Driving in New York City is not easy. There are endless distractions: constant traffic, streets full of crazed drivers, construction, pedestrians everywhere, and overzealous cops with quotas to fill. When I drive I have to be present and completely focused, which is why it would be a great help if people stopped trying to get into the back of my new Toyota Camry looking for rides.
The first time it happened I was startled, but I understood – my car happened to look like one sent by a car service. The second time I figured maybe my license plate is close to that of a commercial driver’s who was on a route in the area. But the third time, come on, not everyone who drives a black compact sedan is available to chauffeur you around.
I get it, lots of Uber, Lyft, and other independent cab drivers have similar looking cars; that’s not out of obligation, rather it’s because hard-working people trying to make an honest living tend to buy affordable, reliable, non-flashy cars. Try finding a new car with an MSRP under $22,000 with mileage as good as the Camry’s. You won’t find one, that’s why we all have them. Look at more than the shape and color of the car before you decide it’s there for you – there are clues that will prevent an awkward interaction in my back seat.
I don’t know when a sticker with a big “U” became the universal symbol for “get in the car,” but mine certainly doesn’t mean that. I am a proud graduate of the University of Miami and want other drivers to know it. I shouldn’t have to hide the fact that I received a mediocre education just because another company wants to use a slightly sleeker version of my school’s logo. I’m happy to field any questions about my college experience, but perhaps a coffee shop would be a better setting, or somewhere with seats that face each other that you were actually invited to.
“Just keep your doors locked,” many smugly suggest. No, I don’t want to live in fear, I just want to drive around in my Camry and feel safe. Locking my doors will only cause people to yank on the door harder and bang on my windows, which is not only annoying and damaging to the car, but a little conspicuous (I’d feel much safer blending in with all the other drivers). Plus, when I actually do have to give a friend a ride, how will I avoid that awkward interaction where the door is locked and the person can’t open the door, so I unlock the door but they try to open it while I’m unlocking so it doesn’t work, and I yell that it’s unlocked but they say it’s not working so I unlock again but they’re still trying to open it because I told them it was unlocked and we keep negating each other until I finally have to scream at them to stop trying to open the door until I give a clear go-ahead? I’m not the type of person who enjoys yelling at my friends.
In fact, I’m not the type of person who enjoys yelling at anyone at all – believe me, the last thing I want is to draw attention to myself. It takes a lot to of restraint not to completely lose it when someone enters my Camry, the type of restraint they don’t teach you in Driver’s Ed. When I was a kid if someone told you to get out of their car, you’d get out. Now it’s all about commuter rights and persistence and saying no to the authority. It’s not my fault you’re late to The Lion King, you should have left home earlier to make up for the time you spend accosting innocent drivers.
I do have the occasional temptation to take passengers where they need to go. If I’m in no particular rush and the person has something of value to me I’ll try to strike a deal, which is hit-or-miss. A family of four, all wearing Knicks jerseys, got into my car once thinking I would take them to the basketball game. Not wanting to let down the children I asked if they had an extra ticket for me. They didn’t, so I had to let down the children and politely shoo them out of the back seat. Conversely, last month I was looking for some legal counsel regarding a case being threatened against me. Rather than immediately telling one intruder to get out I asked if he was a lawyer, and mentioned that I could only drive him in exchange for legal advice; he happened to be a lawyer and was happy pay for his fare with his knowledge of the law. Sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn’t.
Despite this being my car and my life, I still spend far too much time kicking people out of my back seat. “I don’t care where you went to school, why where you idling by the curb, staring through pedestrians as if you were looking for one in particular?” is something I hear a lot. Frankly it’s nobody’s business but my own if I’m looking for someone, but a man who told me he was a lawyer has assured me that there’s nothing illegal about keeping a keen eye on my wife. And I found out from another lawyer that the law doesn’t change if it’s not my wife and instead it’s a woman who once ate at the Au Bon Pain I used to assistant-manage. It’s not creepy, it’s not stalking: it’s legal, enthusiastic vigilance.
Next time you’re so sure that your ride is here, double-check your information. Take a few extra seconds of your precious time to verify the license plate and think about whose car you could be entering, whose struggles you’re blind to, and whose cover you’re blowing.
The Higgs Weldon is a humor website with funny stories, articles, cartoons, and one liners. It was started by the Los Angeles stand-up comedy community, but takes submissions from everybody. Please read and enjoy our jokes!