This one time, before I had Uber, I am in San Francisco and I want to go to a fabric store and I don't have a way to get there.
I arrange a ride to the fabric store from my hotel. I’m into it. The app is like a game, with a map and a tiny car you can see arriving, When I step to the curb in front of the hotel, I look up to see the driver, J-- driving by, his head and elbow out the window, calling, "Hey, Maggie. I'll pick you up right there. Lemme turn around."
I ask to sit in the front, explaining that I get carsick.
J-- playing serious hits of the late 70s and early 80s including Billy Joel and he smells of weed.
This other time, when I was in Seattle, I got the best haircut of the last few years and when I was done and trying to change out of the little kimono they give you to wear when they're coloring your hair, but someone was in the bathroom and taking for-fricking-ever and when he came out he reeked of pot, I mean reeked, and I was like, oh, ok, that's legal here now, but, like, seriously, wait a minute, because scissors are heavy machinery, right, and I have an expectation of sitting down in a salon and having a sober person do my fucking hair, right?
So I started thinking that everyone in Seattle was going to have to deal with a period of adjustment and bad haircuts as they adapt to having legal weed, and I felt a little sorry for all those people walking around with bad haircuts. Maybe they’d all be stoned, too, so they’ll all chuckle and be, like, whatever.
So anyway I didn’t even need to go to the fabric store in San Francisco at all, really; it was just one of those things that I do when I’m in a place with an afternoon to kill, go to a cool fabric store. I went to the fabric store in Hawaii once and it was full of Japanese fabrics priced like the American-made ones and I was so new to the quilting thing that it didn’t mean anything to me, but, in retrospect, I should have bought a lot of it because Japanese fabric is twice as expensive in the rest of the U.S.
Little stores like small fabric stores are the kind of thing you really have to check to see if they’re open, especially in like New York where shopkeepers seem only vaguely aware that oh, people might want to know some shit about a store, like where it is and when it’s open, and the internet would be a place to put that information. But, like, you know, I was in San Francisco, where they practically invented having the Internet to do more things than email. So, I assumed.
So I get picked up by J** my Uber guy who smells just a wee bit like weed and I ask to sit in the front because I get carsick. Straight away, I ask him how he likes being a Uber driver. He tells me he loves it. “How long have you been doing it,” I ask.
“About four months.”
“And what did you do before?”
“Drove a limo for six years. This is much better.”
That settled, we headed to the Upper Richmond.
We talk about race relations in the U.S., and gay marriage, and progress. He refers to “his generation” saying that he was born in 1968, and I wonder which generation he believed me to be a part of, since I was born just a couple years before that. But I don’t ask. My mother comes up, and I talk about her like she’s alive. I like talking to strangers, and I especially like telling lies to strangers. Like if I tell them the whole truth they can steal my identity or cast a spell and give me whammies.
The best thing that J— says is this: “I always say, life is like 1% what happens to you, and 99% how you handle it.”
When we get to the fabric store, J__ says it looks closed. It is closed. I tell him that’s ok, but I’ll walk around the neighborhood anyway. I am disappointed. It was supposed to be so cool. I go next door and try on some jeans.
Then I walk around the neighborhood for a while and drink a Mexican chocolate mocha with a tiny bit of cinnamon on top. There is a guy in there loudly FaceTiming, his babby and nanny nearby. As he leaves I see he has a chain on his wallet. I didn’t know guys still did that.
When I get the email from Uber confirming the payment, I accidentally give the guy, J~~ 4 stars instead of 5. I feel a little bit funny about that now. Are you just always supposed to give 5 stars? Is it like one of those things with the car dealer, where if you can’t give five stars they will call you and ask what they can do to improve their service? Is he going to know and rate me poorly as a customer, and am I going to have trouble getting Uber cars in the future because the very first guy I ever had thought I was a bitch for giving him only 4 stars? I might have to give up Uber and try Lyft.
Oh, wait, but I forgot the best part. After I tried on some jeans at a store near the fabric store that wasn’t open, I went next door and bought some charming and snarky hipster greeting cards with the f-word on them. They had stacks of ironic t-shirts, and real metal Slinkies. There, a quiet, reserved guy sat behind the counter and mildly murmured an encouragement about my jokes, but I’m pretty sure he had a wilder side, because he was playing the Dead Kennedys, “CaliforniaÜber Alles.”