This week on #Passengers Speak Spanish, a little girl shares her future career aspirations—and they’re not what you’d expect. #Lyft Thoughts explores the difficulty of determining the degree to which distress is caused by one’s own faulty machinery versus when it’s the roads that need repair.
In #Bigger Passenger Stories, Nancy discusses the joy of creating just for the sake of it, even if your art will likely never end up at a museum.
Finally, in this week’s #Uber Eats story, come with me to North Beach as I cart around a leaning tower of delectable smelling pizzas.
# Passengers Speak Spanish: Aspiring Guitar Painter
“No quiero tocar la guitarra cuando sea adulto. Quiero pintar las guitarras. Mi trabajo será pintadora de guitarras” (“I don’t want to play guitar when I grow up, I want to paint guitars. My job will be guitar painter“).
-Little girl who’s just gotten out of school, to her mom while strumming on a little guitar she made out of cardboard and rubber bands.
“My parents were too hippie for Berkeley.”
— A guy who grew up in a small log cabin in Alaska, recounting his family’s brief time spent living in Berkeley, CA. He now lives above Lake Merritt.
#Lyft Thoughts: The road says to the car, “it’s not me it’s you.”
At times when I’m driving over a rough road, it feels like my car is being accosted. I feel jostled around— like someone is taking jabs at us from below.
It’s not always easy to tell when it’s the road’s fault versus when it’s your own car that needs fixing.
Is the city’s infrastructure becoming shittier? Are the potholes proliferating? Have they not done roadwork since Clinton was president?
Sometimes the roads are getting worse, or you happened upon a particularly bad one.
Other times it’s your own low tire pressure that’s causing your car to sink to the ground, amplifying the feel of every bump in the road.
Maybe getting a tune-up, putting more air in your tires, or checking tire pressure will make passing over those road bumps feel like less of an upheaval.
Similarly, off the road when our mental and emotional health is poor, it can feel like everyone’s taking shots at us. But how do we gauge the true source of the distress? Are others to blame, or is our internal machinery in need of a tune-up?
Knowing requires putting time into investigating. You examine both the roads and your car. The human examines both the actions of others and their own interior landscape.
This examination requires time. But it’s time well spent for the reward of an honest lens. It’s only when looking through an honest lens that the true healing can begin.
Bigger Passenger Story: Globe-trotter Nancy on embracing process over end result
Nancy is off to Kazakstan.
“There’ll be fifteen other retirees traveling with me,” she says. “We’ll be exploring ancient ruins.”
I pick her up in front of the Embarcadero, where she’s waiting with a suitcase. A cream-colored cloth hat covers her short crop of hair, lending her the appearance of a cute mushroom.
Military patterns cover her felt suitcase, which instead of putting in my trunk, she takes with her into the backseat. For most of the ride she keeps her arm slung casually over it, in the same nonchalant way a teenage boy might position his around his girlfriend when watching a movie on her parent’s living room couch.
Nancy says she’s taken many trips since retiring—both solo and with groups, like the one she’s about to embark on now.
As we drive alongside the bay, she talks about her former job as a fourth grade teacher, which she’d been in for 37 years. When Nancy recalls enjoying art class with them, I learn she is a proponent of creating just for the sake of it.
“If people didn’t feel the pressure to make something amazing, more would use art as an outlet. And then they’d be happier. Because the process of creating makes people births happiness, even if you didn’t make something that belongs in a museum.”
A rubber band attaches her passport to her purple Kleen Kanteen; I notice this as Nancy pauses to take a sip from it.
“What if every stir-fry we prepared or each slice of peanut butter toast we buttered had to be outstanding? There’s no reason for them to be. What’s most important is that we feed ourselves.”
I relate to this. The illustrations in this blog that look like a child drew them? I don’t have a seven-year-old cousin; those were done by yours truly. I draw them because they’re cathartic and assist me in processing my experiences. They help me not to take myself too seriously. They reconnect me with my childish, playful side that doesn’t always have an opportunity to show its face in the majority of the day’s more routine drudgery. They flexibilize my rigid, linear thinking, making me more receptive to creative ideas and alternative ways of seeing.
Not to mention they’re a lot of fun to assemble. Some of the pictures I commissioned myself to draw even had me asking Google lively questions such as, “What color is Jaba the Hutt?” and consuming entertaining answers like, “Jabba appears to be a deep reddish-orange color, with darker patches that can appear dark green or dark brown depending on the scene.”
I also put my sloppy kindergarten sketches out into the universe to help you all out. Think about how it bolsters your ego when you compare these scribbles to what you thought were your own mediocre artistic creations, now elevated to masterpieces. You’re welcome for that surge of ego juice.
As I merge into the lane beneath the sign that says “International Terminals,” Nancy tells me that pottery was once a love of hers. Though she used to practice it daily, by now she’s shifted most of her attention to tending bonsais and Japanese flowers.
When our ride’s over I write down our interaction, and I draw—part meaningless nonsense, part tribute to Nancy and the stories she told me.
I’ve written before about how the little factoids gleaned during my rides with passengers become tied to the physical spaces we drove through when they shared them with me. Returning to these spaces re-conjures those details.
Images taken from moments that I did not actually experience firsthand, but rather, lived through only in my mind (while passengers with stories as layered and varied as San Francisco’s uniquely flavored neighborhoods recounted them to me), interpose themselves (somewhat awkwardly) onto the backdrop of whatever physical landscape I’m driving through.
When I drive by the Valero in Oakland’s Temescal district, for example, I think of passenger Byron juggling plates and fielding annoying requests as a waiter.
Now when I round the corner onto the Embarcadero and glimpse the Bay Bridge extended out like a silver accordion under the cloud-speckled sky, I also see Nancy on a tour with fifteen other retirees, hands on her hips and round, black-rimmed glasses framing her attentive eyes as they all take in the ruins.
Sometimes the memories and the present scenery even interact with one another.
The joggers running alongside the waterfront led by enthusiastic dobermans cross paths with Nancy’s adventure group in the mountains, the two topographies colliding (incongruously in real time) like two icebergs in my mind’s choppily heterogenous ocean landscape.
Cars crash into each other beneath the sign International Terminal, trying to avoid a pottery wheel that’s obstructing the road. Nancy sits calmly at the wheel, completely at peace as the clay spins through her hands and the vehicles around her spin out of control.
In honor of Nancy I encourage you all to go do something that births happiness—even if, no especially if, you’re bad at it.
# Lyft Overheard
“Feel that, it’s like God’s breathing on us.”
“He has bad breath.”
—Couple, windows rolled down, wind coming in
#Uber Eats Stories: The Pizza Monster of North Beach.
It’s Saturday night and I’ve just picked up a massive Uber Eats order at a pizzeria in North Beach, to be delivered to a hungry group of 20- somethings in Nob Hill. As I stagger down the crowded hilly streets en route back to my car with the leaning tower of pizzas stacked so high you can’t see my face, I imagine the sentence a nearby journalist might write in response to the sight:
At 7:22 pm, residents of North Beach saw a tall stack of pizza boxes grow a pair of comically short legs and stagger off into the night.
Once back at my car I put the pizzas down on my passenger seat and transform back into a Lyft driver.
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Cardboard guitar– https://www.google.com/url?sa=i&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.pbs.org