Work was fine. I put in the hours, did what I’d been contracted to do. The job was in an anonymous business park. Big, blank buildings with manicured shrubs out front. The building I was working in was full of people, but I felt alone there. Once the last day was over, I handed in my badge, tried to find someone to say goodbye to. Then I took an Uber back to the hotel-motel.
This time I got a middle-aged Asian guy driving a black Mercedes. He was overdressed: jacket, tie. Salt and pepper in his hair. He wore upscale eyeglass frames. Had a Bluetooth device hanging from his ear. “Are you Scott?” Told him I was. Got into the backseat. There was a dish of mints on the armrest. Only the dish wasn’t a dish—it was a martini glass. And the glass wasn’t glass—it was cheap plastic that had obviously been warped and yellowed in the California sun.
As he pulled onto the roadway he suddenly whipped off his upscale eyeglass frames and tossed them into the passenger seat.
I put on my seatbelt as fast as I could. “Wait, don’t you need those glasses to see?” I asked.
“I can see better without them!” the man said.
The man told me his name was Tony. I was, he said, the last customer of the day for him. Told me how he was trying to make ends meet as a driver. He worked for Uber, yes, that’s obvious. But he also did some driving on the side, driving for tech moguls who were V.B.D.’s.
Tony smirked at me in the rearview mirror when I told him that I didn’t know what a V.B.D. was. “Very big deals,” he said.
In fact, he told me that he had a busy morning with “V.B.D. Number One” tomorrow. “Some serious Silicon Valley shit is going down, my friend, if you know what I mean. Things that the whole world will know about in a month. But I know about it right now,” Tony said. He winked at me a few times in the rearview.
I was winded by the time we pulled into the motel parking lot. Tony and his fictions had exhausted me. But it was my fault; I’d invited this. Uber drivers are like Dracula. They can’t come into your house unless you invite. Invite them in, and you’re stuck. Before I closed the back door, I said, “Too bad you’re busy with V.B.D. Number One tomorrow, Tony. I’m going to the airport. Maybe next time! So long!”
“Wait,” Tony said. “What time’s your flight?” I knew the flight was at 9:45, but I didn’t tell Tony this. Instead, I told him that I needed to check my computer to look at my ticket. He asked me for a business card. “That way, I can give you a friendly jingle later tonight, and maybe we can set up a time,” he said.
For the first time I wondered if this was some sort of creepy pickup attempt. There were horny, lonely people all over the place. I knew from experience to never encourage these people, and to definitely never give them any personal information.
Unfortunately, I told him, I didn’t have any business cards on me at the moment. (Which wasn’t true. I had about a hundred cards in my shoulder bag.)
“Then you give me a friendly jingle tonight,” Tony said, handing me his card, “and we’ll work this out.” He turned his head and smiled at me, revealing a row of jagged teeth that were as yellow as sweet corn. “My number’s on there,” he said.
I promised Tony that I would do exactly that. Then I watched his Mercedes drive away, experiencing immense, soul-level relief as he wheeled out of the parking lot.
I went upstairs to my room and promptly put Tony’s card in the deepest part of the largest trash can I could find.