Or … An Uber ride into the Twilight Zone
Being an Uber driver offers a unique perspective. Sometimes you get a glimpse of something or experience an event that really makes you wonder why, at that particular moment, the Universe put you in the audience … ? As in, WTH???
Case in point: Recently, early one Friday morning, I picked up a lovely young woman at a local hotel. She was professionally dressed in a black pants suit, white blouse, with dark hair and eyes, café au lait skin, and a beautiful smile.
I checked her destination and said, “So, we’re going up to the Medical College?”
“Yes,” she said, “But can we drive into town so I can buy some toothpaste at RiteAid? I can’t believe I forgot my toothpaste! I have my medical school interview this morning, I can’t go in without brushing my teeth!”
I assured her that was no problem, and off we went. “So, aside from the missing toothpaste, how’s your day so far?”, expecting the usual, “Oh, fine, how’s yours?”
Instead, I heard, “Oh, my God, I can’t believe what just happened!”
“What do you mean?” I asked, curious.
“Well, I was trying to check out of the hotel, but … Oh, my God, it was so weird. The guy behind the counter was … he was drunk! Or, I don’t know, he was all messed up. He couldn’t talk. And he wasn’t even dressed!”
I shook my head, trying to clear it. What did she just say? “What do you mean, he wasn’t dressed?”
“He didn’t have a shirt on!” she exclaimed. “He was half naked, completely out of it, I couldn’t check out, and I really needed to leave.” She was still agitated from her situation. “I’ve never been in such an uncomfortable situation at a hotel, it was just so bizarre.”
By then we were at the drug store, and she went in, coming back out shortly with the much-needed tooth cleanser. We discussed further what could possibly be going on at this hotel, and as we drew closer to her destination, I said, “Well, Sarah, I wish you a wonderful interview and much success, I can tell you have a lot going for you.” She thanked me and exited the car, straightening her shoulders as she strode into the building, bag over her shoulder.
I tapped my way out of that ride to complete it in the Uber app, and then, as I drove out of the complex, another ride request rang in. I glanced at the pickup location, and did a double take when it was the same hotel I’d just picked Sarah up at. My Spidey senses were on alert.
The hotel was a few blocks away, and I pulled in only 3 minutes later. My Spidey senses were really clanging in my head when a beautiful young woman got in, dressed impeccably in a black pants suit, white blouse and black pumps. I would have though it was a déjà vu, except she was a tall pale blond.
“Let me guess,” I said, “You’ve got your med school interview up at the medical college?” She looked at me, dumbfounded. “Yes!” she exclaimed. “How did you know?” I clicked the ride start on the app, and sure enough, the destination of the medical college appeared. I had to laugh. “Well, my last rider was dressed just like you and that’s where she was going!”
But things really got strange when I asked my usual, “So, how’s your day so far?”
“Well, first off, I forgot my toothpaste!” she exclaimed.
At this point, I’m looking around for Candid Camera. Before I could respond she said, “So at 5 a.m. when I woke up, I thought I’d check with the front desk. You know, they often have those little travel tubes for the guests, right?”
“Sure,” I say.
“Well, I get down there, and there is somebody lying on the floor, in the lobby, passed out or something.”
“What the heck? Are you serious?” I asked?
“Totally.” She said. “And I was really trying to focus on getting ready, so, ignoring the elephant in the room, I asked this guy behind the counter if they had any toothpaste they could give me, one of the travel tubes.”
“And then what happened?” I asked. I’m seriously doubting what version of reality I’m in at this point.
“It was so strange!! It was almost as if he didn’t even work there! He said, ‘Uhm, I don’t know if they have those here.’” And then he looked at this woman who was there with him, and he asked her, ‘Do you know if they have those here?’ and she said, ‘No, I don’t think they have those here.’”
“They said ‘they,’ as if they didn’t even work there?” I asked again, just baffled.
“Yes,” she nodded her head affirmatively. “And he clearly wasn’t really listening to me. Finally he just told me he was trying to take care of the guy on the floor, and asked me to come back down in 10 minutes and he’d help me then.” She paused to sip from her water bottle, and continued. “So, I went back up to my room, took a shower, got dressed and came back down. When I tried to talk to him, he didn’t recognize me, didn’t remember at all our conversation about toothpaste, was completely clueless. But the guy on the floor was gone.” She sat back in the seat, shook her head as if to rid herself of the memory. “I have no idea what is going on in that place, but I never want to stay there again!”
By this time we were at the medical college, and I said, “Well, Julie, I’d definitely complain to the management if I were you, see if you can get reimbursed or something. Good luck with the interview—though I don’t think you’ll need it. And if you see a woman named Sarah, dressed just like you, say hi to her—she’s the one I just dropped off her, and she forgot her toothpaste too!”
Julie was half out of the car, but turned back to me. “Seriously?” I just laughed and said “Yes! I can’t believe it either. Take care!” and off she went.
Well, I pondered this for the next few rides … what are the odds that two young women get into my car from the same hotel, going to the same place for the same reason, dressed identically, who don’t know each other, and they each forgot their toothpaste? Freaking Rod Serling’s Twilight Zone.
I gave a few more rides, still marveling at the oddity of the morning. Little did I know that my next rider would provide chapter 3 to this strange saga. She was a young woman, with a hotel her destination—not the one from my other riders.
But I picked up on the cue. “So, I imagine that there is a network of hotel staff and employees in Burlington that knows what’s going on behind the scenes, am I right?” I asked her. “Oh, yes,” she assured me.
“So, what’s going on at the ________ Hotel?” I asked her.
“What do you mean?” she asked. I told her what the other two riders had related to me about their experience at that hotel.
“Well, that makes sense,” she said.
“Why, what do you mean?” I had to know.
“Well, last Monday we got a frantic call from a woman who said she was staying at that hotel, and she had to get out of there! ‘I can’t stay here! I can’t stay here another minute!’ she kept saying. We got her booked and she came over that day, but I didn’t talk to her.”
“Hmm … I wonder what happened to her?” I mused aloud. My rider shrugged. “No idea,” she said as she opened the car door. “But I’ll probably hear about it soon enough. Thanks for the ride!”