Monday, February 20, 2017

Jesus and the Uber Driver

THE OTHER KIDS who attend my daughter’s public school live within two blocks of it, but our home is a mile away. Most days, we enjoy the walk. But this winter has made riders of us.

Nobody in this town owns a car. Many, like me, don’t even possess a license. When you have to go fast or far, and a subway won’t cut it, you lift your finger for a cab, or, lately, tap your screen for an uber. An uber has the edge when it’s 7:55 AM, and every cab on the street already has a passenger.

The school doors for fourth and fifth graders close at 8:20. If you arrive at 8:21, you need a late pass. Even in the worst weather. Even if the president is visiting, half the avenues are blocked, and the other half are under construction. Too many late passes in fourth grade, and your child won’t qualify for an appropriate middle school. Ridiculous? Undoubtedly, but this is New York.

It’s 7:55 AM and we haven’t brushed our teeth. But I have this winter uber commute down to a science. I pick a car that’s four minutes away, and conduct the toothbrushing race, shoe race, and jacket race that my daughter always wins, and that get her out the door in four minutes or less.

As we don our jackets and I help her with her zipper, I notice that our uber driver is now six minutes away. He had a straight shot to our apartment — a lucky break, given New York’s famous one-way streets and avenues, “no left turn” signs, bus lanes, bike lanes, and other anti-car measures — but somehow, he has gone bumbling off from one pointless self-inflicted detour to another.

Baffled by the strange twists and turns we see his vehicle taking on the uber screen, we head outside so as not to overheat in our double jacket layers. It’s now 8:06, and uber shows our driver trundling down Second Avenue. This is perfect, as our destination is straight down Second, and we no longer have time for him to pick us up in front of our home and navigate the one-ways and U-turns that would be needed to get us from our apartment back to Second Avenue. I text the driver and ask him to wait for us on Second Avenue below our cross-street, on the left hand side. He texts back, OK.

A minute later, running to the appointed spot, we see an uber car turn left off Second onto our construction-addled sidestreet. “I hope that’s not him,” I mutter to my daughter.

But it is him. Instead of a six-minute straight shot down Second Avenue to our destination, we will now have to take the FDR, if we can get to it through the bumper-to-bumper tunnel and construction traffic. But we can’t do anything about it. There’s no way to make a U-turn, no place to begin making a series of lefts.

The driver is an elderly gentleman. He shouldn’t have to work. He looks a trifle bewildered, as if his previous driving experience was confined to a midwestern parking lot. We greet him warmly (my daughter is polite and sincerely kind). I explain where we must be by 8:20, and why, and ask him to take the FDR. Then we sit in traffic without moving for about four minutes.

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