Homophobia at it’s finest.
In one of my puke stories, Bring a Bag, I mention this artsy, fun part of town. The following story comes to a head right across the street from the same bar! Small world, huh? On Saturday nights I usually drive in the big city, but I started getting rides as soon as I left my house and decided to stay local because business was steady. It wasn’t as hectic as the big city, but it did mean I could take a break if I needed to. I wasn’t feeling well anyway.
Now, I’m gonna stray a bit from my normal ways of telling a story and give a little insight first. The ride I picked up was from downtown to let’s call it old town. These two locations are divided by the interstate and the original ride was a grand total of eight minutes long. Usually, it’s my longer rides that produce some good stories, but this one unhinged quickly. The ride consisted of a married couple and their friend, the proverbial “third wheel.” So we’ll call these characters “husband,” “wife,” “friend,” and of course, “me.” It was topsy-turvy, had some twists to it, and got stranger from there. Also, these weren’t punk teenagers or college kids who’ve had one too many, or anything of the sort. These were grown adult productive members of society. Now, if you’ll indulge me, let me show you how things can go from happy to violent to awkward in eight minutes.
My excursion downtown tonight started off with a laugh. I had received a call from a bar that’s frequented by young service members and college students, so there tends to be a tussle every now and then. There was an open spot in front so I pulled up and waited. To keep the safety, there are usually several police cars parked in the middle of the road and more cops patrolling out front on the strip. Which, I for one, like to see and definitely feel safer. Although one night one of them almost hit me with their cruiser. But, turned out that they were responding to a fight that I got to watch part of and was praying for the taser to come out.
As I sat there this night waiting on my client, several people passed me by and a few inquired if I was their ride, but none of the names matched up. I had been sitting for a few minutes and we can’t wait that long. “Guidelines” say that we can cancel the ride for a fee to the client if we are at the pickup site longer than five minutes and we have attempted to make contact to no avail. Some drivers don’t even wait that long. I typically would give about 10 minutes and would attempt to make contact at least twice. I decided to make the first phone call to my client. There was no answer, but I let it ring out because I was distracted by the police car behind me. A guy, probably in his early twenties, was leaning against the cruiser getting a pat-down and his info taken by the police. From what little I could hear, he was involved in a fight. I cracked my window to hear more but I could barely make anything out over the crowd noise. I gave it another couple of minutes and tried to call again. As the phone began to ring, I watched the officer behind me handcuff the accused. And I will stress “accused.” Innocent until proven guilty in a court of law, I learned that from COPS. The Officer opened the cruiser door to grab a bag of some sort and I heard the guy in cuffs say something I couldn’t make out. The officer reached in the guy’s back pocket and pulled out his phone and put it to his own ear. I heard him say “Hello?” as clear as if he was right next to me. Because he was. The voice was coming from my phone.
Me: “Hi, this is [my real name] with [the company I work for].”
Cop: “Yeah, he’s gonna have to cancel. Sorry about that.”
Me: “Is it because he’s in handcuffs?”
Me: “Gotcha. Well, have fun with that. Thank you for letting me know.”
I had leaned out the window and waved to the officer when I asked about the cuffs. Needless to say, I canceled the ride and went on about my evening. My next ride wasn’t too far off. I had received a ride from one of the smaller bars downtown that is frequented by older gentlemen who still live with their parents and the occasional cougar. You know, my life goals. Sometimes the dropped pin can be vague and where I was had two bars directly across the street from each other. I parked in the turning lane in the middle to look to see if anyone was flagging me down. Usually, once I spot someone, I’ll pull into whatever bar they are coming out of so they don’t have to cross the street. Sometimes I’ll get lucky and the app will tell me the name of the establishment and not just a dropped pin. The first tell-tale sign that this was going to be an eventful ride was that my passengers started running out towards me as soon as I pulled up and almost got hit by a car. Not just any car, a fucking police cruiser. I probably should’ve beeped my horn or something.
I didn’t see the client flag me down or anything like that. What I saw was three people run out into the street and a police officer slamming on brakes to avoid hitting them. It was the client’s fault, but I took on the responsibility because I parked in the middle of the road. I waved and mouthed out an “I’m sorry” as the officer crept past me shaking his head. The woman said something about who would sit where and the two men made suggestions before the woman finally decided for them.
Wife: “You too sit in the back so you can have your little ‘bromance.’”
And that’s what happened. The woman sat next to me and the two men got in the back; her husband behind her and the third wheel behind me. The usual pleasantries ensued and that’s when they told me that the two were married and the other was a friend from college and blah, blah, blah. I stopped paying attention. We were going from a bar downtown to a bar in old town. It was still early in the night and they seemed like they were in a good mood and decided to do some bar-hopping. Once the “bromance” line was cracked though, the two men started acting flamboyant and making jokes like typical drunk bros. Good times. Nothing much more was said to me at the time and the wife poked fun at the two of them before everyone kinda just got oddly quiet. After about a minute the friend decided to break the tension and take the jokes one step further. His brilliant plan? He put his hand on the husband’s knee.
Husband: “Dude? What the fuck?”
H: “Don’t fucking touch me like that, bro.”
F: “It was just a joke, I’m sorry.”
H: “Fuck your sorry. I’ll seriously fuck you up.”
W: (To me.) “So how was your night?”
I made small talk back because although I could hear what they were saying in the back, it didn’t click as serious in my head until someone shouted a “Fuck off” to the other. I looked in my mirror and noticed that they had begun to shove each other. Not too much escalation just yet, but they had gotten physical and were still passing threats.
H: “Don’t think I won’t end you right here.”
F: “You ain’t gonna do shit.”
H: “Touch my knee again and find out.”
W: (To me) “So, have you lived here long?”
F: “Oh, I’ll fucking do it!”
Me: “Oh just a few years. Is this how they normally act?”
H: “Do it! I dare you.”
W: “Oh, we’ve lived here since college. We met and started dating here, liked it so much we stayed.”
F: “Don’t worry, I’ll do it. Then I’ll fuck you up if you even move.”
H: “Do you think I’m worried about your bitch ass?”
They start shoving each other again and the wife was blissfully oblivious to what was transpiring. I brought it up to her a couple of times and asked if I need to pull over and she never responded. Looking back, I could have shouted to them to knock it off or stop the ride or something. But they were just drunk. So far it was just a couple of shoves and some threats. Plus we only had about three minutes left. I was hoping they would either stop or just keep talking shit for the next three minutes so nothing in my car gets damaged. After they got out of my car they could fuck each other up all they wanted. I would have broken out the camera and the popcorn and put that shit on YouTube. Then just as suddenly as they started, the car went quiet again. Two minutes left.
H: “I’m sorry.”
F: “Yeah. Me, too.”
H: “Mean it?”
F: “Yeah. I still love you.”
H: “I still love you, too.”
And with that, the husband lovingly stroked the third wheel’s cheek. Cue the theme from the Benny Hill Show.
F: “What the fuck?”
H: “What now?”
F: “Don’t fucking touch my fucking face, pussy!”
H: “The fuck did you just call me?”
W: “I’ve lived here for almost twenty years and have never been to this bar. Have you been here? Is it any good?”
This time I heard the definite smack of fist hitting face. I looked in my mirror and they had met in the middle grabbing onto each other and hands were flying. I’m not sure how the wife didn’t know what was going on. Or maybe she was just so used to it that she didn’t care. Both of our seats were getting rocked and they were bouncing around so much that point the car was moving and I was actively trying to control it. She was visibly being pushed forward in her seat and she continued to ask me about my life. There was no way this did not bother her. She was probably overly done with her husband’s shit that it just didn’t affect her. Or, maybe she was just trying to get in my pants. I’m allowed to have delusions of grandeur, dammit.
I should have stopped the car right then or interjected somehow. But my thoughts and my eyes went to my phone. 0.2 miles, 1 minute left. I thought to myself “Fuck it, let’s do it.” I accelerated a bit and stopped hard in front of the bar. The wife thanked me profusely and tipped me well before getting out as the husband and his friend just sat there. I looked in my mirror at the husband glancing back at the friend like he wanted to eat him and the friend was texting or something on his phone. Or something…
H: “Are you coming in?”
F: “Fuck you, I’m going home.”
W: “Are y’all not coming? Is this not the right place?”
H: “Just fucking come have a drink, it’s fine. I’ll get the first round.”
F: “I don’t want a fucking drink.”
W: “Is he not coming? Should I get back in the car?”
F: “Go see to your bitch. Fuck off.”
H: “Alright man, calm down. She didn’t do anything. Look, just call me in the morning.”
Me: (Quietly) “Oh, look, I’ve got another request coming in.”
F: “Fuck you, I’m not gonna wanna talk to you tomorrow either.”
H: “We’re gonna go inside, send me a text when you get home.”
W: “Why is he not coming?”
By this time everyone had exited the vehicle and I ended the ride before accepting my new one. Instead of a new destination, my app was telling me that I had already arrived. Which does happen from time to time, and it’s really convenient to drop someone off and get an immediate pickup; especially at airports. I looked around for my potential client and got ready for my next trip. Admittedly, I was still giggling a bit from what just happened. The friend who was sitting behind me opened up my passenger door and sat down. At first, I thought he was coming to apologize or had something to say; but he just sat there staring out the window. I looked back at the app for the client info and started to understand.
Me: “You’re [friend], aren’t you?”
Me: “Shall we go, then?”
Oh boy. The third wheel was my next client. As if the last ride weren’t awkward enough, the GPS is telling me I’m going to have an angry passenger for the next 21 minutes. How would I handle this one? I knew better than to bring up what just happened and thought maybe I could distract him with small talk and hopefully change the subject.
Me: “Calling it a night?”
Me: “Yeah, it’s getting late. I might knock off early, too.”
Me: “Is it a left turn up here?”
Me: “Lived here long?”
Me: “Don’t feel up to talking?”
The next fifteen or so minutes were absolutely silent. I avoided eye contact as to not poke the bear and concentrated on driving. I would have sped to get there faster but it was all side and back roads with loads of stop signs. I’ve had all sorts of clients. I’ve been yelled at, threatened, propositioned, puked on, had people strip in the car, flashed, mooned, hit on by both men and women, pulled over, and gotten into a minor accident. But this. This was by far the most awkward ride I had given up to that point. Sitting in absolute silence next to Mount Vesuvius. I figured it was better to keep quiet than to say anything to set him off, just in case I became the next object of his aggression. By the time we got to his place I was ready for more silence and a hard door slam. Instead, the third wheel gave me rather jovial “Hey! Thanks for the ride, man! Have a good night!”