No Fixed Abode: Planes, Trains, Ubers, Taxis, And Supercars

Jack Baruth
by Jack Baruth

I’ll start with this: Hannah, wherever you are, I do not apologize for stealing your car. You were a real b— … well, white men like myself aren’t allowed to use the “b-word” nowadays, it’s considered more harmful to womyn than all 359 of those sexual offences that happened in Cologne that we’ve all agreed to pretend didn’t really happen. Why don’t we just say that you’re a very mean person. I don’t apologize for that, or for stealing your car.

Now, where were we, to use three words in a row that start with “w” and end with “e”? Well, it’s like this:


Last week, I had a date with a supercar. This car was located at a dealership in Palo Alto, CA. The plan was to fly from Columbus, Ohio, get to the car Thursday morning, take the car to a racetrack on Friday, then return it to the dealer and fly home at 6 a.m. Saturday morning so I could have the weekend with my son. Picking the flight was easy: Southwest has a nonstop from CMH to OAK pretty much every morning of the week. It would get me there by 9 a.m.

My plan from there was nearly as simple: I’d rent a car at the airport, drive it to the supercar dealer, leave it there, pick it up when I dropped off my loaner car, and then drive it back to the airport. Doing so would cost me about $78 in rental fees.

Remember that number. Seventy-eight dollars.

It could have been very easy. Unfortunately for me, however, Danger Girl, my companion for this trip, starting having ideas. Ideas about public transport and doing things “the way they’re done in the city” and so on and so forth. Now, if I’ve learned anything in the past 44 years, it’s that the combination of women and ideas is almost always dangerous to me. Yet I often neglect to remember this basic fact at precisely the time that it would be most useful for me to remember it.

Our flight arrived early, at about 8:50 a.m. We exited the plane at Oakland. Google Maps told us that it would be a 55 minute drive to the dealership, but we were going to make the morally superior choice of taking public transportation. There’s a new spur of the BART train that takes you from Oakland to the main station. The mini-BART was very pleasant and moved very quickly, except for the time where it stopped for five minutes or so for no reason in the middle of nowhere. Upon reaching the Coliseum/Airport station, we each paid $10 for a BART ticket and took a train headed for Union City. This train was not pleasant. It smelled like some combination of a long-dead animal and an upended porta-potty on a hot day.

There was a beautiful young blonde woman nervously holding her bicycle two seats down from us. It made me smile, to see such a typical California Girl in my first half-hour in California. Everybody else looked like an extra from “The Hills Have Eyes.” One fellow down at the other end of the car, near the largest of the vomit stains, regarded Danger Girl with steady eyes and a blank expression beneath his ragged, dirty hoodie. His right hand was tucked behind the waistband of his cargo pants.

The BART itself sounded and moved like nothing so much as a train that was about to either catch on fire or exit its elevated tracks without warning. No New York subway I’ve ever ridden could compare to the noise this thing made. But it was okay; we were still $55 up.

We exited at Union City and started looking for a bus described by Google Maps as the M BRT FRY K-POP or something like that. The fourth bus driver to whom we gave the description sent us to the right bus. Since we didn’t have a bus card, we paid $10 in cash to ride. Our driver was a very nice man. “We’ll be at the Stanford station at ten of.”

“It’s ten of now,” I said.

“That’s ten of ten. I mean ten of eleven.” We covered seven miles in just under an hour, picking up, dropping off. A lot of nurses, a lot of working people who looked tired and sad. But the bus itself was relatively clean and the driver gave us plenty of advice for our next step. “You’ll want to catch the 522 over. But you’ll need a different card. I’ll give you a transfer ticket, but the driver can decide whether or not he takes it.”

Upon reaching Palo Alto, just in time to begin the third hour of our journey, I saw what might be the 522 bus across the island. Google said this final bus would have us within three-tenths of a mile of the dealership in approximately 42 minutes.

“The hell with this,” I said. “I’m going to call an Uber.” I brought up the app. It estimated an $11 fare and a pickup within four minutes. A tiny picture of a vaguely Asian-looking fellow appeared next to the words, “Toyota Prius”.

Three minutes later, a vaguely Asian-looking fellow in a Prius C pulled up. “Oh shit, it’s a Prius C,” I moaned. Danger Girl and I crammed in, holding our Tumi duffels on our laps. “It’s only four miles.” As we pulled away, the phone rang. It was my Uber driver.

“Where are you?” he asked.

“Uh, in the car?”

“No, I’m driving around and don’t see you!” Meanwhile, the guy who was apparently not our Uber driver was on the speakerphone.

“YOU FUCKING LEFT ME!” There was a woman screaming.

“Uh, I see somebody waving and jumping behind us,” Danger Girl said.

“She’s wearing a peacoat. It’s 64 degrees outside,” I observed. “Turn around, I guess,” I told our non-driver, then turned to my phone so I could talk to the guy who was supposed to be my driver, “I’ll meet you back at the bus station.”

“THE BUS STATION?” he repeated. “I’M NOWHERE NEAR THE BUS STATION! YOU GIVE WRONG ADDRESS!”

“Technically,” I clarified, “the address comes from the appli-”

“I CANCEL YOU NOW!” Then he hung up.

“You are not Hannah?” my non-driver asked me.

“No, I’m not Hannah.”

“Hannah is jumping up and down back there,” Danger Girl clarified. We turned around and returned to Hannah, who was letting out kind of a wordless scream.

“Sorry, Hannah,” I said, but she pushed past me. I did her the courtesy of falling backwards onto my recently-broken left leg instead of dropping her with a shoulder hit like Ronnie Lott in his prime. Hannah slammed her door shut then started screaming at me from behind the glass. I’m not much of a lip-reader, but I was pretty sure I knew what she was saying. “I think,” I told Danger Girl, “she called me a ‘cis rapist.'”

“Like a sissy rapist? Does that have anything to do with the ‘Gorilla Mindset’ book somebody sent you?”

“Honestly,” I told her, “it probably does.” After a moment spent collecting myself and my belongings on the curb, I pulled up the Uber app. It told me that I was being charged $5 for the driver who canceled. It also told me that the nearest Uber was fourteen minutes away.

“We could take the bus,” Danger Girl suggested.

“FUCK THE BUS,” I snarled, and we trudged over to the smiling Sikh and his Crown Victoria taxi. I had to give him directions, but other than that the only problems were the glacial, exceedingly polite pace of his driving and the $17.30 charge for driving us three miles. I handed him a twenty and stepped out of the car. We were now up to $45. It was 11:42, almost three hours after we’d left the airport. We’d traveled 32 miles, making our average pace about eleven miles an hour. We looked like homeless people, but the dealership held its collective nose and gave me the keys anyway.

After nearly 500 miles’ worth of driving around Northern California, including a lovely blast to Stinson Beach and four brilliant sessions at Thunderhill, we made our plans to return the car. We had a friend who lived in Burlingame who was willing to drive us from Palo Alto back to the airport early in the morning. But at 7 p.m. on Friday evening, he texted us and said that he was “too sick” — meaning “too busy watching Netflix” — to fulfill his promise. So we’d have to take Uber, or a taxi. But here was the problem: we couldn’t guarantee that an Uber or a taxi would be available in Palo Alto at 4 a.m. on Saturday morning.

“I have a brilliant idea,” Danger Girl said. “We’ll drive to the airport and rent a car. Then we’ll drop this car off at the dealership and take the rental car back.” Perfect! We’d avoid the train, the taxi, and the Uber all at once. We’d steer our own course. Maybe even go through a drive-thru on the way out to our hotel in Santa Cruz that evening.

“Sounds great,” I replied.

“And since I’m a National super-elite thingy member, even after stealing that Challenger, we can have a really nice car for the price of a regular one.”

“Great. What’s a regular one cost?” Danger Girl fussed with her iPhone screen.

“For a ten-hour rental, on short notice? Hmm… okay, I see it. Looks like the price will be…” Her brow furrowed. “Seventy-eight dollars.”

Jack Baruth
Jack Baruth

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  • JustPassinThru JustPassinThru on Feb 12, 2016

    Public transit can work - but only for people with lockstep, rigid habits; and ONLY if public DEPORTMENT is enforced. We hear, read and see Europeans and Japanese all stoically riding their trains and subways. What we do NOT see is thugs with hoodies and their pants at half-mast; waiting to relieve you of your wallet or some young female of her self-respect and mental health. ...or rather, we did not see it until recently. How the Europeans adapt to their folly, borne of appalling ignorance of the realities of the world...will be a process worth watching. Me? Where I live public transit is free - and STILL it's too much a hassle to bother with. Time has value; and when I can ride a bicycle quicker than I can wait on and make connections in Kafkaesque bus routes and schedules...I'll ride. Or walk.

  • -Nate -Nate on Feb 12, 2016

    Story and comments proving yet once again that good writing makes reading about anything interesting and enjoyable . Last July I drove back to Boston to bury Moms , after the funeral we gathered at the same hotel where predictably there was family strife caused (I think) mostly by the stresses of burying a parent ~ in any case , I was suddenly alone and far from the Logan Airport where I needed to go to buy a ticket and fly home.... In the pouring rain I walked a few miles to the nearest subway station and bought a ticket , rode two or maybe three different lines to the airport , rode a bus from the subway to the terminals proper and was able to get home again alive and unscathed . Boston's subway system is ancient and 50 + years ago when I lived there and needed it a lot , was reasonably efficient even though they decided to pocket any fund$ dedicated for cleaning ~ the piss stench from the underground was noticeable on the street but at least the (mostly ancient pre WWII) trains ran on time . I now live in So. Cal. and fairly recently we , those nasty ' NIMBYS ' collectively agreed to higher property taxes to pay for the Gold Line , _TWICE_ , the folks in charge of things , not the ' NIMBYS ' pissed away the ENTIRE $ WE PAID TWICE on other things before ever breaking ground . Now it is nearly finished , I have ridden it once (IIRC) , again in the pouring raid just because I wanted to see what my $ had been spent on , it was O.K. all things considered . The last little bit of the Gold Line is supposed to open (it's been running test trains since last year) March 16th and as it happens goes two blocks away from the battered bank repossessed house in a crummy neighborhood my Son bought a couple years ago and up fixed , got married and began raising his family in . As he works in Los Angeles , (Rampart Division L.A.P.D.) , a stones throw from the MacArthur Park station , he's all excited about riding the trains to work . In a few short year his neighborhood of single homes with yards will be discovered by the yuppie lawyers etc. who screw up anything they touch and he'll prolly sell out at a healthy profit and move away again . More Public Transit stories please , I'm loving them and have more to share depending on my mood at any given time . -Nate

  • Teddyc73 As I asked earlier under another article, when did "segment" or "class" become "space"? Does using that term make one feel more sophisticated? If GM's products in other segments...I mean "space" is more profitable then sedans then why shouldn't they discontinue it.
  • Robert Absolutely!!! I hate SUV's , I like the better gas milage and better ride and better handling!! Can't take a SUV 55mph into a highway exit ramp! I can in my Malibu and there's more than enough room for 5 and trunk is plenty big enough for me!
  • Teddyc73 Since when did automakers or car companies become "OEM". Probably about the same time "segment" or "class" became "space". I wish there were more sedans. I would like an American sedan. However, as others have stated, if they don't sell in large enough quantities to be profitable the automakers...I mean, "OEMs" aren't going to build them. It's simple business.
  • Varezhka I have still yet to see a Malibu on the road that didn't have a rental sticker. So yeah, GM probably lost money on every one they sold but kept it to boost their CAFE numbers.I'm personally happy that I no longer have to dread being "upgraded" to a Maxima or a Malibu anymore. And thankfully Altima is also on its way out.
  • Tassos Under incompetent, affirmative action hire Mary Barra, GM has been shooting itself in the foot on a daily basis.Whether the Malibu cancellation has been one of these shootings is NOT obvious at all.GM should be run as a PROFITABLE BUSINESS and NOT as an outfit that satisfies everybody and his mother in law's pet preferences.IF the Malibu was UNPROFITABLE, it SHOULD be canceled.More generally, if its SEGMENT is Unprofitable, and HALF the makers cancel their midsize sedans, not only will it lead to the SURVIVAL OF THE FITTEST ones, but the survivors will obviously be more profitable if the LOSERS were kept being produced and the SMALL PIE of midsize sedans would yield slim pickings for every participant.SO NO, I APPROVE of the demise of the unprofitable Malibu, and hope Nissan does the same to the Altima, Hyundai with the SOnata, Mazda with the Mazda 6, and as many others as it takes to make the REMAINING players, like the Excellent, sporty Accord and the Bulletproof Reliable, cheap to maintain CAMRY, more profitable and affordable.
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