“I do not like people when they are drunk, but I know some who become interesting when they are tipsy, who acquire what is not natural to them in their sober state; wit, beauty of thought, alertness, and richness of language. In such cases I am ready to bless wine.” —Leo Tolstoy (according to George Saunders in A Swim In the Pond in the Rain)
For those of you readers who don’t identify as sober, chances are you’ve taken a Lyft or an Uber while intoxicated, or at the very least after having consumed a few drinks.
As a rideshare driver I transported my share of drunk passengers, and my experiences with them ranged from the innocuous and entertaining ( a group of chatty senior citizens in Healdsburg, all in town for a funeral) to enlightening (a man speaking with unabashed disinhibition about the insights he’d gleaned from his last relationship, at once slurrily nonsensical and wisely lucid) to annoying and time-consuming (a passenger passing out in my back seat).
Their tendency to talk more openly can make for a fun, even refreshing ride experience. I loved the drunk passengers whose energy, even (or especially) when my own reserves were low, had an osmotic effect.
The following is a collection of some of the most memorably inebriated.
# Lyft Line / # Passengers Speak Spanish
(After a Spanish-speaking mom and her son shared a ride with a drunk guy and his girlfriend)
The drunk man, who’s had lots of tequila shots that night, uses the word “tequila’ at least twelve times during their conversation.
After he gets out, the little kid asks his mom what tequila is. His mom tells him it’s una bebida (a drink). He asks his mom if he can try it, and she says no.
The kid doesn’t like no. He wants the why.
“Porque no?” / (“Why not?”)
Mom doesn’t respond.
“Nunca me dejas probar nada. / (“You never let me try anything”)
“El sabor te dará ganas de vomitar.” / (“The flavor will make you want to vomit.”)
The kid gets serious and stops talking.
“Odio vomiter / I hate vomiting,” he says in a soft voice.
The matter is settled. Though the kid does ask if he can have Gatorade when they get home. His mom says yes.
Drunken Musings on a Recent Breakup
“Sometimes you need the world to just stop. So you can relocate the ‘you’ that’s there underneath all the bullshit you’ve covered it with just to survive the day-to-day. But the world doesn’t. It won’t. Maeve left, a huge part of me just fucking died, and the expectations of me remained the same. I couldn’t keep up.“
This isn’t just drunken blather. That’s to say, this guy is processing. I can tell he’s been drinking, though he’s not at that slurry incomprehensible stage of drunkenness–rather, he’s at the one wherein filters are off, inhibitions are lowered, and the heart spills everything that’s brewed inside it without an outlet for however long.
“I remember on our first date the cocktails we drank tasted like candy canes. There was this huge painting hanging on the wall next to us, and what happened when we both noticed it at the same time felt like a scene from one of those corny movies I swear I’d make fun of if I were the one watching it instead of the one in it.
I said, ‘it’s like a river swirled together with a…’ and she finished my sentence with ‘sunset’ which was exactly what I was about to say.”
Our conversations just flowed; there weren’t any lulls. In that span of seven hours it was like the stormy ocean waves of my life had tempered down into a calm stream that Maeve was floating down with alongside me.
As he continues on, I feel like I’m listening to a hybrid podcast: part confessional, part analytical dissection of what went wrong. My car might as well have said “Dr. Stephanides’ Office” on the front of it; his posture in the backseat is even splayed out the way patients’ at times are across therapists’ couches.
Shortest Lyft Ride Ever
“Omg I’m so sorry, I don’t know this city well,” slurs the girl with pig-tails, who’s just gotten into my car wearing a dress with cherry patterns sewn onto it. She is headed to Sir Francis Drake Hotel in downtown San Francisco. Almost immediately after getting in though, she realizes the hotel is already right in front of us.
“Why did I even order you?” she continues. “I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry, I’m not from here.”
Swiftest ride I’ve ever given– passenger gets in, passenger gets out. Hi bye thank you for your business!
Drunk people are funny.
IG Influencer / Party with the Chicks
“Sweetie you do not look like a Lyft driver!” is the first thing Ricardo, a gregarious hair stylist living in Pleasanton, says to me upon getting in. “Have you had many drunk b**** tonight?” is the second.
We listen to The Chicks (formerly the Dixie Chicks) while headed to Gallaghers, the only bar in Dublin. We now follow each other on Instagram.
Bow Down to Big Cars (Systemic inequality on the road)
“I usually drive a tiny car. But when I was moving my dad let me borrow his big truck. I felt the difference immediately,” says Shayna*, whom I’ve picked up outside of La Burrita in Berkeley.
“I felt like I had command over the road. Cars would like, switch lanes more often when they noticed me behind them. If there weren’t any lanes to change into–like if it were a one-lane road– they’d pull over. They didn’t want to be in my line of fire. That truck made people more subservient to me.”
The monologue turns political.
“With a small car, you really have to be aggressive and battle for your place on the road. Fight for your rights.”
Shayna argues that the road’s not much different than society. Specific demographics, represented by specific presences–white men, white people in general, men in general, tall people– automatically command respect.
“We’re conditioned to immediately comply to them. It’s a little fucked up.”
I can’t say I disagree with her points.
Moments later, after some silence (during which she chews on the burrito she’s brought in):
“Earlier I said it was a little fucked up. It’s actually a lot fucked up.”
More thoughts on car stereotyping here: https://bit.ly/3z8kIEh
And a somewhat related quote (from the December 2018 issue of The Atlantic) that I found entertaining: “An analysis of car sales in Germany found that cars with grilles that were upturned like smiles and headlights that were slanted like narrow eyes sold best. The purchasers saw these features as increasing a car’s friendliness and aggressiveness, respectively.”
The Drunk Girl Who Made My Backseat Into a Bed
When I picked Cara* up outside a house party in Stockton, I could tell she was drunk, but she also didn’t seem at the level of black-out wasted. Dressed in a skirt and heels at four in the morning, she came across as slightly less alert than your average rider, but wasn’t acting particularly sloppy.
It was only towards the final block, when Cara began pawing at the window and looking out from it wistfully (as if she might throw up) that my antennae shoot up.
I recalled a time when my gas tank was dangerously low and I drove really close to the side of the road in case my car stopped. When passengers have had too much, they sit close to the window in case–you know. Cara seems to be doing this right now. Luckily we only have a couple more blocks to go.
Once we’ve arrived at her destination, I turn on my hazard lights and listen for the familiar sound of the passenger taking off their seatbelt and gathering their belongings (which has become a customary component of each ride’s conclusion).
Instead of the sound of a seatbelt un-clicking though, I hear nothing.
Looking behind me to gauge the situation, I see that Cara is now passed out across the backseat, purse crunched beneath her left shoulder and cell phone on the ground.
I say her name a little louder. This is giving me deja vu to the moment in San Diego when I had to call 911 on a passenger (see entry here https://bit.ly/3nFafMq ).
She remains immobile.
I repeat her name a couple more times and turn the volume up on my car stereo. I even try calling her cell phone.
None of that works, so my next move is to consult Google (“What to do when your passenger passes out in your backseat,” I type). It turns out there are entire threads dedicated to this topic.
I’m horrified by a lot of what I read, which I won’t reproduce here, filled as they were with disgustingly misoyngistic, date rapey jokes made by scummy male Lyft drivers.
I do end up calling 911 though.
“Is she breathing? Is she moving?” the woman on the line asks me. Looking back at the girl passed out in my backseat, I confirm that she is.
“Let me know if that changes,” the woman says.
She stays on the line with me until the paramedics show up. Cara wakes up once they do, and they escort her to her front door.
I exit the scene with a vomit-free car, and one more story to add to my drunk passenger anthology.
Pizza and Magic
“Most people went home at ten PM- including my husband. Not me. Wine makes me more energetic.”
It’s two AM and Janie is leaving a 50th birthday party in the Oakland Hills, where she says there was an incredible magician.
She hopes there is still pizza in the refrigerator, because her plan for as soon as she gets home is to raid it.
“I feel like a drunk college student,” she says, leaning back into the seat with her eyes half-closed.
Her recommending the tacos at Jack in the Box prompts a conversation about drunk cravings versus sober ones. We talk about how when sober and hit with one, you’ll weigh the pros and the cons, oftentimes coming to the sensible decision that you don’t need the pastry, other times giving in to your impulses.
When you’re drunk though, you just go for it. Every time. There’s no weighing of the pros and the cons. #dontevencare
“If I want it I want it,” she declares gleefully. I understand the sentiment.
The Drunk Chipmunks and the Friendly Cop
The group of old people is in lively spirits when I pick them up in front of a saloon in downtown Healdsburg. I watch as four of them pile into my backseat, laughing, squawking, and falling on top of each other. A raucous, boisterous crew if there ever was one.
“Sounds like a bunch of chipmunks back here,” one of the men says as they all squeeze together.
I consider saying something about the fact that there are four of them and only three seatbelts, but ultimately decide, since we are only going a few blocks, not to make an issue out of it.
After the ride starts I learn they are all in town for a funeral. The women are (by their own admission) “super lit.” They sing Brownies songs (“We were all Brownies when we were younger!” one woman says; “that’s awesome! I was a Campfire girl,” I respond). Slurry, self-deprecating comments about being “old and mildewy and decaying” are tossed around.
It’s as they’re chattering about Woodstock that I see the lights flashing in my rearview mirror. Sighing, I slow my car and quietly surrender to what I suspect is likely about to happen. After I pull over the policeman gets out of his car and walks toward mine. I roll down my window once he reaches it.
“Lot of people back there,” he comments, shining his flashlight into the backseat. Addressing the senior passengers: “Re-living your youth?”
“Sure are, Officer!” they reply, laughter continuing.
The cop breaks into a smile. He proposes a solution–how about he drives two of them to their destination, and I transport the remaining three? Everyone is on board. All communicate their approval of that plan.
And so the officer takes half of the oversized crew, while I take the other half. He does not ticket me.
“Look at this, we’re like a caravan!” the lady in the backseat comments bemusedly, pointing ahead at the cop car driving slowly in front of us.
“He was calm because she was calm,” another woman observes aloud, while squinting. Pointing to me: “Energy attracts energy.”
Another of the women, trying to process what has just happened, slurrily verbalizes her train of thought:
“So wait, she just got… pulled over…because of us.” She shakes her head vehemently, then taps the shoulder of who I presume to be her husband. “Gary, give her fifty dollars.”
The man shuffles through his wallet, procuring a fifty-dollar bill that he then hands to me.
They thank me repeatedly and apologize again before getting out (fumbling slightly with the door before finding the handle). The cop signals to me that it’s okay to drive off.
I disagree with anyone who’s ever said that old people don’t know how to have fun.
Uber Eats– Utter Fascination / Endearingly Intrigued
“It smells like pizza in here,” a male passenger with brown hair tied back into a ponytail comments as he sniffs the air. “Did the passengers before you bring one in?”
I explain to him that the smell is from a recent Uber Eats delivery (this is back when few people know about Uber Eats; it was just starting to become a thing).
The passenger’s eyes get really big. Turning to his female friend (who’s slumped in the backseat), he marvels over the fact that “Uber delivers food now.”
His friend slurs back at him in response, “Uber delivered my phone one time.”
It’s quiet for the next minute or two. I assume the male passenger has digested this discovery and is now over it, but when he says: “Fuckin’ blows my mind,” I realize he’s still processing it.
**Thanks for reading! Happy New Year. Check back for more Lyft stories in 2022, and follow our IG @lyft_tales