“Open up your Lyft app and tap the steering wheel in the top right. It’s pink when you’re in driver mode.”
It’s pink. It’s pink and I’m in fucking “Driver Mode.” Nothing’s happening. I’ve been driving for 15 minutes, going west on Santa Monica from Hollywood. At the red light on La Brea I check the app again. I got my pink mustache. I uploaded my Driver’s License and Insurance. I passed my driving test with Lonnie, my mentor at Tommy’s Burgers on Bronson, where he took my photo with the Photoshop ivy background.
Oh god, It’s true. Rideshare is oversaturated.
Too many drivers and not enough rides. It’s too late to become a writer at 50. Just like it was too late to save my Marketing company from going under. Like it was too late to save keep my girlfriend from leaving the sinking ship and now I’m going to lose my house —
"You have a ride!"
Simon. 921 North Sweetzer.
“When you receive a request, you’ll see a notification. Tap anywhere on the screen to accept the request before the 15-second timer expires.”
I stare at the countdown hypnotized, “Beep, beep, beep.”
The traffic light turns green and I tap furiously until it says, “accept!” The guy behind me honks. I follow GPS like it’s my first time on Santa Monica Blvd.
“After accepting the request, navigate to the passenger’s pickup location. If you know the address, drive directly to the passenger. If not, tap the arrow next to the address to start navigation.”
Okay, turn on Sweetzer. Where's Sweetzer?!
“When you arrive at the passenger’s pickup location, tap to arrive.”
I look for the address but I can't find the address because, you can't find any addresses in Los Angeles! No street lights and the numbers are so tiny. What's that about? Either we want to feel exclusive, or more likely, we've given up hope of ever finding each other. But there are two guys standing at the end of the street, with carry-on bags.
Is that them?
Two men, Andy (30s) and Simon (20’s), t-shirts and beautiful hair, wave at me like I’m the helicopter that discovered their desert island message. They’re so anxious, they roll their wheel-scraping carry-ons up to the car before I can stop. I roll the window down.
“Yes!” We all sigh in relief.
“This is our first Lyft. We’re virgins!” I pop the trunk and we fumble over who’s supposed to put the bags in. We both do it.
“As soon as you start the ride, drive your passenger to their destination. Passengers can either enter their destination in the app ahead of time, or you can enter it for them.”
They didn’t enter a destination, but I know where we’re going.
“LAX please.” The airport. On my first trip. At night. Fuck. They get in.
“It’s so weird. Like, we ordered you and you showed up and we just get in your car,” Simon says. “We were totally afraid you weren’t going to show up.”
I wasn’t sure either. Now, I have two strangers in my car. In. My. Car. Where my friends have spilled things and lip-synched to Kendrick Lamar. Where I’ve given and received head–-which reminds me:
“There’s water back there, if you need some.” They find bottles behind the seat. Their eyes light up like it’s Christmas and they’re afraid to touch the toys.
“We’re good, thanks.”
“I’m having one,” says Simon.
“Me too!” Andy whispers to Simon.
“I feel like I’m taking his water."
“It’s for us.” Simon unscrews the cap and droplets spill from the cheap bottle. Andy's eyes light up.
“Can we drink this in your car?”
“Absolutely!” I say, like Dev Patel in “Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.”
They drink simultaneously. They’ve never enjoyed water so much.
“There’s an iPhone charger too!” Simon gifts it to Andy, who plugs in his phone and smiles.
“This is such a great idea, people trading services, being good to each other. It’s kind of amazing, this idea of good will.” Andy says.
They’re smiling. I’m smiling. I’m so happy, that I’ve lost track of the route and GPS re-routs me. I worry they're upset, but they’re too busy drinking water.
”So are you visiting or do you live here, guys?”
“I live in New Jersey, where we met. Andy lives here now. He’s from Pennsylvania. We fly back and forth.
“My mom’s from Altoona” I say.
“Ohhhh, Andy’s from Philly. That’s nearby. ”
“No.” Andy says. “ That’s the other side of Pennsylvania.” Andy’s right. It's like 3 hours away.
“Be quiet.” Simon smirks and leans into the front seat.
“We’ve been doing the long distance thing for about 6 months since Andy moved here. He missed me, but he wouldn’t ask me to move. He was sneaky this time and planned our visits next to each other so that he could seduce me into moving and then we’d both fly back and pack my stuff. He didn’t think I’d just say yes if he asked me.” Andy looks at him, incredulous. Simon kisses him. Andy holds his stare, still unsure.
“You gotta have a little faith in people” Simon says.
“That’s the last line from ‘Manhattan'” I say. My favorite movie. I'm smiling and my heart cracks open as we move up over the oil fields on La Cienega. Regardless of how you feel about him ( and legitimately so) Mariel Hemmingway’s line to Woody Allen in the doorway is the best thing a woman’s ever said to a man. Surreal derricks churning in the middle of Los Angeles bring me back to earth.
“What do you guys do, Andy?”
“I’m a corporate stylist and Simon’s an actor and a singer. And you?”
“Me? Good question. I’m a writer. I was a writer. I wrote a play. It went well. I came out here from New York and got sidetracked.”
Simon smiles sheepishly at Andy, takes the charger for himself and touches my shoulder.
“You sidetracked yourself.” I don’t know what to do with that.
“Simon, how do you like West Hollywood?”
“I love it. It’s beautiful. Lonelier than I expected. Everyone looks so happy on the outside, but you feel something underneath. People warned me about that. Back home, we wear our emotions on our face more. ” He looks at Andy.
“And no one talks to each other very much…but you guys love texting!”
“People text in New Jersey, Simon.” Andy says.
“But there’s an element of performance here, Andrew. West Hollywood is like a Broadway show. There’s the promise of something magical, but most of the time you overpay to watch people pretending to be someone else."
“Broadway actors are extremely talented, Simon.”
“They have beautiful voices, sweetheart. I just rarely believe what they’re singing.”
“The things we try to hide are most obvious to the people around us.” I say.
“You sound like a writer, Jonathan.” Says Simon, resting his head on Andy’s shoulder. Thank you for the comp—
I’m not looking at the road.
“You really know the shortcuts. How long have you been doing this?” Says Andy.
“You guys are my first ride.” Simon gives me a sly look.
“You’re good at pretending too, Aren’t you, J?”
Andy chimes in.
“We’re all Virgins!”
“When you arrive at the passenger’s destination and they exit the vehicle, tap to drop off. You’re asked to confirm — tap ‘Cancel’ to stay in the ride or ‘Confirm’ if you’re actually ending the ride."
LAX is beautiful, but intimidating at night. Driving in what feels like an endless loop, past a sea of lights. It’s ironic, because it’s actually the easiest airport. It’s just a circle. Circles are unsettling, because we need to feel that we’re moving forward or there’s no progress. But, the "evolution of consciousness is not a straight line," says futurist Barbara Marx Hubbard. "It's more of a spiral." LAX is metaphysical.
I drop them at the gate, pop the trunk and hand them their bags. They both wrap their arms around me. We hug in front of Delta. Simon whispers in my ear.
“Your voice is beautiful. And I believe what you’re singing.”
He takes Andy’s hand as they walk away.
I sit in my car for a moment, heart thumping, until Airport Police tap my window. I hit “Confirm Dropoff ” and I pull away.
You gotta have a little faith, Jonathan.
“After the ride is complete, rate your passenger from 1 to 5 stars. If you rate your passenger 3 stars or below, you will not be matched with them again.”