Usually, I’m a fan of cab rides. Note that usually is the operative word. Cab rides make for some interesting conversations. At times, I’ve gotten the feeling as though I was talking to a therapist on wheels—a pumpkin-scented air freshener that adds to the realistic feel. Other times I’ve felt as though I had life figured out and was giving an epic motivational speech. I must also add that getting 5-10 minutes of free charging for my mobile phone is an awesome perk. With my battery rarely ever being above 20%, I know that this might be a problem. All pumpkin-scented, personable and super-chill rides aside…there’s another side to cab rides. It is this other side that complicates things for me.

Connect Man

No, not networking for future collaborations. Not connect as in “let’s hook up”, though that has happened before in aggressive and non-aggressive ways. Just not with me. Think more outside the box…more like drug trafficking lingo. I just returned to California from work in South Korea last spring, feeling exhausted from a long-haul flight in which I was bumped up to first class. It was hard work eating all that food and drinking all those beverages. My Uber driver arrived and after the regular niceties and luggage dumping, we were on our way. I knew this ride would be interesting when I found out he was Jamaican. I can sniff that thick Caribbean accent from a mile away. This was great, I could speak to him in Patois.

Things got even more interesting as the ride went on. He asked me if I still had connections on the east coast. I told him I had family in New York, Connecticut and Massachusetts. What kind of connections, was the question that popped up inside my head immediately after I answered his question. Never mind, he answered before I could’ve asked. It turned out he and a business partner had a massive marijuana growing space a few hours north of Sacramento. Because the weed business in California is everywhere, he believed real money was on the east coast where there’d be less organised competition. He talked business with me…insisting that I must know someone on the east coast who could distribute for us on that side of the country. There was no us. The conversation ended when I arrived home and after grabbing my luggage and thanking him, he asked for a tip. I was confused at first. Did he mean tip as in me tipping feds about his seedy business proposal, or tip as in me paying him extra money? I answered no, hoping I guessed right. Me, connect man for some cross-country marijuana network, guess it was flattering.

Red Light

The pattern should be clear by now, this is not about the sexual fantasy shopping mall known as a red light district. At first finding this Uber driver became a game of whack-a-mole. Despite Sacramento’s airport being so small, she managed to be in none of the places I looked. Just when I thought of finding my way to the runway, I spotted her not where she said she was. I had a long flight from Japan via Seattle and just needed to get home. Her energy, however, was contagious and we got into a great conversation. Like many other Uber drivers, this was a part-time gig for her. She was a nurse by trade. Unlike many other Uber drivers, she talked a lot. So much so that we drove casually through red lights. For me, this was unnerving.

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