Ramon’s friend walked him to the car and opened the door for him. “Get my buddy home safe, okay?” he said.
“Of course. That’s what I do.” I looked in the rear-view mirror. “You okay, Ramon?”
“I drank too much.”
“I see. That happens. Are you feeling sick?”
“I already threw up. I think I’ll be okay.”
I knew better. Over-drinkers never puke just once. “Hang on.”
I got out and retrieved my barf bucket from the trunk. It’s a small office wastebasket with a plastic bag liner. I keep it handy for this kind of thing.
Let me interrupt the story here to say that I’ve thankfully not had many experiences with vomit in my Uber. On the few occasions when people felt sick, I was able to pull over so they could disgorge on the roadside. I’ve given more than 2,500 rides, and only one episode required cleaning, which I recount here. Still, I come prepared: rubber gloves, cleaning spray, paper towels, and my bucket.
I put it on his lap and said, “Tell me if you feel sick, and I’ll pull over. But if it hits too quick, do it in this thing. You don’t want to throw up in my car, okay?”
He nodded and hugged the bucket.
He tried to make small talk. He was embarrassed and apologetic. “I might fall asleep,” he said.
“That’s fine. I’ll get you home safe.”
It was a pretty long trip–close to half an hour, but ten minutes in, I saw him bury his face in the can.
“You want me to pull over?”
He shook his head.
“You just want me to get you home?”
I heard it clearly when his stomach emptied. I don’t have to describe it. I turned up the radio to drown out the sound and opened the windows to air out the smell.
It happened two more times. I really felt bad for the guy. But I was hoping he could keep it in the bucket. I was making good money that night and dreaded stopping it short to sanitize my car.
As I pulled into his apartment complex, I spotted a dumpster and parked next to it. While he held the can, I tied the bag and removed it, surprised at how heavy it was. I threw it in the dumpster in one motion. Never saw it and never smelled it. I put a new bag in the can just in case and pulled him up to his entryway.
I helped him out of the car. The poor guy was weak, pale, and miserable. He gave me ten bucks and a grateful look before inching toward the door. I turned on the interior lights and searched the back seat for signs of spillage. Nothing. Not a drop. Not even a smell. I couldn’t believe it. He had caught everything in the bucket.
He was still within hearing range, so I called to him, “Brother, you’re the best puker I’ve ever seen! You didn’t get anything in my car.”
He nodded and waved without turning around.