I’ve given close to three thousand rides with Uber since I started last April. That’s a lot of passengers. And I’m happy to relate that the vast majority of those riders have been pleasant, friendly, engaging people. The number of bad hombres in Hampton Roads, from this ride sharer’s perspective, is encouragingly small. But that doesn’t mean they don’t exist.
I kicked people out of my Uber for the first time on St. Patrick’s day. Well, technically, it was the morning after St. Patrick’s Day–about two-thirty A.M.
I had just finished a late ride after an exceptionally busy and entertaining night and was ready for home and bed when I got another ping for a pickup. I thought about ignoring it, but they were just down the road and the price was surging. It looked like easy money, so I decided to do one more.
They were waiting for me in the parking lot of a popular all-night diner. In fact, there was a small crowd hanging out there–people party late on St. Paddy’s. One guy flagged me down and two buddies followed him. They were young white guys. Maybe college kids home on break. Maybe navy boys. I never found out.
It goes without saying that they’d been drinking. And they were obnoxious.
The guy who called for the Uber sat up front. The other two didn’t get in right away. They were busy hassling some girl across the parking lot.
“Why’s she with that guy?” one asked the other. “He’s a loser!”
“You’re date’s a f-ing loser!” the loudest one shouted.
They piled in the backseat, all three laughing.
The girl came toward the car and the loudmouth rolled down his window. She was upset, shouting profanities.
“You know what?” he said. “I wouldn’t f– you on a bad day!”
These three idiots exploded with screeching laughter like it was the funniest joke of all time. Loudmouth started pounding the back of the passenger seat, hysterical.
I shook my head, not even a little amused. These punks were the worst.
I slowly pulled a U-turn and headed toward the street. The crowd outside was united in hating these guys. Several groups of young men and women were shouting “F– you!”
We drove right by a particularly vocal bunch, which included a single African-American, who extended his middle finger toward us as we passed.
Loudmouth still had his window down. He stuck his head out and shouted, “Oh yeah? Well, you’re black! Yeah, you’re black! F–ing n–er!”
That was it. I stomped the brake. “Get the hell out of my car. All of you.”
“F– you,” said Loudmouth. “I’m not getting out. Take us home.”
“This is my car, a–hole, and I’m not driving you anywhere. Get out.”
“Okay, then I’ll call the cops and have you arrested for trespassing. I’m sitting right here until you get out.”
The crowd saw us stop and some of them started approaching. The guy next to me looked a little nervous. He turned to Loudmouth.
“Dude, shut up and respect the driver!”
“It’s too late for that,” I said, “You need to get out.”
“Sir, if we get out here, there’s going to be trouble.”
I knew that of course. In fact, I was looking forward to the trouble. I was ready to enjoy watching and maybe recording the butt-whooping they were about to get. But I knew that wasn’t the best move. It’s what I wanted, but I made a better call. I drove them about a hundred yards down the road to a convenience store and kicked them out there.
They all complied. Even Loudmouth, though he spewed a barrage of cussing my way as he exited and slammed the door.
“You’re a f–ing p—y!”
“Yeah, okay. Just get out,” I said.
I was too angry to point out the irony of that guy implying I was a coward. The guy who bravely talked trash from the safety of a departing vehicle.
I wasn’t proud of the language I used, but I felt pretty good about refusing a ride to those young men. I was not willing to be an accomplice to their abusive, sexist, racist behavior.
It’s frightening that anyone at all, in this day and age, would act like that. But I’m thankful that they are the rare exception.