Musical chairs road anxiety, our flawed U.S. food industry, and Amy Schumer rides the ever-expanding Toyota Corolla

In the lineup for this week: a wild #Lyft Dream featuring Amy Schumer and a car that lengthens on command. #Lyft Thoughts compares the discomfort of being caught in the middle of a four-way intersection when the light turns red to the anxiety of playing musical chairs.

A #Lyft Quote features a passenger who draws one specific thing when trying to calm his nerves. An #Uber Eats request from Fuku Sushi has me fantasizing about which human beings are worthy enough of my contempt to earn themselves a free meal at this establishment. #Bigger Passenger Story centers on a conversation with a passenger about the faults of the U.S. food industry.

Buckle up and enjoy!

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# Lyft Dream: Amy Schumer and the ever-expanding Toyota Corolla.

It’s been a particularly eventful evening driving Lyft Line.  

A former roommate from a writing camp I attended fifteen years ago, who lives in Lousiana, has just gotten in, followed by a girl headed to a “crossword puzzle class,” followed by a Latina mother and her little girl.

Even though the number of riders in Lyft Line isn’t supposed to exceed three, in this dream, passengers keep getting added. In response, my car grows miraculously longer to accommodate for all of them.

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Amy Schumer gets in.

A boy I went to pre-school with gets in.

 “It’s about time we get some D in here,” Amy comments as he adjusts his seatbelt.

He grins at Amy, then greets me, asking me soon into the ride whether I remember the huge concrete slide we used to whiz down during recess.

“I can’t tell if it was actually that big or if we were just really small,” he says.

 “Couldn’t tell you.” I’d remembered it being huge, but then I was also the shortest kid in the class. “I spent more time in the sand boat though,” I recall. 

“That thing was the shit,” he recollects, nodding.

The final passenger we pick up—a girl wearing dark sunglasses and a hoodie—refuses to look me in the eye. Staring straight ahead, she tells me her destination before informing me that she is my future girlfriend. She also tells me that unless I “want to unravel the fabric of the space-time continuum,” we are not to make eye contact (**It’s possible that I was watching Back to the Future shortly before falling asleep that night). 

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My future girlfriend and me

“You’re gay?” my former roommate from writing camp (we’ll call her Louisana) mumbles. “I never should have changed in front of you.”

Crossword Puzzle Girl calls her out for this comment, but Louisiana defends herself.

“It’s not that I’m against lesbians,” she clarifies. “It’s just that I’m not one myself.”

Meanwhile, my mansplaining preschool friend (we’ll call him PF) pokes holes in my future girlfriend’s claim that eye contact between her and I would destroy the space time continuum.

“Determinism as a philosophical view has been debunked by many important figures,” he states.

“And,” he adds, “for one to assume that they have that much influence over the workings of the entire universe is slightly indicative of an NPD diagnosis.” (**Narcissistic Personality Disorder)

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In Back to the Future II, Jen’s run-in with her older self threatens to unravel the fabric of the space-time continuum

All the women in the car rush to my future girlfriend’s defense, calling PF out for dismissing her, telling him that no one asked for his opinion, least of all my future girlfriend, who’d only been sitting quietly and minding her own business. 

Meanwhile, my Lyft “boss” keeps texting me,  encouraging me to accept more riders. My car continues to lengthen to accommodate the additions. The more new passengers I pick up, the more annoyed and impatient my original passengers become, as their arrival time keeps getting pushed further and further back. They grumble and begin arguing with one another.

Top right: my friend from pre-school. Bottom left: future girlfriend. Bottom right: Mrs. Frizzle / me

It’s starting to feel like we’re all inside the Lyft bus, with me as Mrs. Frizzle driving around a motley crew of raucous children.

I’m uneasy—about the car’s seemingly endless physical expansion, about my passengers’ palpable unrest, and about my lack of say in the whole matter. The added length to my car, which feels like an unruly tail whipping at vehicles in close proximity while struggling to stay in a straight line, makes maneuvering the roads increasingly difficult.

As tension mounts inside the car, outside of it, the cars around us are honking, nearby trucks are crashing, and a fire erupts.

My alarm drags me from this bedlam before I have to experience any severe consequences.

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#Road Thoughts: The road scenario that feels like musical chairs.

Picture this (or maybe it’s actually happened to you): You find yourself stuck behind traffic in the middle of a four-way intersection.

The light turns yellow, and there you are still. It’ll turn red any second now. The cars in front of you seem to be moving at snail speed. 

 Lines of cars surround you on all four sides. It’s too late to back up, and your window for proceeding forward has also closed, because traffic isn’t moving. 

Shit, you say, as the wave of anxiety begins to crest over you. 

As the light starts counting down—Ten, nine, eight, seven—you bristle in anticipation of the chaos your obstructive presence is about to incite. You brace yourself for the onslaught of livid honks you know people are about to unleash onto you (for blocking the intersection). 

Soon cars will be driving angrily around you. They’ll speed up and swerve dramatically, shooting their hands into the air to signal how much you’ve inconvenienced them.

Memories of playing musical chairs as a kid resurface during moments like these. I remember how my anxiety sometimes tempted me to push the children in front of me so that they’d move faster. Horrible, I know. To be fair, I never actually did.

That’s how I feel in those intersections though. Go go go before the music stops, directed at other kids, becomes Go go go before the light turns red, directed frantically to the cars ahead of me.

It’s stressful, I’m telling you. Anyone else feel that too?

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#Lyft Quote

“When I’m antsy I draw roller coasters.”

–A Lyft passenger with a sketchbook poking out of his backpack.

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This week on #Uber Eats:

Picking up order in Japantown at Fuku Sushi: the place to take that person who’s just rear-ended you with their car.

Or any of these guys:

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Bigger passenger story: Tabitha on our flawed food industry.

Not long into my ride with Tabitha,* whom I’d picked up in the parking lot of a Fed-Ex (“because my house is just legit not on the map,” she explains), I learn that she’d grown up in a household without any sweets. As a result, she “never really got addicted to sugar.”

“My dad said once if you can’t pronounce the chemicals in the food, it’s not a good sign—and if it has more than five ingredients I’m like hell no, and I put the bar down.”

She sits in the middle seat, a detail that stands out to me because the passengers who choose to do this, when no other riders are present, fall in the minority. I wonder: are they go-getters who like to see what’s straight in front of them, or merely, in that moment, engaged conversationalists?

In any case, I always remember them. 

We talk about how processed food makes up 70 percent of the U.S. diet; how sugar sneaks its way into so many products; and how a food industry that prioritizes profit over human health is in large part to blame for this.

Our food industry is especially harmful to people of color and those in lower-income communities who tend to have neither the finances for healthier alternatives nor easy access to them.

Patrisse Khan-Cullors, in her memoir When They Call You a Terrorist refers to many of its ubiquitous staples as “salty, sugary, processed food items that are loaded guns for we who have no real choice but to eat them.”

Tabitha’s parents weren’t rich, and she is a woman of color, but they valued nutrition so much that they still found a way to prioritize it.

She believes we should view health in the same way we’re beginning to view many other things—such as gender and sexuality— as existing along a spectrum. There’s a big difference, she explains, between eating a cookie with locally sourced ingredients that’s low in sugar and free of preservatives, versus eating one that is highly processed and contains double the recommended daily value of sugar.  Attempting to divide dichotomously between junk food and health food disregards the sliding scale.

“I think a lot of the problem is people just, they think food is either good or bad, so when they eat a bad food they’re like ‘well I already know it’s bad, today’s just my cheat day and tomorrow I’ll eat healthy,” she says, taking a sip from her green water bottle. “There are different degrees of bad though.”

Tabitha summarizes the comparison as “World War III on the body, compared to throwing one or two water balloons at it.” 

She also believes that the prioritization of thin-ness over good health—we’ve learned to assess the overall healthiness of an item by checking for a low fat content— also leads us to make decisions that might not be as healthy as we think. We opt for “foods” packed with preservatives and harmful ingredients over natural foods like avocado and almonds that offer cardiac benefits, simply because their label lists a lower fat content.

Though she’s obviously free to eat what she wants now, her habits haven’t changed much since she was a child and this is by choice. 

She looks to her father, who is fifty-five with a youthful appearance and no health problems, as a positive model. 

“Some people think I’m just parroting what my parents taught me. But I’m not one to just blindly agree with something. I’ll consider its merits and come to my own conclusions.”

She speculates: “Maybe the people who say that are insecure about their own eating habits.”

A refreshing ride with an aligned thinker. Three years after it, I would be diagnosed with Celiac disease, and the memory of our conversation would take on even greater relevance.

**Anyone who’s looking for a healthy, filling, and delicious drink, here’s what I have for breakfast every morning. It’s easy to make as well as high in protein, fiber and the good fats that keep you satiated for hours at a time. Foods high in protein and fiber also help curb unwanted cravings for carbs and sugar. Use “No sugar added” almond milk for the healthiest option.

Blend together: -Frozen bananas -Frozen blueberries -Spinach -Unsweetened almond milk -1 tablespoon of almond butter -1 scoop of veggie hemp protein powder (or whatever protein powder you prefer).

*Thanks for reading! Check back soon for more Lyft stories, and follow us on IG @Lyft_tales

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Photo credits

Roller coaster sketch– https://www.chegg.com/homework-help/discuss-design-roller-coaster-shown-sketch-terms-conservatio-chapter-6-problem-6te-solution-9780321786470-exc

Musical chairs — https://www.nextavenue.org/musical-chairs-retirement/

Published by esteph42190

A 30-year-old queer bilingual writer born and raised in the Bay Area, I’ve been writing since before I knew how to spell. Balancing my generative energy with a desire to inform, as a child I printed and distributed to classmates publications that included The News Newsletter and Health Digest (ironic considering I also ran an illicit candy business that landed me in the principal’s office several times). As a student at UC Davis I wrote for The California Aggie, with pieces ranging from an exploration of gender roles in the movie Tangled to my own weekly psychology column. After graduating I kept a bilingual blog of my 14 months living in Montevideo, Uruguay, and upon returning continued to blog about social issues and human psychology.

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