Talking to Strangers

I had never used Uber before coming to LA, and I have to say, I’m going to miss the kaleidoscope of encounters it creates.

Besides their great app, Uber appeals to me for the randomness of  who their drivers are. Perhaps I should worry more about strangers, but I love talking to them.  Each ride a random conversation with someone you normally would have just walked right by on the sidewalk. Here are a few of my favorite encounters:

Lee, 30ish, a Chinese man in a Corolla, starting his second week as a driver for Uber, and only recently in America. That was my longest ride. He kept making wrong turns. We turned left and faced an incredibly long steep hill near Dodger’s Stadium and he hit the brakes.
“No!” Stunned, he gasps, “I can’t go up there! Do you thing it’s safe?”
“Well, it seems ok for the cars parked up there,” I pointed up the residential street as a pick-up truck sped around us. He just sat, wide-eyed, like he was facing some old fear.
“It’s OK, we can just turn around,” I offered. “Siri will redirect us.”
He nodded, grateful.

Matthew, a classic surfer dude, tanned, tattooed, and playing Led Zeppelin, who must’ve been driving his mother’s Lexus. He pointed out a great beach that we went to the next day, Topanga State Beach.  Beautiful.

Vic, 30-ish, brawny Armenian with very little English. I had been trying to learn how to say Thank You in Armenian as so many shopkeepers around here are Armenian.
Shnorhagenlutoon” I struggled. He glanced over, expressionless. I explained my attempt and asked if I pronounced it correctly. He nodded, still silent. I asked if he could say it for me to hear, and in English he said “Thank You.”

Ivan, maybe 40, recently a citizen after immigrating from Uganda 6 years earlier. He had an interesting take on the upcoming election, which would be his first to vote as an American: pro-Hilary and amazed at Trump. He was very animated and loud, and happy to share his opinions. Awesome accent.

Emily, maybe 30, asked me a few questions about myself.  Once she realized I had been married twice, the ride turned into a therapy session. She asked me about love at first sight, true love, and what role sex plays in loving relationships. I went ahead and just spoke candidly, since we were unlikely to ever encounter each other. But at the end of the ride, I felt like I should charge her for the therapy 😉

Mary, mid twenties, a grad student new to the area told me the reverse is true, that her car often becomes a confessional for the random people who she spends a few private moments with.

I know Uber is riddled with controversy, but my experience has been fascinating, and super convenient.

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