Sunday, July 8, 2018

Just One Look

Conclusion: Uber drivers are the new Everyman.

Its easy to say this after a weekend in Eastport and multiple Uber ride conversations with voluble drivers. And why not? Each ride brings new conversational partners.

Driving us to Cantlers' Riverside Inn to eat extra-large crabs at 10 p.m., 80-year old Norman regaled us with his life story.

Interesting as it was that he began working at NASA in the '60s before becoming an engineer for the Department of Transportation, I was most fascinated to hear that he married for the first time at 44. That would be after he retired.

When I asked how his bride was doing, he gushed, "She's 18 years younger than me and she's doin' just great!"

By 1974, Norman had taken a job at the Department of Energy as part of the new solar energy program. When I asked if Jimmy Carter hadn't put solar panels on the White House, he was tickled to death. "Our program did that!" he told us proudly. I didn't bother mentioning how Reagan had ripped them out, though I'm sure he had an opinion on that, too.

Norman's funniest story was about his fellow engineer who'd driven his Jaguar XKE through Huntsville, Alabama in the '70s and gotten a ticket for changing lanes 57 times. Ah, the '70s.

Personally, I'm in awe of the cop who had patience enough to wait through that many lane changes before pulling the guy over.

Saib, the Pakistani who drove us from Cantlers to the Middleton Tavern was a poster child for immigration. A US citizen for 10 years now, he enthused about his wife and 3 kids, the wonderful life they've carved out in this country and his hopes for his children's futures.

When he heard I was from Richmond, he wanted to tell me about his very favorite kebab restaurant, which just happens to be in Richmond and how he'll finish his shift and hit 95 to get there because their kebabs are that good. When 2 1/2 hours is just too much, he'll grab his second favorite kebabs. They're conveniently located in Crystal City, which still seems like a fer piece to drive from Annapolis for a kebab.

Then again, who am I to tell a Pakistani where the best Virginia kebabs are? And why is Maryland so lacking?

When I left my friends at Middleton's listening to a blues band, it was for an Uber ride with a young man who, it turns out, not only grew up in nearby Midlothian but is doing his pre-med at VCU. Currently, he's working at G.W. University (coincidentally where I was born) on a research project. We talked about Richmond the entire four minute drive home and as I exited his car, he thanked me for the dose of home.

Now I ask you, what are the chances I'd climb in the car of a local guy while at the Annapolis waterfront? Apparently pretty good.

Besides absorbing the sagacity of assorted Uber drivers, I had the distinct pleasure of meeting my friend's new main squeeze, a decidedly funny man ("I'm just a pork-eating Jew boy," he cracked after admitting his new-found fondness for pancetta thanks to her) with a passion for music (our pancake breakfast began with Linda Ronstadt, moved through kd lang and settled on Gary Clark) and with the added benefit of being a wine rep.

Translation: he brought scores of Roses (heavy on the Loire Valley and Spain) for us to sip through.

But when it came time to get out the needle to taste Callejon de Crimen Gran Reserva, a pricey and stellar Mendoza Petit Verdot, it was just the two of us since my girlfriend insists on sticking solely to whites and Roses. Her loss, at least when it comes to wine. When it comes to him, I think she's got a keeper.

The funny part is, the last time I was up there was April  when she was still smarting from the breakup of a long-time relationship, convinced she'd never find the right partner for the rest of her life.

Ah, my little petunia, you just never know what the Adjustment Bureau will lay lay at your doorstep.

It's like what Norman the Uber driver told us in parting: "Every new journey happens for a reason."

Allow me to be the first to say amen to that.

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