During the three-and-a-half years I’ve been driving for hire, I’ve had my share of unruly passengers: fist-fighting coeds, racist frat boys, pukers, techie thugs, bossy old folks and grown-ass adults so wasted they couldn’t remember where they lived. But none were as disagreeable as my 9-month-old daughter during a road trip to Los Angeles last week.
Now that was a hell ride from the get go.
For the baby and us …
We left Oakland around 2 p.m. on a scorching hot Wednesday. The sun was beating down with a vengeance, and the AC in our Jetta was on the fritz.
Confined to a rear-facing car seat and uninterested in the bag of toys we’d brought along to try and keep her entertained, Tèa went from the usual fussy whimpering to a full-on hyperventilating meltdown before we even made it out of the Bay Area.
After calming her down in a random parking lot off the freeway, we stopped for lunch at Chili’s in San Jose. I’d never been to a Chili’s before, but I’d read somewhere recently that millennials are putting the restaurant chain out of business and thought we’d check it out.
“Did you know Chili’s is Tex Mex?” I ask Irina, after ordering enchilada soup.
“That’s probably why they call it Chili’s.”
Hmm. Well, I’m with the millennials on this one.
Eager to escape the mental squalor of the suburbs, we get back on the highway, hoping the baby will fall sleep before the next conniption fit.
Out of the eight hours we were on the road, she only slept maybe two. The rest of the time, she screamed and snarled and whined like a trapped animal.
Naturally, traffic was backed up all the way out into boondocks. We were in the middle of nowhere in bumper-to-bumper congestion. Which only made things worse.
It was such a miserable experience, before we even got to L.A., Irina and I had already realized there was no way we could torture the baby on a return trip and that she would fly home with the baby. I’d drive back alone.
That’s how bad it got.
Still, you can’t really blame the kid for freaking out. It was a stupid idea on my part to subject an infant to a long car ride. A new parent lesson learned the hard way.
And to think, it could have easily been avoided had I trusted the paternal instincts of this Australian guy I drove a month ago …
He and his family got in my cab at the Ferry Building. Going to the Travelodge on Lombard. Two young kids rode in back with their mother. The father sat up front.
Right away, he asks me, “Is it possible to reach Vegas in six hours?”
“It usually takes more like eight or nine hours,” I tell him.
“Well, I heard it was only six hours.”
“If you drive fast enough, I suppose. And don’t stop or anything. But uh …” I nod toward the backseat. “That’s not really possible with kids.”
“Thank you!” the mom exclaims.
There’s obviously been some domestic conflict over this drive to Vegas.
“I keep telling him we’ll need to stop every hour,” she continues. “If this one’s hungry, that one has to use the restroom. And never at the same time.”
“Would it be faster at night?” the guy asks. “When there’s less traffic?”
“Perhaps. But why not take the scenic route,” I suggest. “Across the Sierras … spend the night in Yosemite, see the Sequoias, check out Mono Lake … then hit Vegas.”
“That sounds lovely,” the mom says.
“Still,” the father mumbles, scratching his chin. “Seems best to get there as quickly as possible.”
“Just forget the six hours!” his wife tells him.
“Yeah, take it easy. Enjoy California …” I babble on for a while about waterfalls and trees and rock formations.
Blah, blah, blah.
Now, cut to last week: There we are, cruising down Highway 101 (because of course we had to take the scenic route) with a hysterical baby in the backseat. That’s when it occurs to me why the Australian guy was so keen on reaching Vegas in the shortest amount of time. To avoid this exact scenario.
Oh well. So long, meandering drives are a thing of the past, at least for the foreseeable future. Unless, that is, we encounter an overly enthusiastic cab driver somewhere who convinces us otherwise.
Kelly Dessaint is a San Francisco taxi driver. His zine, “Behind the Wheel,” is available at bookstores throughout The City. Write to Kelly at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit his blog at www.idrivesf.com.