Is that it?
Silver Toyota Land Cruiser. Ubers are almost impossible to spot until they nearly drive up on you.
Virginia grabs her luggage and double checks the Uber app on her iPhone for the driver’s name. Lee. She dutifully takes note of the license plate to compare before entering the vehicle. She isn't going to make that mistake again.
“Who are you here to pick up?” she asks the middle aged driver wearing an Orioles shirt, who neither turns around to greet her nor asks to help with her luggage. Does he want a two-star rating?
“Ginny,” he responds crisply. “You Ginny?”
“Yep,” she replies. Maybe a one-star rating, the way this is going.
“Back from a trip?” he finally tries to be hospitable, looking at her in the rearview mirror.
“Yep,” she repeats, hoping the conversation has come to a close. She glances at his dark brown eyes staring back at her. “I was visiting my son at college. He goes to Florida State.”
“You’re kidding me,” Lee says. “My daughter goes to Florida State. She’s a sophomore—go Noles!”
“My son is a junior,” she states flatly, looking out the window. “He’s changed his major three times already and will probably graduate in 2030.” Ginny sighs. “We have amazing in-state schools, and he decides on Florida—Florida of all places!”
“Costing me a—”
“Fortune,” she finishes his sentiment. “It’s why I’m back on the road. Back to sales. Ugh, I thought I was done with all this—”
“Hassle?” he suggests.
“Hassle is right. I should be behind a desk, not out hustling. I’m too old for this—”
“Hassle,” he finishes her thought. “Don’t I know it? Before the divorce, we had my daughter’s college fund all fat and happy. Until my thin and unhappy wife decided she was better off without the both of us. What kind of—”
“Arrogant, self-absorbed, midlife crisis cliché jettisons their entire family to chase their dreams or really, some younger piece of tail?” Ginny’s caustic bitterness practically fogs up the car windows.
Stunned into silence, Lee remains quiet. He gingerly takes a right turn, briefly looking up at her again in the rearview mirror. She’s pretty, even looking utterly disgusted with mankind as a whole.
“Sorry,” she eventually apologizes. “It’s been a long day.”
“S’okay,” Lee says. “After the divorce, I had to pick up this gig in addition to my day job to pay my lawyer for doing almost nothing, except giving my house and dog away. The rest of my money I send to Tallahassee so my daughter can earn C’s in her communication classes while downing jello shots at her sorority house.”
“Well, thanks to my divorce, I now have the privilege of paying alimony to my spouse who can no longer work because of his post traumatic stress disorder. It seems my asking for a divorce due to his blatant infidelity caused him too much anxiety to deal with, you know, life stuff. Like paying bills. So . . .” Ginny trails off.
“So? Sew buttons, my mom always said,” Lee replies.
“Sew buttons, indeed.”
“Look Ginny, listen. I hate to do this,” Lee apologizes, looking at his iPhone. “But I got an Uber Eats delivery. They’re running a special tonight. 25% off food and a bonus for drivers. Been crazy. I hate to ask, but it’s a big order near your house. Any chance we could stop? I’ll be in and out in no time. You say the word, though. I’ll take you right home.” Big dark brown eyes. Hard to say no to.
“Lee, I get it. I have nothing at home waiting for me but an incontinent cat,” Ginny replies, rubbing her temples. “I get it. Go ahead and stop. Florida State’s tuition is due in two weeks . . .”
“When did college get so expensive?” Lee asks, parking right in front of a restaurant, blocking the crosswalk, smack in the middle of the fire lane.
“Up 1200% since we went to school,” Ginny mutters. “Hey Lee, you aren’t one for keeping all the rules, are you?” She motions to his parking job.
“I kept all the rules until I realized no one else did.” He smiles, a Cheshire cat grin. She can’t help but smile back.
Lee disappears into the restaurant. Ginny looks around the car. Pristine condition. Pina colada air freshener. St. Christopher medal on the dash. Breath mints in the utility tray. She helps herself to one, tucking her hair behind her ear. She watches the front door while applying a light colored lip gloss, fumbling it back into her purse when he suddenly appears. He’s carrying several silver tin foil trays, a couple of additional bags of restaurant fare looped around his arm.
Ginny gets out of the car and opens the passenger side.
“Maybe put it in the back on the floor?” she advises.
“Good idea,” he says, grateful for her carefully arranging the trays to avoid spillage. “You’re good at this, you know.”
“This ain’t my first rodeo,” she grins, lightening his load. “I worked in catering in college.”
“I was a bartender. A pretty good one, too. I could throw bottles around like Tom Cruise in Cocktail,” he brags.
“You are dating yourself with that movie reference,” she warns.
“If I could date myself, that would solve a lot of problems.”
Now sitting next to him, Ginny watches Lee throw the car in reverse, making a seamless three-point turn. She shouldn’t be impressed, but his driving skills are flawless.
She flushes a bit. He’s quit talking as much.
The aroma of the food wafts up to the front seat.
“I’m starving,” she says.
They drive in silence to a large house in a better neighborhood than hers.
“You want help?” Ginny asks.
“Sure,” replies Lee. “If you want. Hey, I could split the tip with you.” They work together getting the take out containers into each other’s arms, walking carefully to the front door. Though the house is dark, Lee rings the bell.
“I don’t get it,” Lee says, putting the food down. He walks around the side, taps something into his iPhone, and returns.
“Everything all right?” Ginny asks.
“Hang on.” He taps on his iPhone again. “It’s a dead order,” he says, looking at her.
“What does that mean?” Ginny asks, tilting her head to the side.
“It means this order is canceled. I’m supposed to dispose of the food and just continue on.”
“Seems like a waste,” she comments, looking back at the car. “We could eat it at my place, since I believe I’m your next stop.”
“I’d like that,” Lee agrees. “I’d like that a lot.”
Lee’s iPhone chimes again. He looks down, smiling from ear to ear.
“It’s my daughter. She’s at one of those sorority formals tonight. See?” Lee holds up his iPhone for Ginny to see. Taking out her reading glasses from her purse, Ginny scrutinizes the picture before she starts to laugh—an unrestrained belly laugh.
“What? Yeah, I know those eyelashes are ridiculous. And don’t get me started on the dress. My mother would roll over in her grave. Probably come back to life and sew a few buttons on it before letting my daughter out of the house. But that’s the style,” Lee says, defensively.
“No, Lee—” Ginny snorts, attempting to control her laughter. “On her arm—”
“No, the young man—that’s my son!” All control aside, Ginny takes off her reading glasses and doubles over with laughter, tears streaming down her face.
He begins to laugh with her, as they pack the food back into the silver Toyota Land Cruiser.
“This suddenly got complicated,” Lee grins, shaking his head.
Ginny wipes her eyes. “It’s not complicated, Lee. Life’s too serious to be taken seriously. Just take me home, and let’s eat.”
And with that, Ginny gave her driver a five-star rating.