My passenger: man in his late 20s/early 30s, hearing impaired. He’s in school to become a medical technician and has two jobs at two different apartment buildings on opposite sides of the city. He’s struggling to get two plastic bags and a backpack into my backseat.
Him: Do you mind if I study for my mid-term exam instead of talking? I’m late for school and the test is today.
Me: Of course.
Midway through the ride, I could hear him moving around, like he was searching for something.
Me: Is everything OK?
Him: My hearing aid broke. I can’t find one of the pieces.
Me: Oh, gosh. When we stop, I’ll help you find it. We know it’s here, and my seats flip up so we’ll definitely find it. I know they’re so expensive.
Him: Yes, $6,000.
Me: We will find it, I promise.
We drive a few more miles in nervous silence.
Him: Wait – I found the piece! It was in my jacket.
Me: Oh, I’m so glad.
We pull up to his destination.
Me: Good luck on your test today and with everything else you do.
He hands me a neatly folded dollar bill as a tip. I almost burst into tears at this simple act.
Me: Oh, this is so sweet. Thank you, but I can’t accept it. Please buy yourself a coffee. You have a long day ahead.
Him: I do, but I want to thank you for being so kind.
Me: Then that’s my tip.
Thursday morning. I pick up a woman in Lakeview.
Woman: Do you mind if we take a different route to my office?
me: Not at all. Google Maps should be renamed “The Longest Route Possible”.
[We talked and laughed about everything from architecture to fad diets, politics and movies to millennials who all dress and talk the same.]
me: I can teach you how to talk like a millennial.
woman: Really? How?
me: Just pretend it’s 3am and you forgot your phone in the car.
[She did it, it was perfect and we both laughed really hard. I dropped her at her destination.]
woman: Don’t take this wrong, but I hope I never see you again.
me: Wait – what? Did I say something wrong? Am I not getting five stars?
woman: God, no. I want you to write a book or be on TV. You shouldn’t be in this car and not share your gift.
me: Hi – where would you like to go tonight?
woman: Home. Just four blocks away. I don’t feel like walking.
me: I understand.
[in that short time, we had an detailed conversation about her cats.]
woman: I really love my cats, but one of them is allergic to me, and I’m allergic to him.
me: Wow, what do you do? Do you have to give up your cat?
woman: Oh, no. We’re both on inhalers now. No one’s going anywhere.
my passengers: two businessmen en route to a business meeting.
me: So, where are we going?
Man 1: Over by Canal and Monroe, I think.
Man 2: Some Riverside thing.
me: Got it. So…I’m guessing you’re visiting?
Man 1: Yep, I’m from the west coast.
Man 2: I’m east coast.
me: Ok – have you seen anything interesting?
Man 1: Our boss took us to the…uh…[I could see them looking at each other as if it what he had to say was going to offend me] Viagra Triangle last night.
[“Viagra Triangle”: defined as an upscale part of Chicago with expensive bars and restaurants. Women are notoriously looking for a sugar daddy and men temporarily forget they’re married.]
Man 2: The drinks were strong.
me: How was the…uh…clientele?
Man 2: You mean the women?
Man 1: Equally strong.
me: Hi – where are we headed?
passenger: [famous ballet company] please.
me: How long have you danced?
her: My whole life. Have you?
me: Danced? Sure. In my living room mostly.
her: You’ve never been on stage?
me: No, I thought I’d spare any future ballerinas from switching careers.
My passengers: young couple. They walked slowly out of the North Face store. Again, the girl has neither coat nor gloves, though she’s holding something furry in the bend of her right arm. As she approaches, it’s one of those “teacup”-type stuffed dogs.
me: Ok, so there’s no destination chosen. Where are we going?
girl: Ummm…is there a place called PillsTown?
me: I think you mean Pilsen?
girl: Yes. We’re meeting friends at a TV show.
me: Um…ok. [she has no coat, but her boyfriend does] Are you going to be outside?
girl: Yes. The coats in there are too expensive. I didn’t think I’d need one.
me: May I ask where you guys are from?
me: OK then…it’s a bit of a hike, but at least you’ll be warm.
[We arrive at the “TV show”, which is really a production set for one of the cop/hospital/fire shows being filmed around town.]
girl: Thanks for the ride.
me (turning to face the back seat): no problem.
[As she gets out of the car, the dog looks at me and blinks. OMG – it’s a REAL dog. Never barked. Never moved. I seriously thought it was fake. Even he/she had a coat.]
My passengers: three men in their late 20s in Lakeview.
me: Ok, gentlemen, where are we going?
Man 1: BW3 in Lincoln Park.
Man 2: Can you go fast? We’re really hungry.
me: I’ll do my best.
Man 3: Where are you from? America?
me: Wow…you guessed it on the first try.
Man 2: Your accent is weird.
Man 1: Can you tell by our accents where we’re from?
me: Well, you’re going for wings, so I’d say, Georgia, Alabama and Tennessee.
Man 1: I’m Syrian.
Man 2. Jordanian.
Man 3: I’m from the Sudan.
me: See? I was close.
My passengers: a young couple who are at the designated pickup spot of a major (read: cheesy) Chicago tourist destination. It’s 22 degrees. They have no coats, gloves or hats. They’re probably 25 tops.
me: So…I’m guessing you’re not from Chicago?
girl: No – we’re from Florida.
me: Ah, OK. Where are we going?
guy: Victoria’s Secret.
me: Which one?
guy: There’s more than one?
[a flock of Canadian geese are in a park feeding and walking around]
girl: Oooh – what are those?
me: Uh…they’re geese. They may look different because they’re not flying in formation.
girl: Oh, I love that song. She’s so awesome.
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