Conversations with an Uber Driver

My phone rang with a number I didn’t recognise. This must be the Uber Driver I thought. I swiped across to answer and gave my professional greeting – reserved only for bosses, job applications and numbers I don’t recognise “Hello, this is Janet”

“Uhh…where are you? I’m here to pick you up” a slightly Asian accent asked.

*** when I say “Asian” I blanket EVERYONE who isn’t white or black in there. Sorry if that’s offensive, I don’t mean it in that way I promise ***

“I’m outside the Hospital at E block” I answered, anxiety starting to bloom as I watched a clock in the corner of my screen next to the words:  “The driver has arrived and will wait 2.5 minutes for you…”

Tick. Tick. Tick.

“2.2 minutes for you…2 minutes for you…”

Oh Lord.

This is a new job in unfamiliar territory and I was worried I’d lose my ride.

I usually bus to and from work, but it was Friday, and I was being moved to a new site so I had to unexpectedly unpack my “basket” (we got given baskets at work for our personal items because desks weren’t permanent and changed every shift for each person logging on/off for the day) and take everything home.

It’s amazing how much stuff I amassed in only 5 days – tea bags, snacks, chocolates, pens, tea spoons from home, 2 coffee mugs and a pot of organic honey). So today, I thought I’d treat myself to an Uber home instead of lugging a huge bag on various forms of public transport.

Uber drivers can be really nice…or impatient and rude. Thank God, I usually get nice ones, but today I felt we were off to a shaky start.

“Oh! I know where that is!” The friendly male voice said “You stay there, I’ll come to you”.

That’s so nice!

I exhaled and my anxiety went down a few notches as I watched the cartoon car on the Uber app turn and head towards the blue flashing dot that represented me.

A silver car with plates that matched the ones on my booking arrived. I waved and gratefully got into the back seat.

“Thank you so much!” I said, sliding my heavy bag across the seat and offering a smile I hoped the driver would see even though we were both wearing masks 😷

“It’s ok” he replied and I saw his cheeks bunch up in a smile “This happens a lot. I pick up a lot of people from here. It shows the wrong place on the map”.

I was grateful for his kindness in not telling me off. I settled back into my comfortable seat and looked around inside the car. It was neat, clean and smelled nice.

“Cool car” I commented, hoping desperately to make up for him having to come find me.

“Oh yes!” The driver enthusiastically agreed “These new Toyota’s are amazing! Did you know they can…” and that was it. For the next 5 minutes the driver proudly told me – and showed me – the new “tech features” on his car. He seemed so pleased with it’s fuel economy and that “it even talks”. At this, the driver pressed a button and a female automated voice asked “How may I help you?”.

Creepy.

But the driver was so happy, I didn’t want to put him off so I responded appropriately: “Wow…that’s…awesome”.

We had a moment of silence before the Driver…let’s call him “Bill”…asked if I was visiting someone at the hospital or working there. I told him I’d started a new job there. He nodded. Bill asked where I was from and I said I was Filipino. He laughed “Sooo many Filipino’s are Nurses either in Hospital or aged care!”

I laughed too, knowing it was true. I wonder why that’s the case?

Bill told me he picked up a lot of weary, over-worked Nurses from the Hospital. Every hospital here in WA is understaffed so a lot of Nurses (including Alun) are working overtime and taking extra shifts…they must all be so tired. I truly believe Nurses are heroes in scrubs. We are sooo blessed to have health care workers. From Cleaners to Surgeons, they are all absolutely amazing.

“When a Nurse gets in…” Bill explained “They will sigh and say ‘please just take me home’ and don’t say anything else on the trip”

Bless them.

We talked about the change in the weather (Autumn is sooo lovely) and about the traffic. I was enjoying Bill’s company. He struck me as someone polite and friendly. I liked him.

Then Bill suddenly opened up about his life! I was so blessed that he felt he could share it with me rather than continuing with small talk. Bill confided that he’d lost his wife 6 years ago.

Oh my heart. Oh no, Bill.

“I lost my wife on Christmas day” Bill said in a quiet voice. My heart just broke for him. On Christmas day!!! “Our sons were 2 and 3 years old at the time. She was not unwell. There were no symptoms, we were not expecting it. My wife complained of a strange smell so I looked everywhere in the room but couldn’t find anything that smelled. She said she had a headache. We went to the beach and sat quietly together while our boys played together. After a while, we got up to leave and my wife suddenly clutched at her head and screamed. She fell to the ground and was unconscious immediately. I yelled for help and people came to help.

An ambulance arrived 10 minutes later and she got taken to Albany Hospital and then air lifted to Hospital here in the city. I was so upset and so scared”.

“Then…” Bill sighed. I could literally see his grief on his face as he spoke and I felt his pain as if it were my own. “Then she fell into a coma. Doctors did tests and said it was a brain aneurysm. She died a few days later”

Oh no. Oh Bill…

“I’m so very sorry for your loss” it took all my strength not to lean over from the back seat and squeeze his shoulder in sympathy. I reminded myself 1) Bill might not like that and 2) I was in the back seat because of Covid rules about DISTANCING so I’d better not break the rules. I’m a toucher, me. It was so hard to keep my hands to myself when I could see the poor guy was hurting.

Bill told me how it changed his life. Of course it did. He was grieving and didn’t know how to cope or look after his boys. He went to 3 months of counselling and then back to work. As someone familiar now with grief, I knew 3 months off wasn’t nearly what Bill would have needed. My heart broke for him all over again.

Bill told me he didn’t like anything any more. He was only working to provide for his sons who are now in their early teens. I could hear in his voice how much he loved his children. It was really sweet. Bill re-married a woman from the US who had a son and had lost her husband. “Her son needed a Dad, my boys needed a Mom, so we made an agreement (an agreement?) to become a family”.

Bill shook his head sadly. “My first wife was so bubbly, so excited, so full of life. She was bossy, too!” Bill laughed at the memory “She organised everything very well. We did everything together and we laughed so much. We ran a daycare together and then also worked at a Hotel together” I got the feeling they were very close; best friends even.

“My 2nd wife is…very nice…but very quiet. We take our sons camping a lot and as they explore, we sit quietly together” I sensed some…sadness there.

Some…disappointment. Less of a closeness and more of an arrangement. I felt so sad for Bill. He clearly missed the joy and “Bubbliness” (his word) of his first wife.

“I’m so sorry you had to go through so much loss” I offered, feeling helpless.

Bill admitted to feeling the loss even now as if it had only just occurred. I understand that. Grief has no time limit. Especially for a Spouse. I can’t even imagine the pain. Losing my Dad has been painful enough but if I lost ALUN?!? I would definitely hang myself. (I’m so sorry if that hurts or triggers you).

Bill said he was raised in Hinduism as well as Catholicism but that he’d stopped believing in God/gods when his wife was torn from his life.

“Maybe in my past life I was a bad man” Bill said “So my beautiful wife was taken as punishment…but my boys? They were so little when she died…what was the reason for them to lose their mother? No. I don’t believe any more. Nothing makes sense to me any more”

I can understand that. I get you, Bill.

By now, we were pulling up to mine & Al’s driveway. Our time together was almost over. I was sad to have it end when I felt something very important had been exchanged. Something special.

I guess Bill felt the same because he took his phone from the holder and said “Wait. Let me show you photos of my wife” and without asking, I knew he meant his 1st wife. I noticed Bill didn’t have to scroll far. Her pictures were at the top of his phone’s photo gallery. That both touched and broke my heart.

I wonder how the 2nd wife feels about all this?

Bill proudly showed me pictures of himself and his wife, (she was so pretty) with their happy cheeks pressed together and I could tell they were laughing as the photo got taken. I could feel the loss of that happiness. Oh Bill…

“These are my boys” and Bill scrolled to show me pictures of teenage boys that seemed unimpressed with having their photos taken. Oh I remember those days.

“Your wife was so beautiful and your boys look so big now!” I commented, wanting even more to reach out to touch Bill.

No, JD. Keep your hands to yourself.

“Yes!” Bill laughed “They are taller than me now!”

We both laughed. I wanted to stay because I felt Bill had more to say, but we were holding up traffic now and I knew if I didn’t get out, cars would start beeping at Bill.

“It was a pleasure to meet you” I said. I hope my heart hugged his, I really do. I slid in little shuffles across the seat, dragging my huge, heavy bag along with me. Ugh.

“You too!” Bill waved.

I felt like I’d made a friend.

Bill pulled away and off up the busy street, disappearing in seconds. I was genuinely sad to see him go.

I said a quick prayer that God would comfort Bill’s heart and draw him and his “new” wife closer. I pray they’ll find things in common and laugh together in their own ways this year 🙏

I let myself into our lovely cottage, dumped my bag on the kitchen bench and hugged a surprised Alun SO TIGHT.

“Woah woah woah!” Alun put his hands in the air, surprised at how fiercely I held him. I wouldn’t let go. I wanted to breathe him in and savour every inch of him. I’m so grateful I’m not having to go through life without Alun. Thank you so much, Abba Father.

I told Alun briefly about my Uber experience and how lovely Bill was. Alun was busy preparing dinner and wasn’t really listening, bless him.

I clicked onto the Uber App to “rate my driver” and gave Bill 5 stars. It gives an option of adding a $1, $5 or $10 tip and usually I ignore it but this time I didn’t. I selected the “add $10 tip” and added a comment in the blank compliments/complaints field “Thank you so much for being so kind on the journey home. You are amazing” and hit “pay” with a smile.

15 minutes later, a notification popped up from “Uber” – a little note from Bill that read “Thanks for the tip! 😀”

Bless you. You’re very welcome.

3 responses to “Conversations with an Uber Driver”

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