I’m walking past a small group of cows on a bucolic hike, and my heart rate is elevated. I’m irrationally afraid that one of them will charge me. Luckily, I’m able to calmly remind myself that there have been close to zero reported cases of a feral cow attacking a human (as far as I know), and that more cow-induced calamities have resulted from cows in their inanimate form (amidst the MCD epidemic of the ’90s).
As I pass by them, the cows merely look at me while continuing to feed, their fleshy snouts hovering above the grassy ground as they chew. Some don’t even look up. I relax. They continue their slow chewing while I trot over clumps of dirt, avoiding holes in the path and dips in the ground left by the horses who traversed it not long before.
My driving today takes place in the Bay Area’s Contra Costa County. Ride along with a couple who opened a poke restaurant, a Salvadoran lady waxing poetic about her country’s exquisite beaches, and a kid who referred to me as a “fake taxi driver.” Also: thoughts on those awkward moments where neither driver knows whose turn it is to go.
# Passengers Speak Spanish: Salvadoran Beaches
“Esta familia es muy buena. Me tratan muy bien. Digo que puedo tomar el bus, pero siempre piden un Lyft para mí. Leo libros a los chicos, vamos al parque, hacemos proyectos en casa […] Soy de una parte de El Salvador que queda una hora de las playas…y no son como las playas de aquí. Aquí, uno no se puede meter ni un pie sin que se enfriara. Alla, se puede nadar en cualquier mes del año.
(English translation: That family is very good to me. They treat me very well. I offer to take the bus home, but they always get me a Lyft. I read books to the kids, we go to the park, we do projects in the house..I’m from a part of El Salvador that’s about an hour from the beach. They’re not like the beaches here. Here, you will start to shiver even if you’ve only put just one foot in the water. There, you can swim during any month of the year.
# Lyft Overheard
“It’s my third birthday today!”–Boy who’s six, but couldn’t remember his first three birthdays. Minutes earlier when he got in, he was announcing to his mom that he wanted to be a “fake taxi driver” like me when he grew up (apparently Lyft and Uber are fake taxis lol).
# Lyft Thoughts: The Bashful Awkward Car Dance
You know that awkward dance you do when you almost collide with someone on the sidewalk and then you’re not sure whether to go left or right afterwards? And the two of you keep accidentally choosing the same direction and repeatedly bumping into each other for at least a minute or two more?
In at attempt to get around, you both move to the right, then to the left, then to the right again– all the while continuing to inadvertently block each other while blushing and apologizing (it sort of looks like the two of you are dancing even, but awkwardly).
I noticed that dance taking place on the road between cars this week.
When driving I reached a roundabout. Four other cars and I were stopped in our respective corners. No one knew who should go, and so we all inched forth gingerly and jerkily; in fits and starts.
Start, stop. Start, stop.
One car that was about to go would see that another car was also about to go, and so the two would brake at the same time.
“Everyone’s just a little confused,” said the passenger in my backseat.
When this dance happens with people, sometimes cute stories result from it, or a silver lining will emerge—like maybe the two bumpees end up getting married, or the spilled drink resulting from the collision turned out to be full of harmful ingredients that the person was better off not drinking, or the stain left behind improves the shirt’s appearance, lending it more of an avant- garde touch.
When it happens between cars though, it’s a little more anxiety-provoking. Because let’s just say a little bit more is at stake.
“Oh no you go;” “oh no you go;” “oh no PLEASE, you go.” Eventually one driver says to themself “well okay I guess I will,” at the same time another driver thinks, “She’s not gona move so I guess I will.”
The “on the road” equivalent to the awkward dance between pedestrians could very likely result in totaled cars and crumpled metal in the middle of a crowded city street. Perturbed drivers maneuvering around the scene of destruction, some livid at the delay in their already traffic-laden, congested commute home.
Similar as they may be in their shared elements of uncertainty and displays of earnestness, I don’t think we’ll get any meet cute stories out of this one.
The poke bowl passengers
I pick up *Yutaka and *Marie on a quiet, verdant side street just outside of downtown Orinda. The street is residential in feel, but contains scattered businesses.
The couple lives in Lafayette —Yutaka from Japan originally, Marie from China. They are about to go gamble at a casino in Pacheco, a small town in between Concord and Martinez.
The sushi restaurant they’ve just dined at required reservations, they tell me. “They prepare enough rice based on how many people they know are coming that day,” Yutaka explains. “So you’re guaranteed fresh.”
Later research tells me that Pachecho’s population is 3,685, and that it had once thrived as a commercial scene. After earthquakes and fires decimated its infrastructure in the 1860s though, people started leaving for the neighboring town Todos Santos (now known as Concord). Pacheco is now known mainly for its casino, according to Yutaka and Marie.
Food becomes the main topic of our car ride. The couple talks about how they’re planning to open a poke restaurant in Castro Valley, which would be in addition to a dessert place they already ran at the CVPM that serves items such as rice krispy, cookie, and donut ice cream sandwiches.
During our ride, tree-lined hills and lush greenery give way to views of the looming Mount Diablo. I drop them off at a casino that was named “Best California casino” in 2013, 2014, and 2015. Elegantly clad people spill out from it, the lights above them flashing while cars line up in the round-about waiting to take them home, or over to the next party.
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