Thursday, 10:37 p.m., Pennsylvania Ave and 20th St.
There I was, a well-regarded Uber driver with an impeccable 5-star average rating, lounging in the back seat of my own car, sandwiched by a pair of buxom Russian lasses with unspeakable intentions. There was desire in the air, risk in the offing, breasts in my face, and I saw no reason to hold back. Promiscuity isn’t typically on the menu of an upstanding chauffeur just trying to make a buck, but when twin Eastern goddesses climb into your vehicle wearing less than Winnie the Pooh and demanding you take them to “Destination Pleasure Town,” you abide like The Dude at a bowling alley.
And you leave the meter running, because they insisted.
“Take me! Take me!” Natalya cried repeatedly, her long legs splayed on top of mine, her firm loins girding for gratification.
“You really are a shot of life, Natalya,” I panted huskily.
“It’s Tatyana,” she replied.
“Whatever,” I said.
Locked in the throes of passion, I barely noticed Ulyana — or was it Olga? — stop stroking my hair to reach down for her purse. She quickly produced a fresh cupcake, licking it seductively before offering it my way.
“It is from Georgetown Cupcake,” she muttered through a honeyed accent thicker than the chocolate frosting at her fingertips. “Have you heard of this?”
Even in the midst of copulation, I managed to roll my eyes in her direction, for I am a self-respecting D.C. denizen who dutifully avoids the products of overhyped tourist trap bakeries unless they are fed to me by naked Russian ladies.
“Feed me, Ulyana, my sweet!” I cried as she shoved the luscious confection into my face.
Suddenly a frantic rap came at the window, and I jumped for fear that the fun was coming to a swift end. Thankfully, it was only just beginning.
“Do not worry,” Tatyana reassured me. “It is only our friend, Svetlana. May she join as well?”
None of this actually happened, of course. Wild visions of foreign sex kittens and overpriced desserts were merely part of some fever dream that came over me during a 20-second break in between rides. I chalked it up to a psychological defense mechanism against the cold night air of Washington D.C., a dog-eat-dog town where dogs go to eat each other and interns go to do nothing. It was the middle of August, but the city’s unshakable aura of corruption, deception, and parking restrictions made it feel plenty cold to me. Then again, maybe the dream was just a counterpunch to my previous passengers, a bohemian couple that reeked of cigarettes and broken dreams.
Or maybe, just maybe, my reverie was a delicious prelude of the ride to come.
My phone beeped to reveal my next passenger: Steve.
A tall, thin twenty-something wearing khakis and a skinny tie exited the restaurant across the street and bounded toward my silver Volkswagen Jetta. Physically, Steve reminded me a lot of myself, only uglier and less muscular.
“Thank you,” Steve said to me as he slid into the backseat, his gratitude presumably directed at my courage to remain seated and not hold the door open for him.
“How you doing, Steve?”
“Great, thanks! Just heading to Arlington. The address should be in there. Thanks.”
I immediately sized Steve up as one of those eager Capitol Hill types trying to suck his way up the congressional ladder, his well-practiced sycophancy in the work place naturally seeping into other everyday encounters.
“You can just turn left up here at K St. Thank you,” he repeated while staring at his iPhone and typing all the while. We were only a few minutes into the ride, but Steve’s condescending gratitude was already beginning to wear thin. I started to feel more like his manservant, Garçon, than his Uber driver.
“You are most welcome,” I replied.
I generally like to let the passenger dictate the amount of conversation during Uber rides. You usually get a sense right away for whether they want you to remain quiet, chat them up, divulge your life story, or engage them in a pastry-laden three-way. I used my astute social skills to detect that Steve was not the pastry-laden three-way kinda guy. He just wanted some alone time with his phone, probably so he could group text with his fellow Hill bros about the hot new intern while occasionally taking a break to craft overbearing emails on behalf of his congressman. Classic Steve.
It’s hard to say why I was stewing about Steve. He hadn’t really said or done anything to piss me off. In fact, he seemed like a perfectly nice guy. But there was something about him that just didn’t sit right, something inherently insidious about his rigid posture and neatly manicured combover, his carefully loosened tie and his hastily rolled-up sleeves. And what the hell was in the bag next to him? I dared not contemplate what this monster planned to do with that bag at the bar, where he was surely headed to defile some innocent girl so he could tell a cool story to his sickly comrades at the cafeteria the next day. Fuck Steve.
“A right up here will be fine,” Steve chirped as I cruised down Glebe Road toward what I initially thought would be the Ballston bar scene. “Thanks again!”
“Up here? Toward the hospital?”
“Yep! Working the graveyard shift in ICU tonight,” Steve said with a mix of cheeriness and playful dread. “Have a great night!”
Friday, 1:43 a.m., Wilson Blvd and Hudson St.
I now found myself sitting in front of Liberty Tavern, navigating Twitter while wasted stragglers combed the street for desperate sexual liaisons and pizza. Ferrying drunks over the past two hours managed to stem the shame bleeding out of my regrettable run-in with the angelic Steve, whom I have since determined is the most wholesome and good human I have ever encountered.
Finally the back door opened, and I hurriedly switched the radio from NPR to Top 40.
“Jenna, right?” inquired a petite blonde holding hands with a hulking, sleepy-looking dude at least twice her size.
“Yep! Welcome aboard!” I exclaimed, because you don’t rack up a perfect 5-star average without a healthy dose of faux enthusiasm. “There’s water and mints there on both sides if you kids need some nourishment!”
I proceeded to steer my trusty German vessel across the Potomac and back into D.C., enduring Jenna’s mindless babble all the way. Her boy toy, whom I gathered had known this girl for three hours max, struggled to keep his eyes open while absorbing the brunt of Jenna’s monologue, only occasionally contributing some deeply illuminating dialogue of his own.
“So that’s why I just think that, like, all the people in D.C. are douchebags!” Jenna posited, her imploring squeal demanding a response. “Don’t you think?”
“Yeah,” he responded.
“Everybody in Austin is just like so cool and normal! I just don’t think that’s how it is around here. Like one time in Austin we ran into a group of guys and we literally just like started talking to them for like 10 minutes! They bought us drinks and we had like a normal conversation! I think it’s just about like a totally different mindset with, like, the culture, you know?”
Big Sleepy kept his faltering gaze aimed at his phone as he haphazardly finished up a text message, likely crying for help as his soul yearned for the sweet release of death.
“I mean, amiright?!” Jenna insisted as she tugged on his arm.
As we neared Big Sleepy’s apartment just outside Chinatown, Jenna turned toward me, her animated expression bearing the look of an eight-year-old approaching Disneyland.
“So are you excited to be driving a celebrity home?” she asked me.
I gave them a bemused look in the rearview mirror, trying to decipher where I might have seen these young hot shots before.
“Celebrity? We’ve got a real-life celebrity in the car?” I asked.
“I’m not a celebrity,” Big Sleepy mumbled while rubbing his stomach uneasily.
Jenna smacked him and turned an incredulous eye to me.
“Wait, do you not watch The Real World? He was in Real World Las Vegas and Memphis!”
Suddenly the gentle giant stirred to life, his finger frantically trying to find the window button as he fired a panicked shout in my direction.
“Yo man, put the window down! Put it down NOW!”
I rolled it down and pulled over on a side street, watching the excesses of a hard night out come pouring forth. And as Big Sleepy Celebrity Man voided his intestinal contents onto the street — and a bit onto my car, I’d confirm later — his new friend Jenna leaned in to me with a simple question.
“So do you think he’s into me?”
And with that I released them back into the wild, like a baffled zookeeper left with no other options. This ride had been fraught with crapulence, this night full of peril, but I had one more trip to make before embarking on the road home.
My phone beeped with the siren call of a nearby castaway: Vladislava.