Branislav Jovanović

I Rode With An Uber Driver For 4 Hours On A Friday Night

A few months ago, I had the distinct honor and pleasure of being picked up by Paul, the greatest Lyft/Uber driver I've ever had.

I sat in the passenger seat of his SUV while my friends sang screamed every song on my "Songs That Make Me Feel Swaggy" playlist (that Paul graciously let me plug into his sound system) and gossiped about who we were about to see at the party we were going to.

A normal driver would be annoyed, but not Paul.

When I went to apologize to him for our obnoxious behavior, he reassured me, "Oh, this is nothing. You wouldn't believe the types of people I come across on a Friday night."

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I'm nosy, so obviously, I needed more details. "What do you mean I wouldn't believe it? What sorts of people do you come across?"

He laughed and jokingly said, "Ride along with me on a Friday night, and you'll see what I'm talking about."

So, I took him up on his offer.

This past Friday, I rode shotgun in Paul's car from 11 pm to 2:30 am for what turned out to be the experience of a lifetime.

10:49 pm: I'm nervous.

I've been so excited about this whole thing, I never really took a second to think about how I've essentially just agreed to ride shotgun with a total stranger.

Paul emails me saying he's almost to my apartment, and then sends a separate email containing his license plate number. The panic ensues.

I text my boyfriend the info just in case something happens... even though I'm not sure he can really do anything about it.

Candice Jalili

Pretty sure I just ended up unnecessarily stressing him out.

10:52 pm: I'm in the car, and I'm learning things.

I get in the car, and am quickly reassured Paul is, in fact, an extremely good guy. Seriously, look up "stand-up guy" in the dictionary and you'll find his picture.

On his phone, which is propped up on the far left of his windshield, is a picture of him and his three children as the background.

I feel really guilty about even entertaining the possibility of him murdering me.

He has three other "work" phones, too, each for a different ride app (Juno, Lyft and Uber), which are geared up and ready to go.

All of these apps work the same way: They show you the busy neighborhoods where lots of people are trying to get rides, and how much they're charging riders in those areas during "Prime Time."

Here's what Paul's Lyft app looked like when we got started:

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And here's his Uber app:

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Paul wants to go to a busy area (red on Uber, pink on Lyft) and wait until one of his apps lights up with a ride request. Then, it's on him to decide whether or not he wants to accept it.

While we wait for requests, Paul and I devise a plan of action for when he accepts people. We don't want people knowing I'm a writer because we don't want them acting all weird around me.

I say I could be his daughter. He says I don't look enough like him to pass as his daughter.

We settle on saying I'm his niece.

10:55 pm: We accept our first ride request. It's a Lyft Line.

Our first ride request is a Lyft Line request from a girl we'll call "Becca."

As you may or may not be able to see by this extremely blurry, horribly taken photo by me, Paul decides to accept the ride.

Candice Jalili

11:00 pm: Waiting for our first passengers.

We arrive at Becca's destination, and she has two minutes to get outside from when Paul presses the "arrived" button on his phone.

But suddenly, we have some drama!

A guy calls from Becca's phone, explaining she's in the bathroom and it's probably going to take them a bit longer than two minutes to get out of the bar we're picking them up from.

I'm going to go ahead and assume our girl Becca was puking.

But I've also got all sorts of conspiracy theories running through my head. WHO IS THIS GUY? HOW DO WE KNOW HE KNOWS BECCA? WHERE IS BECCA? IS SHE SAFE?

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Paul essentially tells me to chill the fuck out. It's probably just her boyfriend.

Paul was right.

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Paul decides it's cool to wait longer than the allotted two minutes because her boyfriend was courteous enough to call and let us know they'd be running late.

When they finally come stumbling out of the bar, it becomes clear her boyfriend isn't a liar. Becca most likely WAS in the bathroom, and yeah, it seems she WAS puking in there, indeed.

Our girl Becca is wasted.

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Her boyfriend finally gets her stumbling body to the car and asks if he could please also run to the bathroom before we get going.

In case I haven't said it enough thus far, Paul is a very nice guy. He lets the guy go to the bathroom. He even offers Becca some napkins and plastic bags in case she has to "use the bathroom" again while we wait for her boyfriend to get back.

Becca declines the offer and settles for a nice nap on the windowsill with the window rolled down.

Her boyfriend gets back from the bathroom, and we're ready to roll after 10 minutes of waiting.

11:02 pm: Hitting the road with an extremely drunk couple.

Now that we've finally got both passengers safely buckled, I'm really starting to get a feel for the dynamic of the couple that is Becca and her boyfriend.

Well, at least I'm trying to.

She's still passed out against the car window her boyfriend has so kindly rolled up so her head doesn't get knocked off.

His current role consists of repeatedly turning to her and asking, "you OK?" at 30-second intervals. She responds by grunting and muttering what I think is her asking him to roll the window back down.

11:11 pm: We're going to the Bronx.

At 11:11 pm, Becca's boyfriend, let's call him "Ryan," informs me we're actually going to the Bronx.

For those of you who are familiar with the New York City area, we were starting off in the West Village.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the New York City area, all you need to know is this is about to be a long fucking ride.

11:15 pm: Someone's gotta go.

Despite his having relieved himself just 15 short minutes ago, Ryan has to pee again.

He's kind of been muttering about it under his breath in between check-ins with Becca to make sure she's OK, but now it's no longer casual.

He NEEDS to go to the bathroom. And he needs to go now.

We are stopped in the middle of traffic on 6th Avenue (again, for those of you who are unfamiliar with New York, BUSY street) when he reaches his breaking point.

"Man, I'm so sorry. I really gotta go. Do you mind if I run out right here? I promise I'll be so fast!"

This guy is very polite, and I think Paul has a soft spot for him. So he lets him jump out of his car in the middle of traffic so he can pee.

At this point, I'm very confused about what his move is going to be: Is he about to pee on the street? The only indoor public places nearby are a liquor store, an Urban Outfitters that's closed and a subway station.

He goes for the liquor store. Much to my surprise, he really is in and out of there in two minutes.

11:30 pm: I get digits.

It turns out, Ryan got into the liquor store bathroom that easily because he owns the liquor store!

He tells Paul that in exchange for his kindness, he can stop by the liquor store any time he wants and he'll hook him up with some free goods.

Paul, being the homie he is, says that his "niece" (me) is a student around here and I could probably use the number more than he could.

I get Ryan's digits. Still haven't stopped by for my free wine.

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 Yeah, that's his address I had to blur out in the screenshot. Am I well connected OR WHAT?

11:35 pm: We pick up two more passengers.

We're cruising on over toward the Bronx when Paul gets another ride request over on 14th Street. Remember, this is a LyftLine.

This area is BUMPING. People are all over the streets and every single bar is totally packed.

Paul notes that this looks like a "fun area," and Ryan informs us this is a GREAT area for underage people because they don't even card!

We pull over to one of the many bars lining the streets and pick up our new passengers, two young, extremely hip guys. One of them is a tall, skinny white guy with gauges who's dressed in an almost alarmingly bright white sweatshirt.

The other is a kind of shorter, but equally skinny black guy dressed in the most chic leather jacket I've ever seen and skinny jeans.

They go to enter the car through the left door (the door closest to the curb they're entering from), but alas, they cannot because Becca is still napping on that side. If she wasn't continuing to murmur nonsense under her breath every time her boyfriend asked if she was OK, I would be questioning whether or not she's alive.

Beccaa's boyfriend is super apologetic about the whole inconvenience (classic him, being so courteous) and the two guys are understanding. They've "been there."

Paul offers the guys an aux cord to play some music for the car, and they are PUMPED. "You mean we can play our own music?!! You're kidding me?!! This is dope! Thanks man!!" (These are real questions and statements these guys are asking and making. I wonder if they've ever seen an auxiliary cord before.)

I'm also super excited to see what these music enthusiasts decide to play.

They go with that new(ish) John Legend song, "Love Me Now." I'm not going to lie, I'm a little surprised by their choice. But I don't hate it.

Latest Sounds/R&B Music on YouTube

But Paul is ALL ABOUT this choice.

He jokes around by assuming the skinny white guy with the cord is the one playing the music, saying he's got pretty good music taste for a white guy.

The guy corrects him with a laugh, "I'm black." OOPS. It wasn't our skinny white friend.

Everybody starts laughing. Becca even chuckles a little in her sleep. (Hang in there, Becca.)

11:42 pm: Houston, we have a problem.

Oh Becca. She has risen from her slumber, and she has to pee again.

This isn't quite as easy as it was when Ryan had to pee, since we're on a highway now.  But she won't shut up about it, and her boyfriend is getting worried.

He asks Paul,"You can't stop on the highway, can you?"

Paul, giving into his soft spot for Ryan, yet again, pulls over onto the side of the highway.

Ryan is proud he could pull through for his girlfriend. But she has fallen back asleep.

He wakes her up to tell her she can go behind a bush if she needs to. She is EXTREMELY offended by the fact that her boyfriend thought this was a good idea in any way, shape or form.

"I am NOT doing that," she whines. "Why not?" he responds. Poor guy. He genuinely doesn't get it.

"I can't just pee on the side of the highway in front of a car full of strangers!!"

I've gotta say, I'm with her on this one. This is weird... and possibly against the law?

Paul pulls back onto the highway, and Becca is still livid with her boyfriend. "How could you do that to me?" she asks as though he slept with her mother and then murdered her father.

11:50 pm: Problem is solved.

Luckily, Becca is dating a problem-solver. He notices a gas station on the side of the road as soon as we get off of the highway and asks Paul if we could quickly stop there.

Paul's down as long as the other two guys don't mind the pit stop.

(BTW, in case you were wondering what they've been up to throughout this whole ordeal, they've been dead silent in the back of the car bumping more John Legend.)

They're totally chill with it. (I get the sense these two guys are chill with most things.)

We pull over to the tiny, old gas station with gray brick walls that I think were originally supposed to white, and I'm not gonna lie, I'm a little spooked out by the scene.

If I were to watch scary movies, I would assume this is where the murders would happen.

If I were to watch scary movies, I would assume this is where the murders would happen.

Paul warns the couple that, although he's willing to take them there to check it out, he doesn't think this dinky little gas station will have a bathroom.

Ryan says they're going to give it a shot anyway. Ryan is a BRAVE problem-solver.

He walks with his girlfriend into the gas station, and they're in luck! There is, in fact, a bathroom.

She comes back a totally new woman in great spirits. No sign of her falling asleep any time soon!

But now, she is suddenly extremely offended her boyfriend took her home. He argues, "I wanted to stay and hang out!"

I can't see her because I'm sitting in the front, but I assume she's rolling her eyes as she retorts, "No, you wanted to put me in a fucking cab."

They're quiet for a while.

12:01 am: The chill guys are dropped off, and the drunk couple is more comfortable than they already were.

We drop off the chill guys at some hip house party you'd totally expect them to be going to, leaving just me, Paul and the couple in the car.

The boyfriend politely asks if he can switch the music (not a John Legend fan?). Paul hands him the aux cord, and we make a pretty big switch from Chrissy Teigen's favorite songs over to a Spanish song called "Ay Vamos," featuring French Montana.

jbalvinVEVO on YouTube

Yes, I had to Shazam it. Yes, I still have Shazam.

Now that Becca is awake and alive, I'm getting a much better feel for their relationship. Although, I admittedly can't really keep up with what's going on. They have a lot of inside jokes.

After the long silence following the whole "you wanted to put me in a fucking cab" debacle, she's suddenly embarrassed by him. "I can't take you nowhere," she mutters in that same, eye-roll kind of tone she used earlier.

Another painful minute of silence.

She finally breaks it, "Do you want to laugh now?"

They are now laughing hysterically. I have decided they are a cute couple.

She's proud of the Spanish French Montana song he chose. "You're, like, the ultimate Indian Spanish guy... it's cute, though. I like it," she giggles.

It's probably important to note here that he's Indian and she's Spanish. I think this is her way of thanking him for embracing her culture.

"You can't take me nowhere," she admits she's the problem. (Becca has really grown throughout this trip. I will miss her dearly.)

They keep giggling and kissing.

12:12 am: Drunk couple is seriously considering changing destinations to go back out.

"You want a drink?" he asks. She responds, "Yeah," and they're busting a gut laughing at this hilarious "joke."

As a result of the relentless LOLing, I was under the impression this drinks thing was, in fact, a joke. But they are now seriously considering the possibility.

Logistics are being discussed — the where, the with who, the what.

He's concerned she has work tomorrow. She reassures him she does not, in fact, have work tomorrow. It's a thrilling exchange.

He laughs in her face and says he knows for a fact tomorrow's a Saturday, and she has to go to work. She laughs and admits she has work. But she still wants to go out.

"You're a bad influence, girl," he confesses, as I assume he seriously starts to consider the possibility of going out.

12:15 AM: Going out convo is sidetracked by Flo Rida.

Ryan starts playing Flo Rida's "Get Low," and a deep conversation is sparked (naturally).

"Nobody actually gets low to this song," Becca laments. But Ryan is there to correct her, "They used to." Damn. This hits me deep.

"... Ya, in 2010," she corrects him in her signature eye-roll tone.

12:19 am: First ride's over.

Ryan and Becca are forced to cut their soulful conversation regarding Flo Rida short as we arrive at Becca's apartment.

Paul makes $57.99 from the trip. I, however, thought the experience was priceless.

Paul makes $57.99 from the trip. I, however, thought the experience was priceless.
Candice Jalili

12:30 am: We pick up another, very different, Lyft customer.

Paul's trying to get back into Manhattan because that's where all the best business is this time of night. But he also tries to make some dough on the way back in.

He gets a Lyft request from a woman nearby who's going to a destination not directly in Manhattan, but on the way.

She's outside waiting as soon as we arrive. Dead sober and extremely quiet. Her ride was also extremely short.

In the 10 minutes we spent with her, she said 11 words total: "Hi, nice to meet you," and "Thank you, have a good night."

Very polite. Kind of like Becca's boyfriend. (I miss him.)

1:07 am: We hit a lull, but in other news, Paul's made bank.

After we drop her off, we make our way back to the city where we decide to hang by one of Paul's favorite spots over near the Trump Towers on the Upper West Side. He always gets customers there.

But since nobody is requesting us quite yet, we just chill for a while.

In the meantime, we check out how much money Paul's made so far. He started driving at three in the afternoon.

He's made $550.48 through Uber.

Candice Jalili

And $75.60 through Lyft.

Candice Jalili

He tells me he averages about $300 to $375 every time he drives, and only ends up spending about $30 on fuel.

Paul's making bank. And now I want to buy a car and be an Uber/Lyft driver.

1:20 am: We're back in business!

After some chill down time, we finally get a request for an UberPOOL and start heading near Times Square to pick up our first passenger.

1:22 am: We pick up a drunk gay man whose life depends on playing Mariah Carey immediately.

We stop outside of a busy bar to pick up our first passenger, an extremely drunk gay guy with extreme swagger. He is already standing outside waiting for us as we pull up.

He bursts through the door, and without so much as a "hello," exclaims, "If we could play some fucking amazing Maria Carey Christmas music, that would rock."

'If we could play some fucking amazing Maria Carey Christmas music, that would rock.'

I'm kind of taken aback by his aggression, but I'm not gonna lie, some Mariah Carey Christmas music would rock.

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Paul hands him the aux cord and tells him to "play whatever you want, man."

He is not as thrilled with the aux cord as the chill John Legend fans were earlier in the night, saying, "All right, I have to search my entire music library, but, ugh, I guess I could make it work."

Despite his being extremely offended by this inconvenience, he obliges and searches for music.

Before he reaches Mariah Carey in his (apparently extensive) music library, he settles on Jack Johnson.

Because that's the same vibe.

l onderwater on YouTube

I'm bummed. I was excited to listen to Mariah Carey Christmas music.

1:30 am: We pick up a very nice, drunk Swedish woman who smells distinctly of puke and cigarettes.

We pick her up outside of a bar that looks strikingly similar to every other bar we've stopped at tonight.

She gets into Paul's large SUV, and the entire car suddenly adopts her puke-and-cigarettes smell.

Despite her atrocious scent, she is very nice and very well-dressed in a chic wool coat, skinny jeans and trendy velvet pumps that you just have to be really cool and European to pull off.

She greets us with her thick accent, and drunk gay guy demands to know where she's from.

She tells us she's from Stockholm, but she moved here five years ago.

Drunk Gay Guy decides to be kind and asks her if there's anything she'd like to listen to. She says she loves house music.

He is not impressed. "Of course you want house music. You're from fucking Stockholm."

Nonetheless, he obliges and plays her some house music. Not for long, though. Because he hates it.

"Oh my god, my ears are actually bleeding. How do you listen to this? This is horrible!" Paul takes the reigns of the music to put an end to the drama.

Drunk Gay Guy is extremely offended by this assertion of power and demands that he can play music again.

When Paul gives him back the aux cord, he decides to treat us to Pink's "Please Don't Leave Me."

PinkVEVO on YouTube

Drunk Gay Guy LOVES this song. He is singing his heart out.

"Too real," I hear him mutter under his breath.

I think he might cry.

And I think I might cry because I'm still committed to the whole Mariah Carey Christmas music thing.

1:33 am: We almost pick up another passenger. There is DRAMA.

We get to yet another bar with the intention of picking up our third passenger: a southern woman (I know by her accent) and her boyfriend.

Although they did, in fact, request an UberPOOL, they are extremely skeptical about this whole carpool experience and are very hesitant to get in the car.

I get the sense they're not from around here and think this is just a classic case of New Yorkers trying to con them in the big city.

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Drunk Gay Guy tries to ease the tension by offering to get in the very back seat so the two of them can sit next to each other.

She explains that this is not the issue. The issue is there are other passengers in the car. Paul explains this is what happens when you order an UberPOOL. She doesn't buy it.

Her boyfriend is getting defensive. They're both getting angry. Paul is remaining calm despite the unkind words they're yelling at him.

Drunk Gay Guy is suddenly extremely defensive of what has now become our UberPOOL family.

Drunk Gay Guy is suddenly extremely defensive of what has now become our UberPOOL family.

He has Paul's back in explaining they ordered an UberPOOL, and their complaints are completely unmerited. He also reminds them there's no need to be rude.

They refuse to get in the car, and we go on without them.

Drunk Gay Guy laments they were probably Trump supporters.

1:37 am: Drunk Gay Guy calls me out for taking notes on my phone. I get awkward.

I'm typing away the dramatic experience we all just shared when Drunk Gay Guy asks why I'm taking notes on my phone.

Now, you don't know me, but I'm a horrible liar. I tell him I'm just fascinated by this whole experience.

He goes, "What experience?" I go, "Um, being in a Uber!" Nice one, Candice. Totally threw him off the trail. I'm freaking out. I hate this. I hope he doesn't ask anymore questions.

He asks more questions, "You've never been in an Uber... ? Didn't your uncle say you live in New York?"

HE'S ONTO ME.

I have no choice to go along with this weird and completely unbelievable lie: "Nope." And then, I added, "Well, not sober on a weekend," because apparently it matters to me whether or not this random man I've never met before thinks I'm cool.

1:44 am*: We drop off drunk Swedish woman at her girlfriend's place.

*I'm going on memory at this point in terms of timing because Drunk Gay Guy has called me out, and I'm too awkward and self-conscious to continue with my note-taking.

We drop off the Swedish girl at an apartment, and she's seemingly surprised this nice doorman-ed apartment building in the West Village is actually her destination, saying, "This is it?"

Drunk Gay Guy calls her out, "Of course this is it. You ordered it."

She laughs, "My girlfriend ordered it for me," and gets out of the car.

Drunk Gay Guy admits after she slams the door, "I'm gonna miss her. She was sweet." Same.

2:02 am: I figure out a SNEAKY way to start taking notes again.

I start taking my notes in text-form by live texting my best friend.

HA, TAKE THAT, DRUNK GAY GUY.

2:15 am: There's very big drama in Drunk Gay Guy's life.

Drunk Gay Guy is really warming up to me and Paul. That, or he's talking to himself. I can't really tell, but I'm going with it.

You see, the plan was for him to go to his hookup's apartment, but he stopped responding! We've all been there. This is an inconvenience we can all identify with. I feel for Drunk Gay Guy.

But I also respect his can-do attitude.

He says he'll just go to his apartment, "get pretty" and show up at "this bitch's" house when he's ready. Oh, and "this bitch" will also be paying for his Uber from his place.

I ask him how he's going to get into "this bitch's" house if he's not responding.

He scoffs at me, "I obviously have a key."

I go, "OMG, he gave you a key already?!" I don't know exactly how long they've been hooking up for, but I do know Drunk Gay Guy mentioned earlier that he moved here three months ago, so it couldn't have been too long.

Drunk Gay Guy retorts, "Oh, honey, don't get me started."

He pulls out a keychain filled with at least six different keys from his pocket and adds, "Let me just put it this way, I don't need a key to get into my own building."

I'm going to go ahead and assume he's hooking up with minimum six different guys who have all given him keys to their apartments.

Drunk Gay Guy is a living legend.

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2:30 am: I decide to call it a night, and I'm in awe of how Paul does it.

I notice we are extremely close to my apartment, so I tell Paul we're actually in my neighborhood and he can drop me off anywhere on the way to Drunk Gay Guy's place. (Apparently, we live very close. And yes, I have put extensive thought into tracking him down and becoming his best friend.)

Drunk Gay Guy is VERY concerned about my safety (classic him, so protective of our Uber fam).

Paul is concerned, too. They don't want me walking around by myself late at night.

I comfort these two strangers who have now become my weird, pseudo-car-family by telling them that my apartment is, in fact, down the block, and they finally agree to let me head home.

Paul thinks he'll head home after this, too, but some nights, he stays out until 4 or 5 am.

I want to give Paul a bear hug and thank him for this incredible experience, but he's pretty busy trying to figure out whether he's going to drop off Drunk Gay Guy at his place or his hookup's.

I duck out quietly. Paul bids me farewell with an understanding smile and reassures me that we'll "talk soon" as I close the door behind me.

And with that, one of the most simultaneously strange and wonderful experiences I've ever had comes to a close.

*Names have been changed.