I have ordered an uber ride twice in my life, and I believe I’ve experienced the spectrum of uber. The first time, I needed a ride from downtown Denver to Longmont, Colorado (approximately 40 miles) and I became fast friends with the woman who gave me a ride. I sat in the front seat and we chatted like old friends about everything: family, work, shitty ex-boyfriends, the lack of cheese paired with chocolate, etc. She gave me her card, in case I ever needed another ride, and we hugged goodbye.
Recently, when we needed a ride from downtown Denver to DIA, I told my husband not to worry. I still had my favorite (only) uber driver’s card and we would call her ahead of time to ensure she was our ride. She had explained the system to me, saying she needed time to get a block or so behind us when we activated the app in order to be an option. I called and she answered, but she had a cold and didn’t want to risk getting us sick, so she declined. So thoughtful. We wished each other well and said goodbye. As soon as my husband and I were ready to catch a ride, I grabbed my phone and confidently selected the uber icon. I went through the motions, selecting the first driver, Danielle, partly because she was the closest and partly because she was a woman.
A car pulled up to the curb— bright metallic blue with tinted windows and chrome side mirrors. As we walked towards it, the driver got out and I was dumbstruck with disbelief. My feet actually felt like they were stuck to the pavement. Almost as tall as my husband, with broad shoulders under a leather jacket, she wore black stretch pants, those individual-toe-bootie-things, a Crocodile Dundee hat, steampunk mirrored glasses that wrapped around her face, and a scarf that completely covered her nose, mouth, and throat. Oh- and rubber gloves. We could not see any part of her skin. She shook my husband’s hand, saying in a baritone, “Hi, I’m Danielle.” As I shook her hand, it occurred to me that this is exactly how a serial killer would dress so that no one could identify her later. And when she opened the trunk for the luggage, revealing old fast-food wrappers and random junk, I thought, “I wonder if I’ll be in there at some point.”
Despite the little voice screaming in my brain, we got into the backseat. The navigation system was barking directions in German, and the music varied: hardcore death metal followed by Bob Seger, light jazz, The Supremes. (I am not exaggerating, and I am not making any of this up.) I looked over at the driver’s side door and saw a cane lying on the floor, but she had not needed any assistance getting in and out of the car… In the cup holder was an old plastic Gatorade bottle and next to that, a wadded-up rag; for the chloroform, no doubt.
My skin felt prickly the entire ride, and she kept her scarf and jacket on the whole time— even though the AC was not on. We were wearing t-shirts and light travel pants and we were sweating, (like riding in a bush taxi sweating) so I can only imagine how hot she must have been. Conversation was stilted, to say the least. Her voice sounded like the bad guy in every show where someone has been kidnapped and is being kept underground until they are A) rescued by the feds or B) fed to the pigs. My mind raced and I clutched my husband’s hand, sending him ESP signals so that he’d be ready to jump out of the moving car on my cue.
He turned to me and asked, “Was Bobby Brown in Bell Biv DeVoe? Or New Edition?”
When we got to DIA, we jumped out, and after unloading the baggage, I tried to hand her the entire fare in cash, but she kindly reminded me that uber would charge my credit card. I tipped her well and we went inside to catch our flight.
As soon as we landed, I caught a cold.