I had a few free hours Christmas morning and decided to drive, just out of curiosity. Who would need a ride? First, there was a young Latino male who had missed his bus and needed to get to work at a movie theater. He wasn’t close, about 15 minutes out from where I was but there wasn’t any other drivers out there so I headed out, picked him up, and dropped him off in Hollywood.
Right after, I got a request from B, who was new to Lyft. He too was waiting for a bus that wasn’t coming anytime soon. He was right around the corner from me so I picked him up right away, an older male in his 50’s, baseball cap pulled over a shorn head, a man who could be your bachelor uncle. He was all smiles, “Oh my god! This is amazing!! This actress I know, she told me about Lyft and said I should try it!” He wasn’t from LA, well at least he used to be but he had moved 10 years ago and now was here contemplating a move back. He wanted to know all about how Lyft works, who I was, and kept exclaiming, “What a great idea!” Then he told me he was headed to a church for an AA meeting. “They’re having meetings for 24 hours so you should hang out there, you’ll get a lot of rides.” Well the holidays are a hard time, makes sense that AA would offer meetings. He told me he was alone here, that yes, it was hard especially with it being Christmas. No family, no friends. He had just been told that he needed to vacate the Air B n B place he was renting sooner than he thought. But miraculously, someone he had just met told him that she was going out of town and he could stay at her place. “See,” I exclaimed. “Someone’s looking out for you. It all works out somehow.” He nodded vigorously in agreement. “Yeah. I mean, this is great.” He gestured at me, my car. “It’s so great that you can meet a stranger like this. That we can have a conversation.” I nodded too. “Yeah, it is pretty great.” I let him off at the church and he bounded out, happier, not alone. We waved at each other as I drove away. “Merry Christmas!!!”
My third Lyft wasn’t close either but I had picked Jonathan up the day prior and was psyched to get him again. He was a sweet gay boy with a little baby fat still clinging to him. He told me he had been on America’s Got Talent, that he was an opera singer and had been kicked out of his house when he was 18 for being gay. He had gotten to the semi finals, then moved to LA with his boyfriend to kickstart his career. I asked if his parents or family had contacted him since he was on TV but they hadn’t. They were religious and felt that he had betrayed their beliefs by virtue of being who he was. He had told this story so many times before that it had become routine to him, not in a bad, unfeeling way but in that way that the primal emotions around abandonment had to be shoved down out of sheer necessity, in order to survive. We all have tragedies in our lives that we try to tame with the telling. Over and over again, we tell the tale in order to diminish its power over us. I mean, come on, I’m a writer, I’ve been mining my pains and hurts and heartbreak my entire life. But in my experience, just as we think we’ve vanquished our feelings, they’ll come roaring back when we least expect it. So I was glad to pick Jonathan up on Christmas morning. I wasn’t family. I wasn’t a friend. But I was a familiar face.