The rain fell freely from the grey sky on a cool October morning. A Blue 2017 Ford Fusion arrived at the apartment door within the Townhouse complex. A Jack-O-Lantern sat next to the concrete steps. The company logo “Uber” lit in neon on the dash facing the road. Johnny exited the apartment door, hoodie on head; holding a black messenger bag which stored his laptop computer for work; wrapped around one shoulder, a brown backpack wrapped around the other, and a thermos of coffee in hand. He locked the apartment door with his freehand, walked down the steps, opened the car door, tossed his bags in the back seat, and entered the Uber. Johnny greeted the Uber driver and began to settle. The Driver was a young Woman.
Johnny: Good Morning. I appreciate you so much for coming out. (Placed Coffee in cup holder. Fastening seatbelt)
Uber Driver: Good Morning, no problem at all. (Looking back)
The Uber Drivers green eyes smiled above her novelty styled face mask. Her eye lashes, long and as dark as the current fall morning. Her long curly brown hair wrapped up into a bun. The rain dotted the windshield.
Uber Driver: Going to work?
Johnny: Yes. You’re saving the fuck out a brother. Thanks for getting me to the bag.
Uber Driver: I hear that, getting to the money.
Johnny: I’m trying to stay focused like you, you’re up early getting to it.
Uber Driver: Of course, I have to.
The Uber Driver put the car in drive. Johnny watched out the back window as they exited the Townhouse complex; duplicate apartment housing passing the window pane by. Dark rain drizzled on top of the Blue Ford Fusion. Front lights beaming up the street ahead. Johnny pulled his smartphone from out his hoodies pocket; his Uber app was still open. He could see the cars location on the apps GPS; they were navigating North, headed to his workplace. The Uber app revealed the Drivers name—“Jasmine”.
Johnny: You like it? (Looking down at his phone scrolling)
Jasmine: What’s that? Uber? (Focusing on driving)
Johnny: Yeah. Do you enjoy the gig?
Jasmine: I do, it has its pros and cons I suppose. I like driving the morning, you get nice people going to work. Weekends not so much, you can make good money—
Johnny: But the people act, Trash? (Still scrolling on phone)
Jasmine: (Giggles) Oh my god, Yes!
Johnny: I can imagine (smirks)
Jasmine: I had a drunk guy flirting with me one night.
Johnny: That sounds unpleasant. (Puts phone away and look up)
Jasmine: It was. I picked these girls up from the club one night, and they were arguing with a whole group of other girls.
Johnny: Your Uber job sounds more intense than my Security job. How’d you like that night—fun?
Jasmine: Not fun at all. Oh, no. I don’t do ghetto. I try not to Uber on the weekends but if I need to—I do. I got bills. (Driving)
Johnny: Amen. Gotta do what you gotta do. People can be weird; some nice, and some trippy.
Jasmine: Speaking of nice; you’re cool and all but could you put a mask on?
Johnny: Don’t feel like Covid for breakfast?
Jasmine: Uh uh, now that just sounds nasty.
Johnny: (Reaching into the front pocket of his bag to retrieve a face mask) My bad. I usually have one on already—was just juggling so much just now, skipped my mind. My job requires us to have facemask on, can’t even enter the building without one. So yeah, my bad. I usually have one on at this point. Don’t kick a brotha out.
Jasmine: I wouldn’t do that.
Johnny: Yes, you would. I heard it in your voice. Please spare me, mean lady.
Jasmine: Oh, my god, I am not mean. I was just asking—
Johnny: I’m just playing. I promise. (Chuckles)
Jasmine: No, people can be like that. A woman establish a little boundary and now all of a sudden, she’s mean. It’s like, damn if you do, damn if you don’t. Either you’re a bitch to keep the creeps off of you or weak and timid and being taken advantage of.
Johnny: Who do you consider creeps?
Jasmine: Boys, Men, ya’ll—like nasty dogs--
Johnny: Damn, why we gotta be all that?--
Jasmine: Cause its true--
Johnny: You just met ya boy—
Jasmine: I’m not saying you—
Johnny: (laughs) You just did. Called me a dog—
Jasmine: I didn’t call YOU a dog--
Johnny: (Smirks) You called me a cheater, a womanizer, Scooby Doo looking for a Scooby snack.
Jasmine: Oh my god, now you’re being dramatic. (giggles)
Johnny: Look how you’re doing me before my workday. Mean lady, you are treacherous.
Jasmine: Boy, you need to stop.
Jasmine yielded onto the expressway, and Johnny was on his way to his destination in less than several minutes. Jasmine coasted at a steady speed of 45 Miles per Hour in the left lane. The North side of the city glided pass Johnny’s eyes as he stared out the passenger window on his morning commute. Factories, Power plants, Sub-stations, and Logistics buildings; came and went, as the trip continued north.
Jasmine: So what you do for work you said? Security? Your clothes look out of uniform and very comfortable to me.
Johnny: Mean and nosey. (chuckles)
Jasmine: Ok. Rudeness.
Johnny: (smirks) I’m playing. Nah, I work with teenagers, at the Campus school up here pass the city limits.
Jasmine: Aw, you’re a Teacher?
Johnny: Something like that.
Jasmine: So what do you do at the school?
Johnny: Yeah, I’m a Teacher; Teacher’s Assistant.
Jasmine: Oh, you’re not a real Teacher. (Playfully, giggling)
Jasmine: (giggling settles down) don’t get in your feelings all of a sudden.
Johnny: (turns head to window to watch the city limits cross over into the suburbs)
Johnny: A real Teacher? What is a real teacher to you?
Jasmine: I didn’t mean anything—
Johnny: No, but people tend to give T.A’s, Teacher Assistants or Para-Professionals less credit. Since you asked, and you got me started a little; but since you asked, what is a real Teacher to you?
Jasmine: I don’t know: Someone who teaches the class? Takes attendance? Teachers deal with bad ass kids.
Johnny: We also do that and more: we deal with the behavior issues, encourage conflict resolution, the nasty attitudes, trying to get through lesson plans smoothly while a few children struggle to get through program, the fights. And in my schools specific cases; the mental health aspect on top of behavior issue.
Jasmine: Damn, what school you work at?
Johnny: …….That’s a story for another time.
Johnny: Real Teachers service the soul of their students. Support, motivate, hurdle help if needed; to get through program.
Jasmine: Well, ok, Mr. Preachy. Mr. Pastor Teacher.
Johnny: Something like that.
The scene went from urban to a completely suburban transition. The pedestrians were losing melanin every other block, and the street signs changed from blue to consistently green.
Johnny: Enough about me. What about you? You said you GOTTA get to the bag? What else got you up this early besides them bills?
Jasmine: My kids
Johnny: How many?
Johnny: Ooooh, how do you like that? We have two; the wife and I.
Jasmine: Oh, you’re married??!
Johnny: (smirk) Yes.
Jasmine: Oh, you didn’t say all that.
Johnny: I didn’t anticipate Todays Uber trip to be so expressive. (chuckles) But yes; married. Like I said, enough about me. What about you and those little angels? Schools back in; any kids in school? My eldest son is in the 3rd grade. This is his first year being back in person since March 2020.
Jasmine: Ok, Mr. Married Man.
Johnny: Mhm (shakes head and smirks)
Jasmine: My oldest is eight, in the 3rd grade as well; my daughter. My son is three and my baby girl is two.
Johnny: Two girls, one boy--
Johnny: Two little one’s close in age; how was—is that dynamic?
Jasmine: It’s hard!
Johnny: I could imagine! Shit, just two are hard.
Jasmine: Yeah, and it’s just me.
Johnny: Just you? Ah, Babydaddy ish?
Jasmine: Something like that
Johnny: Two kids are a challenge; even with two parents. That second baby tested our relationship. First born; we were younger, babies ourselves with a baby. That second go round; as working adults with a baby, talk about challenging a relationship. I don’t think we ever loved and despised each other so much; my wife and I. (chuckles) it’s funny now; after the storms pass and all.
Jasmine: I feel like my storm never passes
Jasmine: I’m still getting rained on
Johnny: Then learn to dance in the rain
Jasmine: My eldest daughters Father; he is married now himself. He and his wife have a new baby. And my last two have the same Father; we’re not together. He’s young; hot headed, I don’t miss him and calling the police all night.
Johnny: Sounds like any night could be lit with him
Jasmine: Any night, any minute. So, yeah.
Johnny: Stellar Dads? Present I hope.
Jasmine: My eldest Father is present. He and I co-parent and his Wife is supportive; although she wont let me speak with him directly. I have to contact him through her.
Johnny: Is that a trip?
Jasmine: At first it was. But it works for us.
Johnny: Co-parenting with the new wife. I can’t hate.
Jasmine: Yeah. And my youngest kids Father; he tries to stop by when he’s in and out of jail. Or with some other chick. Or his other Baby Mom
The GPS on Jasmines Uber app begins to give her directions to drop off her Passenger. It’s telling her to prepare to drop Johnny off on the right, at the campus school. The Campus school; a brown brick building stretching at about 100 square feet on a huge campus.
Jasmine: That’s me; Baby Momma
Johnny: Well, you aren’t the only one out here.
Jasmine: Yeah, but its ghetto. And I don’t do ghetto.
Johnny: Ghetto is normal back across them city limits.
Jasmine signals and turns right onto the campus school. Speed Limit signs reading “10 MPH” planted sporadically across campus. The Blue Ford Fusion entered the bus loop. Jasmine pulled up to the front door and came to a complete stop; completing the trip.
Uber App: Drop off—John.
Jasmine: You have a good day. It was nice talking to you.
Johnny: The same.
Johnny exited the Uber first, standing tall; he reached back in for his two bags and lightly tossed them on school grounds. He retrieved his coffee from the cup holder, and closed car door gently. He walked to the front passenger window to speak one last time with Jasmine.
Johnny: For whatever it’s worth; I work with a population of children whose families don’t really have it together. Some of these kids go from placement to placement, foster home to foster home; some locked down facilities, so more open and free. There’s kids here, whose parents haven’t had custody in years but the Momma, is pregnant now with another; one kid in the system and another one coming, to add to the lot, or lack thereof.
Johnny: I’m not saying that to talk down on anybody. I’m not sharing that to speak on anyone else’s situation; we all have our challenges. What I’m simply saying is, “You have custody of your kids, and they’re under one roof— together. I see you working, I respect it. Just want to give credit—if I can, when it’s due. For whatever it’s worth.
Jasmine: Aaw, Thank You
Johnny: Don’t thank me. I’m just stating the facts. I’m just speaking on your actions. You’re doing all the work. Thank yourself. Take care of yourself.
Jasmine: You too
Johnny sets his coffee cup on the ground momentarily so that he can strap his bags over his shoulders once more prior to his workday. He wraps the messenger bag around his shoulder, and his backpack across the other. He lends forward to pick up his cup of coffee, and heads toward the front door. He swipes the badge reader to gain access to the building while the Blue Ford Fusion exits the bus loop, signals left, and enters traffic, heading back south; back towards the city.