Meeting interesting characters and getting a peek into their lives is what keeps the rideshare gig interesting. Case in point: Two dudes I picked up separately on the same day, each with their own interesting story.
The first passenger — I’m calling him Tinder Ted — was an airport drop-off. Ted was traveling light, just a backpack. He had a goatee and black rimmed glasses which, when paired with his tan backpack, gave him a vaguely hipster vibe.
As we cruised down the freeway in late morning traffic, he told me he was flying to Hawaii for the first time and asked if I’d ever been there.
After I shared a few stories and tips about the Big Island, where he was headed, he revealed that he was traveling there with a girl he met on the dating app Tinder. She was meeting him at the airport as soon as I dropped him off.
People heading to the airport on vacation are among the best types of passengers. They’re always in a great mood and usually provide great conversation. That Ted was traveling to Hawaii with a girl he met on Tinder probably wasn’t that surprising in today’s app-driven relationship world. But here’s the twist:
When Ted matched with this girl on Tinder, he thought he recognized her. It turns out he did. She was the newly single ex-girlfriend of one of his own good friends and co-workers.
The friend wasn’t happy, but Ted admitted he had originally advised his friend she probably wasn’t the right girl for him, and in fact likely might be more like … the kind of girl Ted would date.
Tinder, leveraging its own algorithms, apparently agreed. And now they were heading out on their first real date — which just happened to be a bit more adventuresome than meeting for drinks.
Later that evening I picked up a slightly balding, long-haired 50-something guy sporting flared black pants and a black T-shirt emblazoned with a pair of skulls. Metal Matt, it turned out, was the lead singer of a heavy metal band, and he was on his way across town to a benefit gig his group was playing.
When he got in, Matt said, “Can I ask you a favor? Can you turn off the music for the ride?”
He was clutching a handful of papers.
“I just got the lyrics for this new song, I haven’t learned them yet and we’re playing it tonight.”
OK … silence it is.
“Oh, and if you hear me muttering under my breath back here, I’m not crazy,” he added. “That’s how I memorize.”
It was a long, 45-minute freeway ride to the other end of town. About 30 minutes in, Matt must have had enough of cramming for his musical test. When he started talking, the first thing he said was, “So, your wife writes romance novels?” (A common ice-breaker in the car, given my passenger candy tray features her business cards).
Given the creative connection, he quickly added, “I hope she makes more royalties than we do. We had the No. 6 song in Australia, and you know how much my last royalty check was? Twelve cents. That was my share. There’s four of us so actually it was 48 cents.”
Streaming services, he said, pay next to nothing, but have cannibalized record sales. So making money now is more about touring and playing live. He went on to tell me about a previous band he had been in when he was younger that had a record contract, and had received nice royalty advances and toured Europe.
“We thought we had made it and were rich,” he said. “But after you pay the manager, the tour bus, the food, the hotels … you pretty much ended up with nothing.”
He asked a few more questions about my wife’s books, and after reminding him he probably wasn’t the target audience, he said he was going to take a few of her cards anyway “to help support another creative artist.”
As I dropped him off, he added, “I know a few ladies who might like these. Hey, I’m 54 years old. I’ll pop a couple of Viagras, give them these cards and see what happens!”
You can’t make this stuff up …