What began as a light tapping sound, quickly turned into loud pounding on top of the umbrella as the raindrops grew heavier and larger. The chilly wind blew the rain sideways and made it impossible for Phillip to avoid getting wet, no matter which way he stood. He stepped closer to the curb at the same time a car drove through a huge puddle, splashing muddy, cold water on him from head to toe.
“Shit!” he said, “what’s the use.”
He lowered his umbrella, shook off the excess water and squeezed into a small, crowded bus shelter with a dozen other people. The thought of being so close to a bunch of strangers caused him a lot of anxiety. The idea of being with them in a crowded bus with everyone sharing and exchanging moist air disgusted him even more, which was why he called an Uber in the first place. He glanced at the app on his phone again, which confirmed his ride request with an image of the driver and the car to look out for.
He fumbled inside of his coat pockets and had finally found a mask to wear, and dropped it onto the dirty, wet cement after being startled by a honking care horn.
“Phil! Hey Phil”.
He heard his name coming from the car which had pulled next to the bus shelter. He squinted to see the person behind the wheel and quickly realized it was a past college rival, Hal Jones.
“Hey, man! It’s me, Jones. You want a ride somewhere?”
“Oh hey, man. No, I’m waiting for Uber to take me to the airport. They should be here any moment or so. But thanks man!” said Phillip.
“Uber? Are you kidding me?” asked Hal.
It was a typical rainy, Monday morning commute in Seattle. There was heavy traffic. Everyone was in a rush and showed little patience for those who couldn’t drive in the rain and even more frustration at Hal’s car stopped on the side of a busy road. Horns blared and a few choice expletives were yelled at him, but Hal refused to leave.
“Yeah, man! I’m good, Hal. You better move along.”
“Aw, to hell with ‘em!” Hal said. “I can take you to the airport, plus I’m free! Hop in! I insist!”
Just as a traffic cop made his way over to see what the commotion was, Phillip’s got a text that the driver was 40 minutes out. The airport was only 30 minutes away, so he took Hal up on his offer and hopped in the car. Hal meandered back into traffic, and they drove off.
“Thank you, Hal. I mean I hate the thought of putting you out like this.”
“No problem, I was headed in the same direction anyway. I’m on my way to take this old gal in to get a checkup. She’s been acting up on me lately.”
As they entered the freeway, Phillip thought to himself. Did he just hear Hal say the car doesn’t run well? What if it stops and he misses his flight? He had planned this trip out of gray, wet and rainy Seattle for over a year. The thought of missing it sent waves of anxiety throughout his body.
“So, what’s up with these Ubers and Lyfts all taking business away from the taxi drivers?”
“Well,”, Phillip said, “the taxi service will never go away. I like Uber because they can usually arrive sooner than a taxi.”
“Where are you flying off to, man?” asked Hal.
“Florida. I have some family down there in Coral Gables. I have to get the hell outta here for a minute, man, this weather is not giving. I can’t wait to lay in the sun and bask in the hot weather. What have you been up to, lately? How’s the wife and kids?” Phillip welcomed any small talk to pass the time and keep his mind off the shakiness of the car.
“Everyone is doing good. The wife is working from home, and I still have my plumbing business. We’re just trying to adjust to post pandemic life, like everyone else, you know? What about you? You ever get married or what?” asked Hal, as he handed Phillip one of his business cards.
“Naw,man! I… I uh... shit! What was that? Phillip asked.
“Oh no! Not again!” Hal said.
He pulled off to the side of the highway and grunted with frustration as he went to lift the hood of the car. A huge cloud of white steam swirled around the engine and into the wind, while strange noises and gasoline odors filled the air.
Hal slammed the hood down and got back into the driver’s seat completely drenched. He looked over at Phillip who was on his phone calling for another Uber. They were less than one exit away from the airport.
“Phil, put your phone away. We’re almost there, it’s the next exit. we’ll make it in time, don’t worry.” said Hal.
“How? Are we going to push it all the way there?” asked Phillip.
Hal pressed on the accelerator and drove down the side of the freeway in the emergency lane. The car was losing power and steam poured out from under the hood, but it steadily forged ahead, regardless of the honking and road rage that was hurled at them going less than 10 miles an hour. Phillip refrained from looking at the angry faces and rude gestures in the windows of cars that passed. He kept looking straight ahead, frozen in his seat. Despondent that he would miss his flight, he listened as the rattle sounds grew louder. The occasional backfire from the exhaust rattled his nerves.
Finally, they exited the freeway, blinded by the steam and the backwash from the semi-trucks that sped past them. Neither of them said a word. Minutes later the car spit, screamed and smoked as it crawled up to the airport, shaking and rattling.
Phillip jumped out and rushed to the doors. He had only seconds to get to the boarding gate. Once seated on the plane he gave a deep sigh of relief. Moments later, he looked down from above, at the rainy city of Seattle below and chuckled when he imagined what they looked like chugging down the highway. He remembered the business card Hak gave him and decided to send him a text:
Hey, thanks man! U did it, I made it, just like u said I would. I appreciate it. How are u getting back home?
Hal texted back his response: Uber. (smiley face)