Location: Denver, Colorado
There are certain days when I can absorb travel snafus and others when I need everything to run smoothly. (I mean, obviously no snafus is the goal for every travel experience, but when one accepts that they are an inevitable part of flying these days, you can start bargaining about when they occur.) Yesterday was one of those itineraries where I needed there to be no delays because it was already a really long day. I woke up at 4 am local time in Nashville and gave a talk at a regional conference for Myriad Genetics at 4:30 pm, then headed to the airport to return my rental car and catch my 8:20 pm flight to Denver to give another talk today. I was already exhausted and the prospect of a three hour flight and then a long Lyft ride to my hotel in Cherry Creek was daunting. I get to the airport thinking I have ample time for a nice dinner and learn that a) I have even more time than anticipated because my flight is delayed and b) all the time in the world will not make the dining options at the Nashville Airport any better. Cue the foul mood.
When I finally landed in Denver, it was close to midnight local time, close to 2 am for me after a very long day. I called for a Lyft driver, thinking it would take a while at that time of night, but one was due to arrive within 5 minutes. I still had to take the tram to the main terminal and then navigate my way to the ride share spot. I get the automatic notice that the driver will be leaving soon while I am still waiting for the tram. I call the driver, Jorge Marquez, to tell him I am on my way. A very kind voice with a strong Hispanic accent tells me not to worry, he will wait for me.
So this is a shout out to Jorge, who quickly turned my mood around. I was his last ride of the night, but he will get up early to drive in the morning again since those are the two busy times for catching fares. He used to work construction but he hurt his back two years ago and now drives his car to make a living. He is grateful that he was able to transition to something that allows him to still work and I had to check myself. One late night on what is still a pretty pampered day, starting and ending with a nice hotel, while people like Jorge are out there working late and early shifts every single day just to scrape by. My whininess about my long day and how sleep-deprived I would inevitably be (because I once again awoke ridiculously early) dissipated while talking to Jorge. Not just because the universe gave me a reminder that I am so lucky to get to do what I do and all my travel is by choice, but also because Jorge is just a really good guy. A good egg, as they used to say. You can just tell within minutes of talking to him that he is kind and goes through life trying to make the best of whatever cards are dealt to him.
He told me that most of his fares are fine. He often picks up drunk people based on the hours he drives but he says that he feels like he is doing them and others on the road a favor by making sure they are not getting behind the wheel. He has had passengers berate him for taking them to the wrong places – addresses they themselves entered into the app – and then give him low ratings even though he drove them to the correct address (once they sorted that out) at no charge. I hope people realize that giving a driver a poor rating can have dire consequences on his livelihood. It can mean a suspension of his ride sharing access and can impact his ability to get other rides. By all means criticize away when warranted, but giving Jorge one star because he drove an hour and a half to the place you entered as your destination and you failed to notice in the entire drive that you were heading to Colorado City instead of Denver, even though he confirmed the address with you at the start of the ride as he does with all his fares, well, that’s on you.
Jorge also had a passenger last week who was put in the car by a gruff, scary man who threatened her as he closed the door. When Jorge began driving her to her destination, he saw that she was severely injured and learned that her ex-boyfriend had held her captive and beaten her. She did not want to report it for fear of what her ex would do to her and her family, but Jorge insisted that she needed medical attention. He called 911 and when the cop arrived, he was convinced Jorge was the perpetrator. “You know, because of my accent,” Jorge said. The way he just accepted that as grounds for treating him as a suspect made me so sad about the state of things in our country these days. Jorge moved to the United States from Mexico twelve years ago and I can only imagine how hard it has been for him in recent years.
He had another ride when he could tell that the three belligerent and high guys in the back were planning to hurt him. He pulled into a 7-Eleven and told them he wouldn’t charge them for the ride but they had to get out, then ran into the safety of the store until they left. You want to tell him to stop driving the night shift, but that is where the money is and so he tries to be as safe as he can. There is an equanimity and a continued desire to believe the best in people that defines him, and I really hope there are enough good encounters to outweigh the bad so that he does not lose that.