It’s Sunday afternoon, and Jimmy is mixing slow drunk in the general direction of my car. His hand-eye coordination is severely impaired. He also doesn’t wear a face mask.
I’m here to send the Lyft driver to pick me up at the Hillsboro bar and grill in Hillsboro, Oregon. And no one gets in my car without a mask.
Jimmy surprises me by opening the front door and moving to take the seat next to me. The drunk smells like one of those bars that smoked lots and lots of cigarettes. I don’t want it in my car. But I take my second job as a Lyft driver seriously. I give it a try.
“You have to wear a mask,” I say. “And not in the front seat. You have to get in the back, and you have to wear a mask. ”I’m taking a different stance against those maskless men (and women) who want to drive them.
Jimmy tries to say something, and the essence of it seems to be that he has a mask – somewhere. He puts his right hand into the pocket of his right shirt and pulls out a pack of cigarettes. And then – I haven’t seen this before – he puts the package on his face, where a mask would go. He is wearing a hammer, and has now seriously thought of the object he wears over his mouth with a face mask. He grabbed the handle of the back door of my car from the passenger side. “That’s not a mask,” I say. “It’s a pack of cigarettes. No masks, no walks. “
Jimmy looks confused and says something I can’t understand. He is indicating that he will get a mask at the bar. I can’t wait for his surface to be pressed against his face. I canceled and drove the ride after stating that the cyclist had refused to give me a mask in the app.
I get $ 4.71 and cold comfort for wasting half an hour of my life.
Most of my travelers use masks by default. Those that do not fall into three categories. They are mostly drunk as snacks or are anti-mask. A third category of cyclists wears their children’s masks, only if I look in the rearview mirror and notice the nostrils as a second set of eyes. Please ask me to cover my nose and mouth, but it’s hopeful: the masks are too small.
Drunkards can be predicted. They are the Jimmys of the world. But anti-masks give me clues. They want to talk pseudo-science, trying to convince them that the pandemic is a scam, and they are as weird as the shit they talk about.
I arrive to pick up Zack on a cold Sunday night in Troutdale, Oregon. The request received a lengthy note on how I could better pick it up at a specific location next to the pool in his apartment complex or arrive late for work.
It looks like I’m wearing Speedo shorts and a T-shirt, and it smells like patchouli oil. He is not wearing a mask.
“You probably want to wear a mask,” he says before speaking. He tries to get in the car, and I tell him he needs to wear a mask. I make the mistake of referring to Covid. He is ready for me. He’s trying to mask himself in the freezing cold, in a Speedo. He gives me talks on “left-wing media scams,” and then listens to sounds like a set of statistics and sequencing virus data. I’ve learned to not respond to these cyclists by saying, “No masks, don’t ride”.
Zack says he won’t just wear a mask to ride in the car, and he’s working hard to get me back to work late because I’ve been taken in by the left-wing media. Really, I hate the smell of patchouli oil and I’m about to leave.
But then he puts his hand inside Speedo and pulls out a face mask. Now I have to listen to him for 10 long minutes from the back seat of my car. Hear his fraudulent scams of his virus interspersed with requests to drive faster or he will arrive late at the colossal Amazon facility. I can’t help but wonder if Amazon needs masks. (I know.) “It doesn’t matter,” he says. “Twenty-six employees tested positive there and they all came back within three weeks. It’s not worse than the flu. ”
Thanks for getting out of my car. Then, sick with all the odors, I pour disinfectant all over the back seat and quickly drive the windows open for 10 minutes before taking another passenger.
I pick up Bridget at Portland Airport. He is a mechanical engineer in town after a lecture. As I drive home to Wilsonville (Oregon), he says my car smells clean. I can’t tell you, just 30 minutes ago, with Speedo and all, the guy who was sitting where he was now. He laughs.
I tell him I have to check: People like Zack aren’t normal, right? Is the pandemic real? I’m not crazy, am I? Sometimes these cyclists ask me if I’m crazy. Bridget validates my feelings, making sure I’m not crazy. What I had just seen was not normal. And Lyft and Uber drivers and grocery store employees shouldn’t be put in control of wearing masks in a pandemic.
Next week, I’ll talk about Zack with the passengers wearing the mask. It is agreed that there should be a federal order to put on a mask every time you leave your home. I admit I’ve asked the main questions, but many of my travelers are “key” employees who get mask stuff, and are very aware that pandemic fraud is not. I propose to call our elected officials and tell people that we want to wear masks. To protect us.
A couple of nights later, when I took Juan to a WinCo, I left Jimmy not far from the bar. Juan has included a note with his travel request. She wants to know that she is blind, that she is wearing green, and please go look for her.
It’s easy to spot. She wears a neon green rain jacket, a cane – and a mask and rubber gloves. He says the other two drivers got up and drove away when they were abandoned, instead of helping to take the food home in the rain. He apologizes. I tell him he has nothing to feel. I put on my gloves and load her food in the trunk. I help him get into my car. He only has a three-minute drive to his house, but who would let a blind guy stand with a cart full of food in the rain?
I ask Justin, the driver of Lyft, about all this. I’m driving to a bar. “Yeah,” he says, “the mask fucks things up.” He says he has to take as many drunks as possible home every night from the Portland strip club to Vancouver, Washington, and then take more drunks and take them back to Portland. This is what he does every night, back and forth, until he is more drunk driving. He is against the mandate of the mask. “I need rides. I don’t have time to deal with that, ”he says.
But yes. Wear masks and wear well. And get the ones that fit. I want to see your nostrils stick to me, just as much as I want to see Zack’s Speedo.
The author is a writer based in Portland, Oregon. Passenger names have been changed to protect privacy