Thursday, March 14, 2024

123 - Driving (as a job)

 I don't know how Uber got my email address. I don't know why they thought I should be an Uber Driver. I appreciate the thought, I guess.

I've known a couple people who have driven for Uber, so I don't want to sound too annoyed. I don't actually need income from driving, but, Uber, you're missing the main point:

I must NEVER have driving as a job, ever again.

I did it back in the late 1990s. For six months I was a delivery driver for Pagliacci Pizza in Seattle. It did not end well.

For six months I drove around Seattle's University District, rolling through stop signs, parking illegally, making questionable decisions behind the wheel - usually for the sake of TIME, you know, since I had  to get back to the restaurant to get the next delivery.

Slowly, steadily, through the course of these six months, my previously perfect driving record began to take a hit. One ticket after another slowly began to accumulate. 

A single ticket for rolling through a stop sign might feel like a simple annoyance. Five tickets for rolling through stop signs is an alarm bell!

Driving too fast in a school zone...

I don't even remember every ticket. There were a lot of them.

Then there was the one that landed me in court...

It was a Saturday afternoon around 4:30pm. A football game had just ended. The University of Washington Huskies had won, and the traffic jam around Husky Stadium was intense.

I had just delivered a pizza, and needed to get back to the restaurant quickly, because the other driver scheduled at the time had called out sick. I was the only one. My mind was racing with illegal plans to get out of football traffic and back to the restaurant.

Unfortunately for me, Police officers were directing traffic at every important intersection. I wanted to turn left at 50th Street. An officer was in the middle of the intersection directing everyone to continue north. No turns were allowed. I was desperate, so I went north through the intersection as he wanted me to, but then I swung left into a gas station, and tried to get onto 50th that way. The next thing I knew, the officer was running toward me with what appeared to be steam coming out of his ears.

I hit reverse and began to back up, realized I probably shouldn't, stopped the car, got out, and prepared myself for another ticket.

He dropped 'Refusal to Obey an Officer' on me. A criminal misdemeanor.

Let me just say at this point that I do not have any criminal record. I am as clean as could be. This would have been the only thing.

I was scheduled for a court date. After bluffing my way into stating that I would represent myself at trial, the Prosecutor came back three weeks later with an offer to drop it to just an expensive traffic ticket. He offered to let the misdemeanor go away. I agreed. I have since bragged that I successfully represented myself in court. The truth is that the prosecutor just had too many serious cases to deal with, and did not have time for mine.

Then... six months into the job, after all the tickets, after the court case, after everything else that already suggested that I should not have driving as a job, came...the BIG FINISH!

It was one of those dark, drizzly December nights that make Seattle a slightly treacherous place to drive, especially, if your car has questionable de-fogging and the windows are covered with steam.

I was slowly trying to turn left from 42nd onto Roosevelt, I say 'slowly' because I could barely see through my windshield. I figured if I went slowly enough I wouldn't hit anything. Then I suddenly realized that there was a college-age girl dressed all in black on the crosswalk right in front of me.

Well, when I say, 'in front of me,' what I really mean is that...uh...she...uh...was bouncing off the front of my car.

Yes...I hit a girl with my car (going only 2 miles an hour).

I pulled to the curb immediately, ran to her, where she sat on the pavement, getting rained on and holding her knee. Another man helped me stand her up. she limped a little. We got her out of the rain and into a small hotel lobby on the corner.

Police came.

I took the blame. I admitted it was my fault.

Fortunately the girl was not seriously hurt. I had to set her up with my insurance, which ended up covering some small amount of physical therapy she had to do for her minor leg injury. We had to call each other as the therapy and my insurance were worked out. We talked on the phone several times over the next few weeks.

Weirdly, we started getting along pretty well over the phone.

We were getting along well enough that I started thinking to myself, "Hey, this isn't a bad way to meet a girl...hit her with your car."

Anyway...I stopped driving. The management of the restaurant pulled me into the office the next day and said, "Peter, we think you should move into the kitchen and be a cook."

I stayed at Pagliacci as a cook for several more years.

I have done a lot of driving since then. I've driven the north-south length of America's west coast - Seattle to L.A. and back - so many times I can't even count them. But I have never again driven as a job.

And I never will.

I think there is some official list somewhere that includes me among people who are banned from driving jobs.

So, sorry Uber, but I have to serve the safety of the public.

You're welcome, world...

Peter Wick

March 14, 2024