Archive for January, 2018

church of uber – MARIAH

January 4, 2018 18 comments

I’ve wanted to tell you this story for a month now. My reservation to share has been prompted in part due to my concern that you (the reader) would think this encounter would somehow be self-aggrandizing on my part. I can say without a moment of hesitation that I was more honored to be involved than happy about my response. We nines on the Enneagram replay episodes in our lives over and over. We recreate and negotiate with our life scenes in an attempt to make some rational sense for why we did what we did, and to adjust the response for the next time that happens. Remaining in control of our emotional climate is always the goal. So, I have replayed the tapes in my mind to nauseating lengths. I genuinely hope that by telling the story, I can put this one to bed in my spirit. —MDP

Before I tell you about Mariah, I have a bit of advice for you people who either cook or wait tables at local restaurants. I understand that when you get picked up at work, you bring the smell of the back kitchen into the car with you. That can’t be helped and that’s perfectly understandable. But, when I pick you up at 5:30 a.m., because you’re responsible for the set up at Taco Bell, Hooters or Fargo’s Pizza House, it might be a really good idea to wash the clothes you wore yesterday, instead of just putting those same work clothes right back on for another go at it. Holy moly! It doesn’t matter which restaurant, which chain, which location… the day-old food smell on your work clothes all smells the same: like garbage that’s been sitting on the curb in the baking sun all day! Really gross. It’s just a little something to consider when you slide into the car with your Uber driver.

Now, back to Mariah.

I usually turn on my driver app by 4:00 a.m. Morning is definitely my favorite time of day regardless of what I’m doing. There is less competition, more silence, and I can usually get a day’s work in before most people have sipped on their first cup of coffee. Uber driving is no different. I love the morning.

On this particular Saturday, I was out the door at 3:55 a.m. The ride to pick up was 20 minutes to the southern part of Colorado Springs. The sky was clear, but the wind had shifted from the north overnight. Temps were hovering around freezing, and the wind was a steady 15-20 MPH. Regardless of the weather, I rarely get into the car with a coat or jacket… almost never in fact. If it’s really cold, I’ll wear a cap of some sort, but on this day I had on a long-sleeve shirt and no cap.

I was about two minutes away from picking up my first rider, when I could see a young woman standing in the middle of the road. She was waving me down. I stopped and rolled down the window. It was Mariah. Her eyes were wet, she look terrorized, and she was crying as she told me she had a flat tire, and she didn’t know how to change it. I was immediately irritated. I have no problem with helping a woman with a flat tire, but it was 4:20 a.m. and I had a client waiting for a ride. However, we were not in a great part of town, and I could see this chick needed help. So, I said, “Listen, I’ll change your tire, but I have to pick up my ride. I’m working here. Can you get back into your car, lock the doors, and wait until I get back?” She said, “You promise you’re coming back? I’m scared.” I promised her I’d return. As she walked back to her car, I noticed that she wore blue jeans, but she had on a military issue fleece. I just figured it was her boyfriend’s. (She also had on her Army boots, but I didn’t notice those until later.) After she got in her car and shut the door, Mariah put her head on the steering wheel. I could see she was sobbing. I won’t tell you what I said out loud in my car. I didn’t have time for all this right now. Geez.

So, I pulled over, got out of my car, walked over and tapped on the window. “Babe, what’s wrong? I said I’d come back.” She said, “I’m cold and I’m scared. I’m so sorry. I can’t stop crying.” So I said, “Listen, why don’t you just get into my car. It’s warm in there, and just ride with me as I deliver my client. You can just sit, and then we’ll come right back and I’ll change your tire.” Mariah agreed, so that is what she did. We locked her car, she got in the back seat, and then we headed over to pick up my ride.

So then I started my interview. I asked her what her name was, how old she was, where she was from, and if she was in the military. After a minute or two, I learned that Mariah grew up in South Dakota. She was just back from a 10-month deployment in Afghanistan. She was a 25-year-old RN. She had only been at Ft. Carson for 3 days. She didn’t know a soul off base. She had been out partying with some of her colleagues at a cowboy bar in downtown Colorado Springs. They closed the joint down. She had parked her car in a parking garage behind the bar. As she approached her car in the garage, a homeless guy started following her. (Crazy as it seems, especially in the winter, downtown Colorado Springs has a large population of homeless people year round.) She jumped in her car, locked her doors, and the guy started banging on her windows. In her haste to get away from the guy, she hit a curb and destroyed her tire. The girl drove her car about five miles with a flat tire. The best I could tell, she left the bar around 2:30 a.m., so she had been out on the road for almost two hours. I think I was the first car she tried to wave down. I think she was too scared to do anything other than sit in her locked car and cry.

To complicate issues, Mariah left her cell phone in the bar. It had her driver’s license, military ID, her pass to get on Ft. Carson, money, and credit cards. So she was stuck, lost, unable to call anyone, cold, and traumatized by one of Colorado Spring’s homeless. That’s when I got pulled into the story.

Have I ever mentioned to you that I don’t like cold weather?

She was crying and shaking as she was telling me all of this, and I could tell she was on the verge of losing it. As my client was walking up to the car, I said, “Mariah, I don’t want to freak out my rider. Can you get a grip until I drop her off?” (Yes I know… Mr. Sensitivity.) She whimpered, “I can.” And she did.

It was a 15-minute ride to drop off Nicolette. Nicolette was in her mid-forties. She’d been at a sleepover at her boyfriend’s apartment, but was curious about the extra passenger. So, Mariah told her the story. Nicolette hugged her before she got out of the car. I’m always blown away at how easy it is for some people to love on a total stranger with empathy and tangible care. Nicolette’s emotional concern for Mariah melted the angst I had over losing time with potential paying customers. Saturday mornings are always so busy and mostly profitable. So we drove back to Mariah’s car, and I braced myself for the next part. Have I ever mentioned to you that I don’t like cold weather?

I had a pair of work gloves. They saved my life. As the cold wind was whipping my shirt and skipping across my shiny bald head, I started digging through Mariah’s KIA like a wild man. It was dark, cold, and (of course) nothing in a KIA is ever where you’d expect it to be. So Mariah tried desperately to stay awake and read the fine print in her owner’s guide. Finally I said, “Why don’t you just crawl in my back seat and go to sleep. I’ll wake you up when I’m finished. She didn’t argue. She was out in 30 seconds.

I had all but one of the lug nuts off when I realized the last lug nut required a special tool. By now, the profanity had just gotten silly. I was asking questions and answering my own questions with unbelievably exquisite vernacular. Once it shifted from frustrating anger to comical hilarity, I was fine. After looking in the same spot for the twentieth time, I finally found the right tool to unfasten the last lug nut. Once the spare was on Mariah’s car, I went back to my car to wake up Mariah. I literally had to grab her arm and shake her pretty good. Later I found out that she had only slept about 10 hours since leaving her base in Afghanistan.

In a groggy haze, she crawled back into her car and we returned to the scene of the crime. It was now 6:15 a.m.

There was one primary objective: was there any way to recover her phone and personal belongings from the bar? I assumed someone would still be in the bar, even at that hour. It’s a huge bar so I figured a cleaning crew would still be there. Sure enough, the lights were on and we could see two women cleaning up. I knocked on the glass, and one of the ladies came to the door. They wouldn’t allow Mariah to look for her phone, but said they’d make a pass through. So we called the phone as they searched, but they found nothing. Maybe one of the bartenders had locked the phone in the safe, but they wouldn’t be open until later that afternoon.

Mariah decided she wanted to look in the parking garage in case she might have dropped her phone while in haste to get into her car. I was hoping that wasn’t the case. I seriously doubted she’d ever recover her phone if it was on the ground in that garage. I wouldn’t let her look alone, so I parked my car and walked with her into the garage. No phone.

I asked her to get back into my car (it was about 25 degrees outside by now) so we could talk. “Ok, what’s your plan?” She had no plan. I waited for her to respond. Finally she said, “I think I’ll just go to a Walmart parking lot and sleep in my car. Then I’ll just hang out until the bar opens at 6:00 p.m.”   This is the part of the story where I wish I had a mulligan. What I decided to do was a quick fix, but I wish I had thought through in more detail how to serve Mariah in this situation. Honestly, I just wanted to get back to work. I could have done this part better.

“Mariah, just get back in your car and follow me.” She didn’t ask a question. I drove about a mile to a Holiday Inn Express. I knew a room there would be comfortable, and she could eat breakfast at no additional cost. Mariah sat in her car as I walked in and made the reservation. The woman’s name behind the desk was Mary Ann, and she let me arrange a late check out, and gave me my priority club discounts along with an additional military discount. I spend more money a month on Starbucks than what that hotel room cost. Mary Ann promised she’d take care of her.

So I walked back out to let Mariah know she had a room. Her warm hug and lovely words blessed my heart. I thanked her for serving our country, and asked her to tell her Dad back in South Dakota that a guy in Colorado Springs took care of his little girl. And then I drove off.

All day I called Mariah’s phone in hopes that someone would answer. I wasn’t overly anxious about it, but I was concerned. I figured she could have driven to the base and talked to someone who could have helped her. About 6:15 p.m., I got a text from Mariah that she had her phone. I felt the tears moisten my eyes. I was happy, but more relieved than anything. I know that Mariah is a veteran of war, grown, and more than capable of taking care of herself, but I did feel that I might not have done my best to help her that frosty morning. Honestly, I could have brought her to our house, put her in an empty bed in our basement, and just taken care of her until she had her phone back. Patti wouldn’t have cared. In fact I think she’d have been all about it, but I didn’t do that. I don’t know why I didn’t do that, but I’ve been messed up about not going the extra distance to care for Mariah. I didn’t have any cash on me either, but I could have gone to the ATM and left her enough money to get through the day. I think I did good… but, now I think I could have done better.

I have thoroughly enjoyed my time with the people that end up in my Ubermobile. Never have I encountered so many people with no other agenda than just to get from point A to point B. Yet, in that most mundane chore, they let me experience some of who and what they are. I have been so BLESSED to visit so many lovely people. I can’t help but be thankful for the experience. God’s people (don’t hear me say that with religious connotations) are the beautiful handiwork of divine love. I don’t know what compares to the richness of the human spirit! I want to be more in-tune… more aware… more appreciative… more “here” when people are near.

Mariah, I pray that the Lord will keep you safe in all of your endeavors. I hope that the next time you need someone like me, you’ll get his or her very best. Not just the good, but the very best. In Jesus’ Name. Me.

Live every day inside this magnificent truth: GOD LOVES US ALL!




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