Driving an Uber in Hampton Roads means driving lots of servicemen and women. It’s an honor to do that, but I don’t want my blog posts to get predictable–always talking about the military.
Last night, however, I drove a different kind of soldier and had to share it.
They were my second trip from the Zac Brown Band concert at the Amphitheater. I have learned to immediately call folks leaving concerts to arrange pickup locations and get their descriptions. It can be chaotic to find your passengers among the crowds. But it was easy with Adam and Rebecca. As soon as I turned into the venue, I spotted them and we were on our way.
I liked them immediately. They had been having a good time. They were friendly and enthusiastic about everything. And they were adorably in love.
Adam spotted my snack tray right away.
“Can I have a water?”
“Of course. There’s Jolly Rancers and Tootsie Rolls too, if you want them.”
Rebecca squealed a little. “Jolly Ranchers? You’re the best Uber driver ever!”
They are big Zac Brown fans. Rebecca thinks of them as a “gateway band” for country music.
“I like every song I’ve heard by them.” I said. “But my favorite is Bruce Springsteen. He’s playing here tomorrow night and I’ve got tickets.”
They both erupted, speaking over each other.
“Tell him the pancake story!” Rebecca said.
“Woah! My dad has seen Bruce sixty times,” Adam said. “We’re from New Jersey.”
“Me too,” I said, “What part?”
“I was born in Teaneck…”
“No way! We’ve got Teaneck friends!” Rebecca said.
“…and I grew up in Cherry Hill.”
“She’s from Manalapan!”
“Are you Jewish?” Adam asked.
It wasn’t a crazy question. When I lived in Cherry Hill, a suburb of Philadelphia, the town was about 40% Jewish. I had many Jewish friends at the time. Everybody else I knew was Catholic. I don’t remember knowing any Protestants growing up and was amazed to find out what an anomaly Cherry Hill was when I eventually moved south to Virginia.
“No, I’m not,” I replied. Adam and Rebecca clearly were, however. “So, you came down here just for the Zac Brown concert?”
I didn’t mention it, but I just don’t imagine a lot of New Jersey Jews are rabid country music fans.
“Yeah, we like road trips. I live in Philly now and Adam lives in Israel,” Rebecca said.
“He’s in the army.”
“The Israeli army?”
“Yeah, I’m on leave for a month,” Adam said.
“Okay,” I said, handing them an Umans of Uber business card. You two just definitely made my blog. Tell me the story.”
“It’s something I wanted to do ever since I was little. I feel like as a Jew I benefit from the existence of the state of Israel.” Adam said. “Over there, there’s mandatory military service. When you turn eighteen, you go into the army. I always felt kind of sh–y that I never did it…”
“But you lived here, in the U.S.”
“Yeah, yeah. I never lived there. My parents were born here too.”
“But you felt bad that you never served in the Israeli army?”
“Yeah, yeah. I always wanted to serve my country. I mean, I love America, but I feel like Israel is my country too.”
Rebecca jumped in. “So, here’s our story. We’ve known each other since I was thirteen.”
“And I’m twenty-three and she’s twenty-four now,” he said.
“Yeah, so more than ten years. He was my first kiss. Friends for ten years. Then, you know, just a few weeks before he leaves we decide to kiss again.”
“You just decide,” I said.
“We just decide,” she said.
In the rear-view mirror I saw Adam scoot closer to her, “It was a great decision.”
“Then we decide to start dating while he lives in another f–ing country,” she says. “Right? Who loves that? Everybody.”
We were all laughing at this point.
I asked Adam, “So, what’s next? When you get out of the army, are you going to live back here?”
“That’s the plan. But there’s a chance I’ll be invited to attend commander school, so I might stay in a little longer. I don’t know.”
“That’s the question we are all asking.” Rebecca said.”He also wants to travel, and I support that. I mean when else will he be able to just go see the world?”
“Now or never,” I said. “You should do it while you can. But why don’t you go with him?”
“Because I have a job,” she says.
“I work for a global asset management firm. It’s so working for the man it kills me. But it pays for the concert!”
“So, what’s the pancake story?” I eventually ask.
“It’s actually my brother’s story,” Adam said. “He was at this house party at a neighbor of Bruce Springsteen’s. In Colt’s Neck. And a bunch of them spent the night. In the morning they woke up and Bruce was in the kitchen making everyone pancakes.”
“He’s just a friend and decided to come over and make everybody pancakes. They were all like, ‘Holy f–ing sh–! Bruce Springsteen in making us pancakes!”
It seems like everyone from New Jersey has a Bruce Springsteen story. But that’s a particularly good one.
It wasn’t yet midnight and they were looking for something to do still, so instead of taking them to their hotel on the Oceanfront, I took them The Shack on Eighth Streeet, which has been the most popular beach bar this summer. It was hopping with a crowd their age. It occurred to me that I’ve gotten pretty good at this Ubering thing.
I was sorry to see them go though. I would have enjoyed talking to them for hours.