By: Zach Chitwood
I am 24. I graduated college with an English degree, so I drive Uber. This story is true.
It was a dreary Saturday night coated in a layer of opaque mist. I dropped off a couple at their apartment and started the trek back toward the bars, looking to scoop a few last groups before going home, getting high, and finally starting Season 2 of Atlanta. My phone dinged, and once I hit a red light, I glanced at the text. It was from an unknown number and read Help, this is Sara. Please come get us!
Earlier in the night, I had picked up Sara and her three friends from a cabin they rented for the weekend to celebrate one of the girl’s birthday. All four had southern draws layered with a smidge of college vernacular. They were dolled up in tight dresses, heavy makeup, and hoop earrings. Jessica, the birthday girl, had recently broken up with her boyfriend, so they were having a “fuck men” weekend, as they called it, which, I was told, did not mean they couldn’t hookup; it was more of a mindset. From the back seat, one of them even said, “I can’t wait to put my ass on a stranger.” They were entertaining. I enjoyed their rambunctiousness and dedication to being unbothered by the world. Sara tried to flirt me into not driving for the night and to come dance instead. I told the women collectively I was engaged. They spent the remainder of the car ride sweetly asking about my fiancée, the wedding, and our life plans. I appreciated it; I’m always thankful for personal questions. Overall, the ride went smooth. In my experience of giving rides, four drunk girls usually have the same amount of poise as a forest fire, so I was grateful for their relative normalcy of the conversation. I pulled up to the sidewalk in front of Ale House, packed to brim with its usual slew of boozers. Before following her friends to the bouncer, Sara turned to me.
“Can we just call you later to come pick us up and pay cash?” Not an uncommon request. People want to make sure they have a ride home and, in an area like Boone where Ubers and Lyfts are scarce, I get this request pretty much every night.
“Of course,” I said. And I gave her my number.
Now hours later, I reread her SOS message and turned off the driver app, deciding they would be my last pickup for the night. Driving down 421, the road was empty. I swerved through the Appalachian pines listening to old school hip-hop, my preferred music for post-midnight rides. Quick beats and disyllabic rhymes kept my mind preoccupied enough to forget how exhausted I was. I got to King Street and whipped into the parking lot of a different bar, where Sara had dropped a pin to mark their location. The first thing I saw was Jessica hectically drumming the front window. It was 2:23 a.m. Other patrons were smoking cigarettes and waiting for rides, but all were fixated on the intoxicated conniption taking place. It was real-life reality television. Sara saw my car and scurried to the passenger side. Ripping open the door, she exasperatedly asked, “Do you have a pen and paper?”
Jessica had left her purse in the bar, which had the key to the cabin they were staying in. I gave Sara a pen and some napkins, the closest thing I had to paper. She wrote a sloppy message that loosely read Left purse inside. Has our keys. She ran back to Jessica and the others who were shouting at the bar staff inside. Holding the napkin up to the front door, all four girls now stood in a row banging in rhythm on the window. A drunk mob gathered, anxious to see if the girls would succeed in their endeavor. They started to chant, “Give her the purse!” For a second, I contemplated leaving, but this was too astounding. I put my car in park, got out, and leaned against the hood to watch. When a cook opened the door to take out trash bags, Jesscia made her move. Without any form of a conversation, she rushed by the perplexed chef with the agility of a defensive end. Jessica returned outside a minute later holding the purse above her head like baby Simba. There was applause. I laughed out loud and clapped along with the others. After a moment of soaking in the elation of their triumph, the four girls ran to my car, simultaneously laughing and yelling about their self-defined “ratchetness.”
I have few regrets in life. One is not recording the conversation of the 20-minute car ride from the bar back to their cabin.
Once they were situated, all four girls started telling stories at the same time about different parts of the night. Sara said two girls asked her to have a threesome. One of the other friends, Mary, conned three different guys into buying her a vodka-cran. About a mile into the trip, however, as they extolled their conquest, Jessica started crying frantically. The others went quiet. She sobbed and tried to talk at the same time, but the words were inaudible. Finally, she took a deep breath and said, “Why would he break up with me?” There was a communal sigh.
“Don’t do this right now,” Sara said in a sisterly kind of way from the passenger seat, trying to keep the high spirits of the night alive. This did not comfort Jessica.
“I don’t get it! My pussy? Great. My tits? Great.” This drew some drunken giggles. “I just don’t know why he broke up with me.” She paused a beat, then, “Zach, have you ever seen great tits?”
“Sure,” I said.
“Well, I can’t show you because you’re engggaaaged,” she slurred. “But I have bomb tits.”
I didn’t know how to respond, so I gave a half-laugh and turned the volume up a few notches.
About halfway there, the adrenaline of retrieving the purse and Jessica’s despair seemed to have simmered. They traded anecdotes still, but in a much more controlled way. Once there was a pause in the story-telling, Mary asked another question that I get often.
“So, Zach, do you get high?” she asked.
“Occasionally,” I said, trying to stay vague.
“Do you know where we could get some bud?”
By nature, I am not a rule follower. I don’t care about squeezing two or three extra people into the car. I don’t mind if people have open beers. I don’t mind if people offer me their beers. Groups have offered higher tips for fast food stops and I always oblige. My one rule, however, is that I do not sell drugs to passengers whatsoever. Way too much risk. I’ve been offered as high as $30 for a gram, and even then, while tempting, I refused (there’s like a 78% chance that anyone paying $30 for a g’ is a cop, anyways). I told Mary no, which in most cases would end the conversation. Alas, Mary was fiending. She was not going down without a fight.
After a moment of contemplation, she said, “I’ll give you a hand job.” The others screamed.
“He’s engaged!” Sara yelled with disapproval.
“So?” she said. “It’s not even really cheating. He can close his eyes and pretend it’s her.”
“I’m good,” I interjected. “I don’t have that much anyways.”
“You’re lying,” Mary said. I was.
“Mary, you are NOT allowed to give Zach a hand job,” Jessica told her like a mother telling a toddler not to draw on walls.
Mary sulked, conceding defeat, but not before one final attempt at enticement, “Fine, but I give a damn good hand job.”
I picked up speed, going five miles faster around curves than usual, ready for the ride to be over. We pulled up to the cabin, a quaint one-story out in the backwoods. The girls thanked me excessively for waiting in the parking lot as the purse-pursuit took place, and Jessica paid me $50, all the cash in her wallet. I said she didn’t have to pay that much, which she responded, “Take your fiancée to dinner and tell her she’s lucky as shit.”
The girls gathered themselves and slogged up the driveway, holding on to each other for support. As I pulled back on to the street, I took one last glance in my rear view mirror, just in time to see Jessica trip over her heels and faceplant into one of the shrubs next to the front door. I kept on driving.