Late yesterday afternoon, I made plans to visit a friend who I had just learned had lost her mother. A glitch between our texts (was it an iPhone v. Android issue?), lead me to miss details about the shiva. An actual phone call got to the bottom of crossed texts and I wanted to see her before she left for the holidays in the morning. I debated whether to drive or just subway it to Brooklyn. It was 6:30 pm on a Saturday night and a quick Google Maps consult yielded the same ETA for either. So I figured, take the subway and get back to that book that’s been sitting on my night table that I’m crawling through at a page per night.
I didn’t bother to change from what I was wearing all day which was super casual, nor did I put on make-up. Not that I am one of those people who doesn’t leave home without it. But as I walked the 10 blocks to the subway, I did feel slightly more self-conscious being out on a Saturday night with so many people around me way more festively attired.
After spending a few good hours with my friend and her family, I texted my husband that I was heading home, descended back down into the subway, swiped my MetroCard and boarded a train that was at the station, elated that I didn’t have any wait. Until I realized about 30 seconds later that the train wasn’t moving. After 10 minutes, I learned signal problems and no service in sight meant I was stuck in Brooklyn. I debated backtracking to the G to go all the way to another boro to get to mine, but that seemed like a major trek. Bye $2.75 and hello Uber. And another vote for driving myself next time.
Hallelujah, I had service. So I checked for a car. The fare quote was almost $40. Since I had already lost $2.75 to the MTA and I was not in heels, I decided to try Uber Pool, coming in at a more palatable $12.56. I had only used Pool once, and not by choice. For some reason when I was in SF for business some months ago, Uber Pool was the only option showing up in my app. I was with a colleague then and it was a tight squeeze into a Hyundai but we ended up chatting with a sweet couple in from Scotland and saving our clients a little money to boot.
I went outside to wait for my driver “arriving in 4 minutes” in a Toyota Camry. I stood amidst a throng of about 100 other fellow subway riders who had resorted to car sharing apps too, most very dressed up with somewhere to go at 11:15 on a Saturday night, phones aglow with their apps shining little car squares en route.
I walked a few feet and looked at the license plate info for my driver, locating my Camry at the corner.
As I got into my car, I fended off a girl in a black leather mini skirt screaming, “That’s my car.”
Did you call Uber Pool?” I asked. She ran off in a huff to look for another black Toyota Camry in a sea of them.
(While living in LA this summer, I sat in my car chatting with a friend for a few minutes after a night out. All of a sudden my back door opened and I, my friend, and what turned about to be a girl who had climbed into the backseat of my car shrieked at the top of our lungs. “What are you doing?” I yelped. “Isn’t this Uber!!?” the girl asked, confused. “NO!!!!” I retorted. I guess in LA, it was an easy mistake. Car description and license plate reallyis helpful.).
Driver and I waited for my other poolmate, Yulia.
A minute later, Yulia and friend piled in next to me and there I was with two chatty girls heading out for the night, the backseat very cozy for the three of us.
While back in SF with my colleague in that Hyundai, we could have talked amongst our selves, being alone in an Uber Pool with two friends is weird. I was literally arm to arm with the girl in the middle. If you know me, you know I talk to anyone. I am the person who inserts herself into almost any conversation. I’m social, curious, I like to meet people. On this particular occasion, I looked for a few opportunities to jump in but they were wrapped up in a banter and I decided to just be silent. It was hard. I surfed my social feeds — something most of us lean on, but, since it was impossible not to take in all that was going on right next to me, I did.
Middle girl took a Snapchat of herself in the car. It looked awful. I wondered why she bothered.
“I have sooo much work to do,” she said, thumb furiously scrolling Insta.
College students or grad students I think.
I could have butted in there with a “what are you studying?” But I remained silent, wondering if they thought it was creepy that I’m so quiet and thinking about how interesting it is to watch myself not jump in and chat away.
“Can you send me a color version of the picture you posted?”
“I want to cut my hair again.”
“I want to order Insomnia cookies again.”
“I’ve never had that.”
“Jo just liked my picture!”
Then talk about a sister’s boyfriend, a job, family drama and a fight over a ride not given and again the lament about “so much work to do.”
Totally mundane. Nothing really to write about it. I imagine drivers from car service to taxis to ride shares have heard far more interesting, stranger, wackier, racier conversations but this is just my snapshot of a moment in time and how awkward it is to sit so close to other people being social in total silence. Like a fly on the wall. Like an elephant in the room.
It is… just such a different experience of space that is beyond what we are used to, even in crowded cities, subways, buses, planes. Being stuck in a small car with strangers who know each other and having to listen to their conversation is a whole other plane of intimacy. It also brought up some high school thing about not being included.
35 minutes later, my driver drives close to my address but then turns left.
“Where are you going?”
The driver gives an address 15 blocks out of my way — my pool party companions’ destination. The app was taking us there first which made no sense, since we were literally passing my building. I asked the driver to stop the car, saying, “I’ll just walk the rest of the way.”
He pulled over, I got out, thanked the driver, and we all simultaneously said, “Bye!…finally breaking that wall of silence. ”…Have a good night!” I called, crossing the street.