Uber Americano in the Year 2017
Uber! I love taking Uber; Uber has literally saved my life. Saved… why so dramatic Janell, you dare ask?
Well, let’s just say that when you are genetically cursed with ‘night blindness’ (along with your mother and sister) and when your depth perception from dusk to dawn is virtually nil, driving at night becomes a terrifying ordeal for, not only yourself, but for anyone who has the misfortune of being a passenger in your vehicle. Before the advent of Uber, my friends in Los Angeles, after one or two ‘Janell chauffeured nights out’, not only refused to drive with me, offered to pick me up for my own protection.
So now with Uber, I am free to flee at a relatively affordable rate—assuming there are no surges—and go anywhere I want within a reasonable proximity of my comfy five mile ‘I feel safe’ radius. Uber has literally ‘liberated’ me, making evening escapades enjoyable and stress free. Seriously, in Los Angeles, the cost of valet parking (not including the potential valet damage to your vehicle), and the fact that you don’t have to worry about drinking and driving, makes Uber a sensible choice for anyone who loves their car dent free and their criminal record spotless.
There is another reason why I love Uber…. not only are the drivers willing to let you be a backseat driver (yep, not one of my finer qualities), but you often meet the most interesting drivers, and if you are open minded and curious about the human race, you can engage in enjoyable conversations from your pick up to drop off point.
As we head into the start of 2017, many of us fearful of the perceived rocky road that looms ahead, in a country divided by an election—with half the nation worried about the incumbent President being fit to run this great nation, and the other half licking their chops like they won the lottery—is making this transition into 2017 ‘fucking scary’. On top of that, we have the added worries of Syria, Isis, Putin, Al-Qaeda (they are still out there, hiding in the hills, don’t forget), not to overlook the terrorists among us, global warming and a projected recession. Shit.
So, for my first post of 2017, from my little WheatFieldsToWonderland blog site, I want to regale you with a story that was told to me, from one of my Uber drivers, just prior to the Christmas holidays, and will hopefully inspire you to remember what is important in life, and why we must all work together to keep this nation, and our world, filled with love and not hatred.
The story of Oban
December 14th, I was headed to a holiday party in Los Feliz. As Los Feliz is eight miles from my house, I decided to do ‘Uber Pool’ and save some money. When Oban pulled up in his Audi A4, I thought perhaps I had hit the wrong button on my Uber app, so before I stepped into his car, I confirmed with him that he was indeed a ‘pool’ driver and not an Uber ‘select’ or something that was going to cost me a shit load of money. In a heavy and somewhat hard to understand accent, Oban confirmed that he was indeed ‘pool’, and I got in his Audi, happy that I was in a nice car, but concerned that his heavy accent might indicate that that he was an ‘LA newbie’ and fresh off the boat from some foreign land, and as such, not familiar enough with the city. So, in anticipation, I decided to remain on high alert and watch where the hell he was taking me.
As Oban used Google Maps to navigate through traffic, reassuring me that he would get me to the ‘not so Janell familiar neighborhood’ of Los Feliz in 30 minutes, I decided that the ‘staying alert’ part would be easier if we chatted.
Oban told me he was from the country of Nigeria, on the continent of Africa (a FYI for the geographically challenged of you out there). We talked for several minutes about Africa, the poverty, the politics, and the way of life in a distant continent. Oban went on to tell me that, even though he came from a poor country, his family was a family of farmers and, as such, they owned land and had agricultural fields on their land. In his country, the landowners and farmers were counted amongst the wealthy. Oban told me that he had been university educated and that his family’s name carried a large impact in Nigeria. He informed me that he loved his country, and had a great life compared to most of his countrymen.
At this point in my trip, I had no difficulty understanding his accent, and even though he pronounced his words somewhat differently, his English was actually impeccable. I wondered why, if he came from a country that he loved, one where he lived in wealth, how it was that he ended up in Los Angeles and driving Uber (although, now the Audi totally made sense—wealthy dad!).
Oban said two years ago, his mother had obtained a visa to come to the United States. It was her dream to come and live here and experience ‘our way’, the American Way, of life. Over the course of the year she lived here, his mother fell in love with the United States. She could not believe that Americans tried to help abandoned dogs and cats find homes, and that they were not left to run on the streets. She was amazed that we had shelters for homeless people, and that there were places for the poor to go to get for medical help. Oban told me that, in his country, if you could not afford to pay the doctor, he would not treat you. He said people just literally died in the streets because they could not afford medical care. In comparison to where his mother had lived her whole life, these were some of the things that shaped her impression of why America was a great nation.
Sadly, he went on to tell me that after she had lived here for only a year, she found out she had ovarian cancer, and was given a month to live. She was so distraught at the news that she died within the week. Her four children, who were on their way to the United States to be with her for her final days, never made it in time to say good-bye to their mother.
Oban told me that it was his mother’s final wish to be buried on American soil, as she deemed America to be a great country, and his mother believed that if she was buried here, that she would come back in her next life and be born in America.
Her children granted her wish, and Oban told me that they all applied for visas and all four of her children are living here, as they want to be with their mother. He told me that he goes to her gravesite every week, and brings her flowers and cries at missing her. He said that his father and uncle stayed in Nigeria to run the business, and that he was in medical school and driving Uber on the side, and planning to make a life here—along with his siblings—so that they can all be together in this life to visit their mom, and be reborn all together in the next life as, per Oban, “children should always be with their mothers”.
At this point in my Uber ride, I was teary-eyed at hearing Oban’s heartfelt and heart breaking story. As we pulled up to the house in Los Feliz where I was going in to ‘party’, I tried to wipe the black mascara tear stained lines from my face, and dabbed my eyes praying I didn’t look like a hot mess getting out of his car. I thanked him for having shared such an intimate part of his life with me; in such a short time I had learned so much about another human being, about another way of life, and was reminded of the importance of love and family. My Uber ride with Oban ended up being the best part of my night.
Thankfully, living in Los Angeles, there are always parties to go to, and friends to hang out with, and champagne to sip – but being reminded to be grateful for all that we have, of the opportunities and choices that we are given daily, and not forgetting to embrace the love that is around us—is Oban’s gift that I am passing along to you.
So the moral of this Uber story as we head into an uncertain 2017 is….
- Never discount someone for what they are doing in life; everyone has a story, sometimes five minutes of someone else’s life can change yours forever.
- Working together as a whole is better than fighting, as that only keeps us apart.
- Always count your blessings—and the simple things in life—because what we seemingly take for granted often becomes the biggest gifts we have.
And so, heading into 2017, hopefully we can all remember to love, to be grateful, and to work together to make this country and our world a fucking awesome place. And if all of that fails, hold on to your damn hats lol!
PODCAST for those trapped in their car half the day! If you like this story please share, like on facebook, or post a comment! Kisses!