1. The ex-corrections officer
I had an hour long drive from Camarillo to Los Angeles and was picked up by my mystery driver – I will call him Elijah. Elijah drove a black Cadillac. He was built physically and did not take his shades off.
For the entire duration of the ride, Elijah opened up to me about how he used to work at a maximum security prison for nearly 10 years of his life. When asked why did he leave this line of work, he responded, “It takes a good deal of gut to stay.” He would go home and find it difficult to rest. He never felt completely safe at work.
Despite him having the physical build that could parallel Beyonce’s bodyguards, he was a soft-hearted family man to the end. When I asked him if his wife was delighted he was no longer working at the prison, he laughed and said, “Oh yes.” Elijah is now retired and loves driving Uber part-time.
2. The therapist at a behavioral center
Sean’s past life was spent inside hospitals tending to adolescents who had been diagnosed with any variety of mental illness. Sean was methodical in the way he worked, and when asked if he would ever let it get to him emotionally, he said no. He empathized with the children he worked with, but he knew he had to protect his own emotional boundaries. He later mentioned the single event that made him leave this line of work – a patient who had been on her own for a few years whom he later found had taken her life. Sean sees patients privately now and drives on the side.
3. The American journalist who traveled to Iraq
“Billy” was young and energetic from the moment I got into the car. We were discussing the love of traveling when he told me he used to be a writer himself. He worked with people affiliated with our US government and during the early days of the Obama administration, he willingly set out to explore a few days in embedded journalism.
He stayed in a relatively safe place and was around people whom he could trust for the entirety of the trip, though he went on to recount the alarming terror of hearing bombs going off. His return to America was safe, however shortly after this trip he retired in political journalism. Billy now oversees scripts for cable TV and drives part-time.
4. The cameraman for homicide documentaries
While traveling in LA it is not uncommon to come across people who are in “the industry.” Such was this particular driver. As it is that he picked me up from the eerie Roosevelt hotel, our conversation quite properly grew from ghostly encounters, to famous murder scenes in the city.
“Dominic” was quick to tell me his current line of work involved camera work in well-known homicide TV shows and documentaries. He pressed on to say the work is addicting even though the subject matter is extreme. When asked what was his favorite aspect of filming in murder scenes he responded, “Seeing the final cut of your work displayed for thousands to see.” When asked how easily can he stomach his lunch, he only laughed.
5. The exiled Pakistani
“Ian” was an older man with lines of age and history on his hands and face. He spoke very broken English with a heavy Middle-Eastern accent. Ian came to America 15 years ago, seeking opportunity and a new life. Ian grew up in Pakistan, where he took a wife early on and had a little girl. Unknown to him, his wife’s family had been involved in a cover-up murder.
When Ian came to find this, he dissolved their marriage. It came to be known that he knew of their dark family secret, thus it was no longer safe for him to be in any sort of contact with her or his daughter, and so he fled to the States. When Ian came to America, his educational experience in Pakistan (an equivalent to a master’s degree in computer science) provided little to no luck for him while seeking a job, as he was gravely inexperienced, with limited ways of communication.
As it were, Ian found work in cab driving and very recently hopped onto the Uber train, where he is very happy. Ian loves America and has his own circle of friends close to his culture. Ian goes back to Pakistan to visit his family every year, but confines himself to a certain neighborhood. When asked if he has seen his little girl since, he responded, “No. It is not safe.”
As I climbed out of each of these cars, I thanked each driver for the time and for opening up and sharing their experiences with a stranger.
The next time you find yourself taking an Uber, put your phone down and communicate with them!