In the past two weeks, I have ridden in different cars with complete strangers no fewer than five times. Of course, my mom would tell you that I’ve never known a stranger. I can usually be relied upon to talk at length to anyone about anything. But while that aspect of my personality often gets me into trouble, recently it has helped me notice something that might otherwise have been hidden. What I discovered was that riding with strangers does something that is almost magic — we talk.
On my first trip, I learned that my driver once watched a woman die on the operating table while shadowing at a hospital, that parts of Georgia face a crisis of understaffed and underfunded hospitals and that the term “highway baby” refers to babies that are born on the side of the road because some women live too far away from a medical facility with a maternity wing to make it there before they give birth. For the first time in my life, I regretted that I was never born to be a doctor. They are desperately needed.
On my next trip, my driver told me that he had lost both of his parents at a young age. He told me a little bit about what he would do now if they were still alive, and said, “Always make up. Even if you gotta admit that sometimes you’re wrong, that’s ok.” He asked if I had a boyfriend. I said I was focusing on school. He said, “Well, that’s good! But you know, you can’t stop love.” That’s probably true.
The next week I had sailing practice, so I got a ride from one of my teammates. When I explained that I haven’t been to too many restaurants in town yet, my driver gave me about twenty recommendations, ending with, “And down there is a very, very, very mediocre Mexican restaurant that I used to eat at literally all the time.” Thanks, I guess.
Most recently, my Lyft driver was a woman who told me that at eight years old, she had asked a pastor questions about religion that he couldn’t answer. He told her, “Find the most persecuted people in the world, because they’ll know.” She told me that after lots of research, she settled on the Jews. I understood why. Toward the end, the conversation turned to life before the biblical flood and I recommended Madeline L’Engle’s book, “Many Waters,” which is fiction, but also fantastic.
Well, that’s four stories, but I told you that I’d ridden with five people and I’m sure you’re dying to know about my fifth adventure. Maybe you’ll be disappointed to hear that, mostly, we listened to R&B. But there’s something in that too, I think. Part of the beauty of these encounters is that they are natural. I’m pretty sure all I did when I got into each of these cars was smile, say hello and stay open for conversation. But there’s something magic about riding with strangers, after all.