“I like it when it rains hard. It sounds like white noise everywhere, which is like silence but not empty.” – Mark Haddon
Picking people up in the rain can feel dramatic sometimes, like taking part in a scene from a rom-com. Often passengers run to the car– hoods on, umbrellas overhead. Once inside they shake themselves off and breathe a sigh of relief.
Today a couple gets in the car, soaking wet (I wonder if I should I be covering the seats with newspapers or towels). They do not speak to each other the entire time. Not a single word is spoken.
My question by the end is– which one of them screwed up and forgot the umbrella (thus evoking the quiet seething rage of the other)?
Another passenger gets in and says: “My friends think I’m weird because I love the rain so much. I sleep better with the sound of it. I love cuddling in it. Rain cleans the planet.”
In # Uber Eats today, I accept an order from a Vietnamese restaurant.
The rain comes down hard, drenching me as I scurry through the parking lot to the restaurant. Water floods my thin shoes, pooling around my feet and splashing out over the sides of them as I run. They feel like two mini water-logged life-boats dragged around by my feet.
After picking up the spring rolls, on my walk back to the car I step into an especially large puddle. “F***,” I yell. A homeless man pokes his head out from behind a dumpster at this exact moment, shooting me a quizzical look that instantly humbles me and subdues my exasperation (I was so glad I hadn’t yelled “F*** my life” in that moment).
The bag with the spring rolls is only slightly damp by the time we all make it back to the car.
Finally, in a #Lyft Dream that night: my brakes aren’t working, so I keep getting out of the car to stop it with my foot. You know, the way we used to do with our bikes when we were kids, if and when the brakes were broken? Just add 2700 pounds, NBD.
Lyft Thoughts / Road Observations: Chilled Out but Dangerous
In previous entries I’ve compared cars to animals. Cars slowly changing into your lane without signaling remind me of ducks who have smoked some weed and are now casually cutting in front of the animal next to them. I imagine them doing it in a very calm way while wearing a bag of grenades around their body.
Rainy days–when it’s harder for drivers to see what’s in front of them– might be the worst time to perform the floaty casual duck maneuver while out on the road.
Today I almost don’t see one of the chill ducks floating in front of me until it’s almost too late. One minute I’m driving with a safe few feet of distance in front of me. The next there’s a car filling up that space, forcing me to slam on my brakes.
I imagine him saying, I’m just gonna caaaasually float on into your lane, in response to which I say: Doing something annoying and dangerous in a “chill” way doesn’t make it any less annoying or dangerous.
Bigger Passenger Story: Assertive versus aggressive versus submissive communication
“I’m running a bit late for my flight at SFO,” passenger Lucy* explains after placing her suitcase in my trunk then coming to sit up front. “Could you try to get us there as quickly as possible?”
The rain has died down a bit. Though I drive quickly at first, once we’re on the bridge my car has slowed its pace without my even realizing it. Lucy brings this to my attention.
“Could you pass that truck?” she asks, in response to which I change into the left lane and proceed to do this.
Her directions don’t irk me the way backseat drivers’ instructions (both in my car and in my life outside of it) at times do. Instead, I respect her for knowing clearly what she needs and being able to voice it. She asked respectfully. Her tone was certain, but also free of pushiness and entitlement.
I recall a similar situation wherein I drove a woman (from Pacific Palisades to Santa Monica) who knew the exact route she wanted to take and was able to provide me with clear directions in lieu of the ones offered by Google Maps. She spoke them with the authority of someone who not only knew where she was going but could communicate her knowledge precisely and succinctly.
Following a highly evasive interaction– or one in which people have verbally tiptoed around one another–I often feel a vague sense of cloudiness and confusion. After interactions with people who have voiced their needs in a kind and assertive way, on the other hand, clarity replaces cloudiness.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, when a person is direct to the point that I feel bombarded by an onslaught of directions and advice (I start picturing their mouth as a batting cage machine and their words as one ball after another, with no reprieve in between), and when urgency and anxiety muddle the more graceful and clear expression of need within the message, I notice internal resistance. Feeling ordered around, my defenses come up. I am less likely to want to engage or listen to what they are saying.
I think about other passengers (often, though not always men) who offer instructions in an obnoxious manner. Some, without prefacing it with a “hey, how do you feel about taking an alternative route?” launch into giving me step-by-step directions even though my GPS is turned to a volume that’s audible to both of us. No request is made, nor is a statement of preference or need verbalized. To me that’s not assertive but entitled.
The manner in which instructions or feedback are delivered makes the difference between me feeling overwhelmed and shutting down and me responding receptively, and actually wanting to help.
It’s a difficult balance to strike, one that I still struggle with at times. So I speak just as much to myself when I say this.
*On the same topic, a few days later I was pleasantly surprised to receive the following instructions from a highly communicative passenger: Their specificity made my job a lot easier.
“You’re picking up my friend Carly. She’s a white female and will have a green luggage from her trip. She’s just going to Applebee’s to meet with her friend to get a ride back to her home town. Thank you.”
On point with the communication, Jen! Refreshingly precise.
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Squinty duck– http://www.majesticwaterfowl.org/diary56.htm
Backseat driver cartoon– https://www.latimes.com/travel/story/2019-11-22/back-seat-driver-ruins-trips-relationships