Free Ride

by bart



“Hello, this is Mike from Uber. We like to record these calls for quality and training purposes — is that okay?”


“Okay. I heard you had a bad experience with Uber Pool and we’re very sorry about that…can you tell me about it?” 

[NOTE: Uber Pool is like taking a taxi where you pick up other people. An Uber car-pool.]


“Whenever you’re ready.”

“I’ll just dive in, then. …It was 3AM and I called an Uber to take me back to the hotel, which was about 25 minutes away.”

What I didn’t say to Mike: I selected Uber Pool because it was about $3 cheaper and I’m not concerned about anything bad happening in the city of Chicago at 3AM with strangers.

“The app told me, ‘You will be pooling with one passenger: Ian’” [Let’s call him Ian because that’s his real name.]

“Entering the car, I saw there was something strange about this guy.”

What I didn’t say to Mike: Strange was an understatement. I had just climbed aboard the freak-show express, and I had joined at the point of no return.

“He had dark brown, almost black hair and a black beard. I could tell that he had been talking to the driver about nothing for a while. He was sort of mumbling. Obviously intoxicated, maybe on some harder drugs. And he had about 20 cocktail straws sticking out of his hair.”

“So he was sitting next to you?” Mike asked.

“Yes, I was sitting behind the driver, and he was sitting next to me. 

He started telling me that he was from St. Louis and that St. Louis was not a good city.

Then he told me that I have to visit St. Louis because it’s a great city.

I told him that he just told me I shouldn’t go to St. Louis.

He looked agitated, so I asked, ‘You have a good night, man?’

…And this is where it gets interesting, Mike.”

“Okay,” said Mike.

“And we’ve all been around drunk people, right?”

“Ha, yep.”

“Mike, I’m not sure exactly how to say what he said to me–”

“–Bart, that’s fine, you can be as specific as you want, and if you don’t want to say it, you don’t have—”

“—No! I’ll say it! I’m not–it’s not–it’s yeah no yeah no, I’ll say it sure. So he told me that his night was going great. And then he told me that he — he went ahead and–you know what, he told me that he pleasured a man in an alley. And then he said that she was gorgeous. And I said, ‘Hm’.”

“Oh no,” said Mike.

“Then he reached his hand over and put it on my upper thigh.”

“Ohh no.”

“I took his hand and put it back on his lap and said, ‘Let’s just leave that there.’”

“Oh no.”

“And then he mumbled, ‘I’m going to push you out of the car.’”

Oh no.”

What I didn’t say to Mike: The hand was warm enough, and high enough on my thigh to make me think that I might have to unhinge this man’s arm. Didn’t he know that I trained with Sensei Frank in 3rd grade? “Sensei Frank said that if I meet weird dudes like you, I have two options. Option one: TIGER CLAW TO THE FREAKING EYES! HIYAH!”

“This guy was moving pretty slow, so I didn’t think he would push me out, but it’s not what you want to hear. So while I’m wondering if he’s going to somehow reach over me, unlock the door, open it, touch my leg, then push me out of the car, he said, ‘Excuse me, please stop the car. This guy is bothering me. Please let him out here—he needs to get out. I didn’t want him in the car in the first place.’”

What I didn’t say to Mike: Oh, I get it. When you don’t want someone in the car, you just touch their leg until they get out. NICE TRY PAL. Try me. Touch my left leg though, that one is stronger, for sure. ALSO: We were on Lakeshore Drive which is essentially a highway, i.e. a bad place to be let out of a car.

“I’m sorry, this is how it works,” the driver said, “we’re almost there.”

“Mike, we weren’t almost there. We were about 15 minutes away.”

What I didn’t say to Mike: 15 minutes with this Leg-toucher is a long, long time. It’s like sitting in a tank with a shark, and the shark is just slowly moving, looking around, and the whole time you’re wondering if the shark just ate, or if all of a sudden, he would turn on you in a fit of rage, and gently touch your leg and push you out of a speeding car.

“It finally quieted down when she sped up. And then…”

What I didn’t say to Mike: I looked out my window and watched the lines on the road blur past, and I thought about that weekend. I was there for Henry’s wedding — he was married earlier that night. We ate and danced and at the end of the night, we went to a bar and danced more and people drifted off home. I went for a walk with a girl and we talked about important things and friends and what it’s like when your best friends get married. Your relationship changes, we said. Because they have someone to process their thoughts with I’m thinking all these things when I feel a warm hand on my thigh because “he touched my leg again.

“Oh no”, said Mike.

“Oh yes,” I said. “He leaned back and put his hand on my leg. So I grabbed his hand and put it back on his lap and said, ‘Keep your hands. To yourself.’ And then he said, ‘Okay you need to let this guy out. Stop right here and let him out. Let him out, please. He’s really bothering me.’”

“‘We’re so close to your stop! Please just one minute—’, said the driver.”

“‘Just stop and let me out here’, said Ian Cocktail Straws.”

“She was happy to let him out. He left in a huff and she instantly gave him a one-star rating. I asked her what the one star rating is all about, and she said that Uber will contact her and she’ll tell them about the trip. And then you called me, Mike.”

[Uber has reimbursed me the $14.99 and apologized for my inconvenience.]

The end. For now.