On deck for this week: A male passenger describes how a bro bonding Girl Scout cookie binge sesh made up for a disappointing date. In “Spanish Practice,” a daughter reveals to her mom the shocking gift she plans to bestow on her dad for Father’s Day.
Two passengers in #Lyft Line speculate over the future of BitCoin, convoking Beanie Babies in their discussion while examining such questions as What is the value of money? What is the value of anything?
Finally, a #Lyft dream involving a pothole the size of a lion pit and riding alongside a grumbling passenger in a helicopter.
Exploring the city
San Jose is the third largest city in California by population. For about 150 years it was mostly a farming community— one of the last places for undeveloped land in the Bay Area— but its population shot up after World War II, with soldiers and veterans making up a substantial chunk of its new residents.
Tech development took off in the ’70s, moving the city further from its farming roots and gradually converting it into the tech hub we know it as today. It’s now considered the capital of Silicon Valley.
As I drive by the San Jose Tech Museum, I recall the virtual reality bob-sled that my elementary school classmates and I rode during field trips. Their simulation of an actual 8.0 magnitude earthquake taught museum-goers about the science behind shifting tectonic plates. Memories of this also surface.
Back in the ’90s, my dad, sister and I cheered on the San Jose Clash (now known as the Earthquakes) soccer team at the Spartan Stadium. My sister mainly watched for Eric Wynalda.
San Jose’s downtown has developed substantially in the past few years, with more breweries, live music, street murals, and a burgeoning comedy scene finding its way to a greater number of venues.
At the European-style Cafe Frascatti, plants hang from the ceiling while the front patio offers views of the trolley tracks, looming high-rises, and graffiti art vivifying the facades of nearby buildings.
Unabashed Tree Kisser
“I loved making out with that tree!” a 20-something girl says to a 20-something guy as they both get into my car (in response, I learn, to her boyfriend pulling up a picture of her on his phone of her doing that).
The older couple sharing the Lyft Line with them furrows their eyebrows as she says this, which brings the following question to mind for me: Do we all sound ridiculous to outside observers who only take us in in disembodied, contextless fragments?
How many people do only a cursory reading of us then (sometimes even smugly) assume they have enough information to make a character assessment?
Cookies Make Everything Better
“I went on a date with a girl tonight, and it didn’t go well. So afterwards I went to a bar and met this guy, and we went back to his car and ate Girl Scout cookies. The night redeemed itself.”
–20-something guy in downtown San Jose
#Passengers Speak Spanish
Mom: “No olvides que Sunday is Father’s Day” (“Don’t forget that Sunday is Father’s Day”).
Daughter: “Si! Hey, can you go with me to get my nose pierced tomorrow?”
Mom: “Que?!?!??!!!!!” (“What??”)
Daughter: “…Necesito que un adulto me acompañe” (“I need an adult to accompany me”).
“….” Así que quieres dar a tu padre el regalo de un infarto.” (“So your gift to your dad is a heart attack.“)
#Lyft Line: Passengers Talk Bitcoin
“Dogecoin, a cryptocurrency that began as a joke with a perpetually surprised Shiba Ing dog for its symbol, has soared almost 1,000% over the past week to set a record. The rally is a moment of euphoria for the thousands of different versions of digital money, which years ago were dismissed as little more than online Beanie Babies caught in a speculative bubble.” -Nathaniel Popper in February 10, 2021 SF Chronicle article
“I think you have to have a certain kind of risk-taker’s personality to invest in Bitcoin— as opposed to investing in bonds with a more stable pay-off,” says the guy, who works for a self-driving car company. Earlier he expressed excitement about the future of innovation, technology, and robots.
“Yeah, it basically is gambling,” agrees the girl, whom I’d picked up in front of a scenic house in the San Jose hills–where a start-up meeting had been taking place– during a gorgeous sunset.
The three of us had been riding quietly when the male passenger broke the silence to ask us our opinions on Bitcoin. I didn’t even know what BitCoin was at the time, so I sat quietly and learned, focusing on driving while the two of them delved into the topic.
“Do you remember Beanie Babies?” she asks him.
“No, what’s that?” he responds.
“They’re these small stuffed animals filled with beans that were popular in the ’90s. They were collectibles– some of them became really valuable.
Especially some of the bears–like the one named after Princess Diana– grew to be worth a few hundred dollars apiece. People would buy these plastic cases to store them in. And you couldn’t cut their tags off or else they’d lose their value…”
“Wow,” says the guy.
“Now if you go to a yard sale you’ll see them on sale for like 50 cents each,” she explains as he listens bemused.
Philosophical questions such as: what is the value of money? What is the value of anything (when you start paying for things in bitcoins)? –were then posed.
The guy talks about how “most systems are rigged” and how the Bitcoin thing, “when you think about it, kind of exposes that” (I’m not sure how—again, my knowledge of Bitcoin is limited— but I’m intrigued by this statement).
I only caught bits and pieces of what remained of the conversation. My attention flicked off when foreign words or unfamiliar concepts came up, then back on when I heard interesting statements or anecdotes (such as how one guy, who became a millionaire, was the youngest person to strike it rich through Bitcoin investments after investing 10 dollars he got from his grandma); or when more philosophical ideas emerged.
“There’s this house where the people living there are all bitcoin investors and it became like the millionaire house, all were people who got rich off it,” said the guy.
Weeks after our ride I read the following passage from a story in the New Yorker:
“A thing arrives, it proliferates, it grows into ubiquity. And like everything else that reaches ubiquity, it one day disappears.”
Will this be the future of Bitcoin? Time will tell.
#Lyft Dream: Beastly Potholes and the Helicopter Rescue
One minute my Toyota Corolla and I are transporting a Lyft passenger; the next, we’re being swallowed into the ground by a sudden giant pothole, which, swimming pool huge, appeared out of nowhere.
“You’re supposed to steer around them,” the passenger grumbles, as a helicopter arrives to lift us out.
“No, they’re supposed to not be there!” I protest, in defense of my driving abilities.
While seated next to me in the helicopter, the passenger writes a letter to Lyft explaining why I should be fired. I write a letter as well—to the city, about the need for rectification of its beastly potholes.
Why didn’t the passenger just cancel and order another Lyft?
Once we were out of the pothole, why was it necessary for us to ride in the helicopter?
Where was the helicopter taking us to and why did the passenger accompany me?
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