“Hi, I’m calling because I just dropped off a Lyft passenger who was very intoxicated and is now lying down in the middle of the street. Any help would be much appreciated.”
So went my frantic call to 911 from a residential neighborhood in north San Diego.
Let’s rewind a bit though to all that led up to this.
About an hour earlier, I’d arrived in the Gaslamp district (a happening area of downtown) to pick up Frank* after spending half an hour trying to locate him (his slurry directions explaining his location over the phone were difficult to understand).
Jolly folks in suits, dresses, Hawaiian shirts, and v-necks spilled out of brick businesses as I waited for him. Through one window I glimpsed young adults passing around a hookah while leaned back into cushy green beanbag chairs. Lit-up pedi cabs biked people from one bar to the next.
When I finally get to him, Frank fumbles to open the car door, eventually managing with some help from the girl who is at his side.
“It’s time for you to go home Babe,” she says consolingly while helping him put his seatbelt on.
Though I’d assumed she was his girlfriend, at this point she turns to me and clarifies: “I don’t know him– I just found him here. He’s very drunk. Please get him home.”
I turn my head and take a good look back at the thin man dressed in the plaid shirt, who is now crumpled against the back seats like Gumby.
Is it too late to deny him a ride? I wonder. On the one hand, it’s clear that he needs to get home. If a Lyft doesn’t take him, who will?
Also, more selfishly, I think about the thirty minutes I have already spent trying to find him, which I won’t receive any compensation for if I cancel now.
The me of today says why didn’t you just request another ride for him? He may not have been in his right senses to do it, but you could have. Though it would’ve been a way of protecting myself and looking out for him at the same time, this logical solution doesn’t occur to 26 year-old-me, tired that night and somewhat new to driving Lyft.
After some deliberation and hesitation, I make the arguably questionable decision of allowing him to stay. “Just get him home,” I instruct myself. “Even if you have to endure a few minutes of discomfort, it will be over with soon.”
As a measure of precaution, I hand Frank a somewhat crumpled paper bag, telling him he can use it to vomit into if he feels like he must. Only once it’s in his hands do I remember that it still contains a half-eaten taco from earlier. My bad.
Frank opens the bag and stares down with vacant eyes. Spotting the the taco remnants, his initial confusion gives way to excitement at the discovery of some sustenance for potential drunk munchies.
“Ooooh,” he grumbles, reaching his hand inside to prod at it.
Luckily my warning (“you don’t want to eat that!”) makes it to his ears before the taco makes it into his mouth.
“D-do you know where we’re going?” he slurs as I click Navigate on my GPS.
“Yup, I’ve got the address right here,” I respond.
“L-let me just see something,” he says, leaning forward and reaching his hand towards my phone. His finger as he does this reminds me of both ET and Frankenstein–like Frankenstein, it creeps me out; like ET, it appears somewhat ridiculous (but less endearing than the lovable alien).
Feeling my space being violated, I reflexively swat his hand away and request that he please keep his limbs in the backseat for the remainder of the ride.
Two minutes into driving, to my relief Frank falls asleep. Now able to relax and tune back in to my own thoughts, I play back the day’s events and think ahead to the glass of red wine I will drink while curled up in bed reading The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lax once this ride is over.
The moment of peace doesn’t last long. About a minute into it, Frank punctures the stillness with what I can only refer to as bloodcurdling screams. Laid back against the seat with his eyes closed, he reminds me of a kid suffering from night terrors.
My heart beats faster, and I pick up speed–now wanting this ride to be over as quickly as possible.
Two minutes later the screaming has abated, replaced by sporadic whimpers. Another two minutes later, it ceases altogether. Frank falls back into a state of unconsciousness, which he remains in until we arrive at his apartment.
“Sir, we’ve reached your destination,” I’m relieved I can finally say (I don’t know why I called him ‘ Sir’ though, when he was so not acting like one.)
No response. The passed-out body doesn’t stir.
“We’re here, Sir. It’s time to get out,” I repeat, my tone slightly louder and more urgent.
Shit, I think. Will I have to drag him out of the car on my own? I doubt I even have the physical strength to do so. Should I pour water over him? Yell really loudly? Jab him with an object that could wake him without hurting him?
After three more verbal, non-physical attempts to rouse him, Frank resurrects, slurring an apology while remaining firmly planted in the backseat. I tell him it’s okay, but that it’s time for him to leave; I need to get going.
He stumbles out of the car, leaving the back door wide open and bounding, to my bewilderment, not back towards his apartment but into the middle of the street.
I watch dumbfounded as once there, he proceeds to lie directly down on top of the yellow road divider, spreading his limbs the way one does when making a snow angel. It’s as if his mind is up in snow country while his body stays here, attempting to create a bed out of the road.
I’ve fully entered panic mode now, at a loss for what to do– only knowing that driving away isn’t an option.
After Googling forums where other drivers described being in a similar situation, I decide to call 911. This is where you all tuned in.
The woman on the line asks me where I’m located, then has me confirm that this “man in the street” is a passenger of mine rather than someone I personally know.
I tell her this is correct, and she says that they will send someone over. In the meantime though she wants to know: is the man breathing?
“Yes he is,” I confirm. “He just sat up actually.”
“Our crew should be there in five minutes. Please turn your hazard lights on so they can locate you more easily.”
By the time I hang up, two Asian men of college or grad school age are at Frank’s side. I’d noticed them while I was on the phone; they’d slowed down upon witnessing the Frank snow angel spectacle. One of them is talking to Frank and helping him up.
The paramedics arrive a few minutes later, followed by an ambulance and two police cars.
From my car I watch as they pull out a stretcher. I watch as the police officer starts asking him questions. I watch as Frank opens his mouth to answer.
I drive away just in time to see vomit cascade from his mouth onto the cop’s black leather shoes (but not long enough to catch the officer’s reaction).
Almost two hours after receiving the initial request, the ride concludes, and I’m at long last on my way.
**Check back tomorrow for Part 2 of Wacky Lyft rides! You can also follow us on Instagram @lyft_tales