. She spent most of the conversation fighting off sleep and I ended up talking to myself for most of the call.  The gaps in between moments of lucidity were getting further apart so I told her I was going to try to make it the rest of the way and to get some rest. She is more reasonable and grounded than I am and quickly went on the offensive trying to talk me out of getting off the phone so she can make sure I’m staying awake.  My argument was that the point was kinda moot if she’s sleeping through trying to keep me awake.  Her argument was that no amount of money is worth my life and that I should not do this job if I’m going to push things to this point. She made sure to throw the kids in my face to make me feel worse about it; the manipulative twat. I’m pretty hard-headed but her argument was valid and I promised her I would pull off the first chance I got.

 

I really should take all things into consideration before I start making promises.  The problem was that I was ten to twenty miles from the nearest town.  I’m going down the interstate surrounded by nothing but trees and hills. I’m fairly certain that there’s there’s an exit coming up for an RV campground or something like that.  I got pretty lucky and got to the exit I was thinking of within a few minutes before I started to nod off again.   I pull off the interstate into a gravel parking area right off the side of the off ramp with a couple of cars already there. I started to think that I wasn’t the only one having a rough night but as I drive slowly through the gavel it occurs to me that all the cars are empty.  I drive towards the far end of the lot away from the other cars to park and shut the car down. I had been sitting for hours and was feeling quite stiff.  Well, not everywhere.  Yet.  Yes, I am referring to my penis.

 

I decided to get out and stretch or maybe walk around for a little bit. That was just a ruse, really.  In my head I’m surveying the area.  Not like a lost, majestic explorer or anything cool like that.  More of to see if there’s any shady people lurking about that might want to rob or rape me.  Or both.  Mainly I was seeing if anyone was watching so I can take a leak. It wasn’t as easy to hide as I had thought.  Especially considering that I parked about a football field away from the interstate and can hear every car that passes.  I’m hoping I’m tired enough to pass out like I’m shit faced; if not, this was going to make for a rough sleep.  I felt pretty confident and stepped out my car, unzipped my fly and whipped my junk out.  I stood there in my Superman pose next to my car and felt the wind flowing through my cape as I washed the dirt from my tire. I tried to hurry it along.  The Sun was coming up but it was still cold out; and, you know, shrinkage.  Like a frightened turtle.  And, yes, there will more Seinfeld references as we go.  

 

I climbed in the car and put on some heat.  I tried to get as comfortable as I could; I even kicked my shoes off for some reason.  It took me awhile to get comfortable. My legs were falling asleep which, of course, meant that the rest of me couldn’t. I kept repositioning and couldn’t stop my legs from tingling.  Once I  finally get all comfy like and I felt myself start to drift away into sleepy town.  I felt peaceful, which should have told me that something was wrong.  All seven of the Horns of the Angels trumpet at once and I’m blasted into consciousness. The car was shaking violently and I was bombarded by noises across the spectrum: high pitched, low pitched, and everything in between.  

 

I sprung up and tried my best to open my eyes.  They were adjusting but my ears were splitting.  I remember shouting because I was pissed of and I could barely hear myself scream. It felt like a freight train was speeding by within a few feet of me. How loud was it, you ask?  Let’s say the decibels were over 9000.  Only hardcore nerds will get that random fucking reference. I gained my bearings and wheeled around, trying to figure out what’s going on. I took a look in my rear view and have you figured it out yet?  You guessed it, there was a fucking freight train speeding by about fifty feet behind me. I lost it. Before all of my rational thought could return from slumber land I had jumped out of my car and began screaming at the train.  It was nothing too serious, just the normal everyday things you scream at inanimate objects when you’re angry.  Things like: “You fucking cocksuckers!” or  “Get back here and fight me you bitch!” Things to that effect.  In a “moment of clarity” I decided to kick rocks at it. This has to one of my better ideas.  Why’s that?  Remember earlier when I made a point to mention that I had taken my shoes off?  Yeah, my dumbass was barefoot kicking rocks at a fucking train.  The logic was strong with this one.  It doesn’t take but a second for me to realize how much my foot hurts.  That’s when the thought hit me: “Where’s my fucking shoes!”  I hobbled back to my car, dove in and grabbed one of my shoes.  In another one of those things that seemed like a good idea at the time I turned around and threw my shoe at the fucking train. Because that’s what stable people do.  They throw their fucking shoes at trains.  As soon as the shoe left my hand I knew that that was a bad idea.  Just like I expected, my shoe ricocheted wildly off the steel frame and landed in a tall grass field several yards away that I know will have to eventually navigate through with one shoe on.

 

As the train passed and the Doppler effect faded out, I stood there by my car giving this train the finger as hard as I can as it disappeared around a bend. I let out one final guttural roar in angst and a few heavy breaths in an attempt to slow my heart rate. That little voice in my head who has been silent this entire time is now awake, echoing in my brain “Now what the fuck did that accomplish exactly?” And obviously, he was right, but I did feel better.  I took a few deep breathes to collect myself and surveyed my surroundings.  No shoe in sight.  Fuck.   I walked to the edge of the grassy field with my head held low.  I felt like Sam Winchester in that one episode of Supernatural where he’s standing there looking all helpless and dejected and says the only thing I could think to say at this moment of my life. “I lost my shoe.”

 

Hallucinations (or were they?) part one.

 

I overdid it like a motherfucker one night.  Well, I overdid it a lot more than just one night, but this one was especially bad.  When you first get approved to do this job you’re sent a link to a training video with all the do’s and don’ts of giving rides to strangers.  I never watched it.  Had I watched the videos I would have known that I’m only supposed to work a maximum of 12 hours and take breaks.  I could have sworn I was allowed to make my own hours, but what do I know.  I pulled seventeen hours straight one day.  That’s right, I’m a badass.  I started at 11AM on a Saturday and turned the app off just after 4AM Sunday morning. I stopped for snacks a couple of times and had chicken nuggets in my door pocket for meals.  I never took a lunch break nor did I ever turned the app off.  If I had to stop for anything it went with me.  I even accepted a ride while taking a piss.  Needless to say I had a huge money making day.  I ended up getting an email saying I’m not supposed to go hog wild like that and I can get fined if I did it again.  Buzzkills.  Looking back, I realize that it was stupid and dangerous, but I was desperate for the work.  I had bills to pay, dammit.  All the rides I pulled that day were in the big city so I was 90 minutes from my bed.  I didn’t want to waste the money on a Hotel so I made the shitty decision to head home. I was feeling okay, so I decided to make the trek.

 

I thought I was doing pretty well, but as you’ll find out, that’s what I get for thinking.  I had barely gotten out of civilization when I started developing the signs of fatigue. My eyes were dry, I was unusually still and I had sank a little too far in my chair. Over the years of driving at odd hours and long distances I had developed little tricks to keep me awake, other than caffeine. Which, by the by, does very little if you’re already tired.  I mentioned earlier calling someone on the phone to talk to or you can pull over and walk around for a bit.  If that doesn’t get your heart rate going you could always  do some jumping jacks or push-ups.  I like to crack the window and left the breeze blow against my face or crank the radio to something I can sing badly and dance around to.  Sunflower seeds are a Godsend.  The constant movement of grabbing, sucking, chewing, and spitting keeps you active and sounds dirty when you say it like that.  Sunflower seeds can keep sleep away if you start before you get too tired and keep up with it.

 

I have heard of some people who will whip their junk out and edge themselves.  For those with self-respect, edging is stroking yourself to the point of orgasm, then backing off repeatedly without cumming.  The problem with that is that I drive a manual and I’m not that coordinated.  I’ve never seriously tried it but this trucker at a gas station saw me loading up on energy drinks one night and he absolutely swore by it.  And, yes, I agree.  That’s a fucking creepy conversation to have with a complete stranger at a dirty truck stop.  Plus, knowing my luck, I’d get caught. I’d be driving down the interstate shifting gears while flogging the Dolphin and pass some frail old lady that would see me, freak out and crash into a ditch.  Then I would have to live with that.  I mean, she was probably close to meeting Jesus anyway.  But I would spend the rest of my life knowing that I cost her her last few days because I was priming my pump.  It’s partly her fault though, she shouldn’t have been on the road anyway, she could barely see over the steering wheel.  Also,  I’ve never been one for self control in that aspect.  I don’t know if I could resist finishing myself.  And, of course that would just make me more sleepy.  And it’d do a number on my upholstery.

 

I catch Hell for it all the time, but smoking gives you short bursts of wakefulness.  Those moments don’t last too long after you’re done with one, unfortunately.  Per cigarette, you might get 15 to 20 alert minutes as well as cancer, which is a bonus.  Plus, I can’t chain smoke like my in-laws.  I get sick as fuck if I don’t space it out. And, yes, I know I need to quit. My wife reminds me everyday, sometimes by force.

 

I had made it a little over halfway home when things started getting weird.  I passed a road sign for an exit that I felt I should have been about a ten minutes further up the road.  I had no recollection of the past few minutes and don’t know how I got to where I was.  I could not account whatsoever for the missing time.  I was either functionally asleep, or I was abducted by Aliens.  The Jury is still out.  By a miracle from God I somehow managed to stay in my lane.  Maybe, I’m not suree.  I wasn’t swerving that I know of and my next moments of lucidity I was still in my lane and there was next to no one on the road around me.  I didn’t feel tired anymore for some reason and everything seemed to be moving slowly.  It didn’t help that I was doing about 40mph in a 75mph zone.  I knew I was past my limit at that point and absolutely had to pull over.  I saw some strange lights up ahead and decided to coast towards them while riding on the shoulder.  I noticed an obstruction in the road.  I could see a light coming from behind it but had some trouble making out what it was.  Some guys in military uniforms were making patterns with flashlights and flares.  I heard no noise but watched as a black Chinook helicopter come in for a slow landing.  As the bird touched down I watched the blades slow to a stop and felt hypnotized as the position lights blinked in sequence.  I felt something was off.  Well, more off than a military operation in the middle of an interstate.  Especially one with no perimeter security, because I was hella close to the action and no one even approached me.  It also seemed odd that 16 ton helicopter landed within a few yards of me but didn’t blow my car around or kick up any dirt or rocks.  I put my car in gear and pulled closer to the bird.  But there were no cops or crews blocking the road?  Why weren’t any of the Soldiers stopping me or even acknowledging me?  Were they coming for me?  Did I really get abducted now the Men in Black are coming to silence me?  Something was definitely off.  I wasn’t exactly thinking clearly at the time so I assumed something was wrong with the aircraft and they had to land like right then.  For some reason I had the brilliant idea that I was going to get out and see if they needed any help.  I might as well have worn a T-Shirt that said “Please Detain Me.”

 

As I got closer to the helicopter I noticed the biggest red flag of this whole debacle.  The center of the aircraft was kinked upward like the bird was smooshed together at both ends and the nose resembled an angry face.  That’s right, a fucking cartoon helicopter had just landed in the middle of a three-lane highway.  That’s when things cleared up a little bit for me.  The scene had disappeared and I was laying down in my passenger seat.  I opened my door and fell out my car while trying to gain my bearings.  I was nowhere near where I thought I was and I was missing a lot more than 10 minutes.  I was barely out of the big city in an empty parking lot and I was missing about an hour.  In case you don’t catch hints easily, I had been dreaming.  I didn’t fully remember it at the time, and still don’t, but I had pulled off the interstate and gotten ready for a nap.  My engine was off and my hazards were on for some reason.  I had no idea where my keys were.  I paced back and forth for a minute or two, racking my brain and cursing myself for being so stupid to let myself get to that point.  I do not remember pulling over and shutting the car down, but I realize that I had been dreaming, even though I was conscious and aware. I’m glad asleep me is more responsible than awake me.  He was even smart enough to hide my keys.  

 

After about 10 minutes of walking around and kicking myself I’m snapped out of my zone by a set of headlights passing me. They kept going and I decided to get some more miles behind me. I knocked out some jumping jacks until my back started to hurt and ran in place for a few seconds before getting back in my car.  I made it quite a few miles down the road to nothingness before I started to feel drowsy again.  This time I recall telling myself not to be stupid.   I pulled over on the shoulder to the point where over half my vehicle is in the grass, killed the engine and laid back.  After a few minutes I started to drift.  I figured I’d wake up whenever and head home. I had only seen one other vehicle since all this started, but as soon as I got comfortable a Semi truck blew past me; rocked my car and woke me up. I got a bit aggravated but let it go.  I layed back down and tried to get comfortable again just to have another one come barreling by.  I told myself that once I was good and out, I wouldn’t even notice them and that I am not getting back on the road.  I needed the rest.

 

I was having trouble getting comfortable for about the next fifteen minutes; but no other cars passed.  I started to get extremely frustrated when a new sensation decided to rear it’s ugly fucking head.  I had to pee.  After some kicking and grumbling I sat up, got out, and walked around my car.  I opened up the passenger rear door to block me so no one could see what I was doing.  That, and to save me the embarrassment of some passer by pointing and laughing at my tiny penis.  I took on my Superman persona and my stream started flowing.  You know what would make this aggravating situation so much better?  Another fucking Semi darting past!  And, wouldn’t you know it, that’s exactly what happened.  But this guy knew what was going on and honked at me.  Asshole.  As he passed, the wake he left shook me a bit and sent my stream into a roller coaster of chaos.  As if things weren’t already bad, I had now successfully pissed down my leg, on my shoe and on the floorboards in my back seat.  Leaving me both pissed off and pissed on.  Fuck you, guy.

 

I climbed back in my car; awake with adrenaline rage.  I decided to try and find another parking lot.  I managed to get past the next few miles purely by complaining and cursing under my breath.  I needed to calm down so I smoked a cigarette and that kept me going for me few more miles.  Before I consciously realized it, I was two exits away from the street I lived off of. I was still feeling okay so I pushed it to the exit. I had some luck come my way and managed to make it off the interstate and completely across town before I started to feel iffy again.  I would like to thank the 95 stop lights and road construction for that.  I wasn’t taking any chances this time and I pulled into the first parking lot I got to; which was about three miles away.  I headed under an overpass I saw a child dribbling a basketball walking slowly across the road.  He was wearing a  red sleeveless shirt with red and black basketball shorts and high-top shoes. I couldn’t help but think: “Where are this kids parents?” , “What is he doing out at this time of night?” , “Why doesn’t he have a fucking face?” and, of course, “Where the fuck is that parking lot?”

 

At this point I was about five miles away from my house, but I thought I was hallucinating.  I pulled over into a hospital parking lot and shut the car down.  I managed to fall out and I felt good about the situation.  I wised up and was being responsible, which doesn’t happen often for me.  I am only five miles from my house and my bed, but I stopped and was resting in my car because I was obviously too tired and had risked too much already.

 

Fifteen minutes passed since the last time I looked at my clock and there was a knock on my window.  I wiped my eyes a few times and saw a flashlight pointing in my window.  I noticed a glint of a badge and thought to myself “Yay! Sobriety test!”  I was fully expecting it to be the local police there to tell me that something has happened and it’s my fault.  Like that kid with the basketball was real and now a grease stain on the side of the road.  That was then and still is my biggest fear; that my stupidity causes a tragedy and I’m left to try to live with that.  I think that I could potentially be okay with them telling me there’s something sticking out of my bumper, like a mailbox or a Saab or something.  I looked around while I rolled down my window.  I thought for a second that I might still be dreaming because the lights on his vehicle weren’t blue.  Hell, they weren’t even red.  I could understand if a firefighter was checking on me or telling me that I’m not in a parking lot but halfway up a light pole.  The lights bouncing off my mirrors was an epileptic amber.  It was a fucking rent-a-cop.  I started to roll the window down but it seemed that the electronics were moving too slowly for Captain Impatient.  About halfway down the security guard shouted at me: “Hey, Buddy, you can’t sleep here.”  I was respectful and told him that I understood when in my head I wanted to tell him to come back with a warrant.  Because he wouldn’t have been able to get one.  Because he’s not a real cop.  I make me giggle.

 

I asked the guard if I could step out of the vehicle for a quick stretch and he reluctantly moved away from my door.  I’m sure the only reason he was working is because his Mom made him get out of the basement.  I could only imagine how much of an inconvenience asking him to move was.  I maneuvered around the Level 30 Dungeon Master and stretched out a bit.  I bounced around a few times while apologizing to him for some reason.  I was trying to explain that I just live up the road but I was too tired to make it.  He gave me the old idiom that I didn’t have to go home, but I couldn’t stay there.  Apparently the guy from Semisonic fell on hard times.

 

I walked around my car a few times and inspected every surface.  I had a sinking feeling in my stomach that something was wrong.  I had to be sure that I did not hit anyone or anything. My car was clean, no new scratches or dents.  That calmed me and I started to feel better.  Officer $10.50 An Hour was being pushy so I got in my car and left him behind.  I could only assume he has headed to his Cheeto break.  I made it home safely without incident and went to bed. I crashed a lot harder than I had intended.  It was after lunch when I finally pried myself away from my pillow.  Not long after I woke up I began to get that feeling of dread again.  I had to be 100% certain that I didn’t hurt anyone or anything.  I scoured police blotters from all the counties I drove in that night for any accidents or anything that could have been my fault.  I found nothing except a fender bender on a service road but both cars and all occupants were accounted for.  There was no mention of a clandestine helicopter landing or a kid with no face playing basketball.   That night was enough to scare me straight and I refuse to drive that fatigued again. It’s not worth it and I have too much to live for.

 

Hallucinations (or were they?) part two.

 

Okay, so this one is not funny.  Well, let’s be honest, most of this shit isn’t funny.  If you’ve made it this far without wanting your money back, be proud.  So, I saw a UFO.  Now, hang on, don’t go anywhere.  Before I lose you, let me explain.  For most of my life I’ve been drawn to the paranormal and the metaphysical.  I had always had my curiosities but never dove too deep into anything. I really got into things while researching for a book idea I had about either the multiverse theory or astral projection but I could never decide which one.  That whole idea ended up being scrapped.  (See: Quantum Leap Fan Fiction mentioned earlier.)  I discovered a lot about the universe and myself on this journey and have continued to research such things ever since.  Maybe I’ll write about that one day down the road.

 

Over the years I have seen the occasional odd happening.  A door or some cabinets opening or closing by themselves, lights flickering, appliances going nuts, sounds I couldn’t explain, Charlie Sheen.  I can only explain away so much by saying “it’s just the wind.”  I like the occasional conspiracy theory as well.  I haven’t resorted to wearing a tin foil hat yet, so I think I’m still doing well.  After dropping off a ride one night, something happened that I could not explain.  Here goes.

 

I had just dropped off a ride on a unusually slow night.  The lack of business on a Friday night was a bit ominous.  I felt off early on and wasn’t getting good vibes about the evening.  For some reason I decided I was going to call it an early night.  I thought if I felt better later I’d jump back out for and try to catch the “last call” crowd.  Something just felt off and I couldn’t quite put my finger on it.  I was heading east towards my place on a road that is typically pretty busy, no matter what time it is.  It was approaching midnight and the road was unconventionally dead.  I traveled down the road alone for over five miles.  I was cruising along doing about 60mph and caught almost every green light.  One finally caught me on yellow and I eased on the brakes and rolled to a stop just as the light turned red.  Something was compelling me to look up and to this day I can’t explain why I thought to look.  Through the upper left corner of my windshield I spotted a green light coming into view.  I figured it was just the reflection of the opposite side traffic light and don’t think much of it at the time.  The object greatly caught my attention when I gave it a second look and discovered it seemed to be moving.  I figured it was just in my head and still thought it was just a reflection.  I was at a three-way stop and looked at the roads across from me so I could get an idea if my reflection theory held water or if I was about to end up in the looney bin.  I’ll emphasize again, I’m at a three-way stop, not a four-way.  There is no traffic light on the side of the street that could have put a reflection on my window like that.  While I was running this through my head the light to my side turned yellow; but the green light was still there.  The light now looked like it was slightly edging east.  My light turned green and I took off.  I dismissed the light, I was still telling myself that it was probably a reflection of a light I couldn’t see and that it was a little windy that night; explaining the odd movements.

 

As I continued to head east the light was still there; seemingly in the same spot.  I watched the road and tried to ignore the object so I could just get home in a hurry.  I wanted t put the whole night behind me.  I told myself that I was just catching glimpses of reflections of traffic lights as I passed them by.  Unfortunately two realizations struck me.  First: that I was headed east, the light was headed east and it was starting to pull away.  Second: if it were a reflection it should be moving the opposite way as I passed it; to the west.  I watched the object more intently as light began to seriously pull away from me.  I had an idea that I thought I could use to confirm my little reflection theory.  I reached over and pushed the button to roll down my window.  I took my gaze off the road and physically put my head out of my window.  I was kinda hoping another car would pass by.  That would’ve been funny.  I can imagine trying to explain that one at the Pearly Gates.

 

My conclusion?  It was not a damn reflection.  The light was still there.  Want the deets?  It was about 500 feet up from my 11 o’clock position, headed east and was accelerating.  I’m not going to speculate on size, because I’d probably be wrong.  I mean, let’s be honest.  I’ve been lying about the size of my dick since I was 11.  It was a bright green orb of light resonating around a dark green center.  There was no engine noise and the whole scene was eerily silent.  I successfully spooked myself and my window wouldn’t rolling up fast enough. I was totally pussing out.  A quarter mile later I’m stopped by another red light and the object I saw continued eastward towards the horizon.  I thought I could just laugh this off in a few seconds but my luck never works out that way.  The light turned green and I tried to chase the object down.  As if it was responding the object turned north and disappeared over the landscape.  The weirdest thing about this whole experience was that while I was watching the light I felt that I should have been panicking, but I felt calm and at peace.  The light made me feel at oddly at ease, even though the lack of noise was unnerving.

Now, I’m gonna hold up the crazy train for a minute here and point out a couple of things.  I tried to explain away what I saw as something more rational that what was going through my head.  I tried hard.  I have some experience in the Aviation Industry and I did my due diligence after this event.  There is a green light on airplanes.  The Federal Aviation Association requires it.  On the right side of all aircraft, there is a green light; a position indicator.  There’s a red one on the left side and these lights are typically on the wing tip of an airplane.  I have personally replaced these light bulbs on several occasions.  I have never seen one this bright before or since.  The light I saw was a different, darker shade of green than any position light I have ever worked with.  Aircraft also have anti-collision lights; a red strobe on top of and under the fuselage and a white light on the tail.  If this were a typical aircraft flying level over my left shoulder and heading the same direction as me the green position indicator would have indeed been visible.  But, so would the red strobes and white anti-collision lights and I saw no such lights.  If it weren’t fucking green I’d chalk it up to being a really, really, ridiculously good-looking bright search light.

 

In conclusion, did I see an Alien spacecraft?  That’s not what I’m saying, fruitcake, calm your erection and put your foil hat away.  I saw a UFO.  There was an object (O) that was flying (F) that I could not identify from my experience.  There’s a “U” in there somewhere, I’m sure of it.  Do I believe that we are alone in the universe?  No. And if we are that just seems like a fucking waste of space.  Do I believe that extraterrestrial beings have visited Earth?  Of course I do.  I can read.  Am I going to spend the rest of my life in pursuit of “the truth?”  No.  I’m an adult with a family and a job and responsibilities; not Fox Mulder.  Although it would be a lot cooler if I was.

 

My rationale follows thus: I was sleepy.  That’s all there is to it.  You can call off Giorgio Tsoukalos and Steve Greer, they have better things to do.  I had been up since 4AM, worked out, worked till 5PM at my normal job, drove from 7PM till after midnight. I was tired and probably seeing things.  It’s happened before.  I totally believe it’s possible to be conscious and be so tired that your mind starts to dream.  Maybe my body’s vibrational frequency got so low or so high that I was seeing multiple planes of existence at once.  Go ahead, wrap your head around that one.  I can’t explain fully what I experienced but I know that at that point I was too tired to drive and went home.  Granted when I got there I looked over my shoulders constantly and turned every light in the house on in case E.T. read my thoughts, got my address and is hiding in the bushes to get me.  You’re not gonna probe my ass that easy, little green man.  I fight dirty.  I’ll bite, claw your eyes out, whatever it takes.  I’d kick you in the dick if you had one.

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