Over the course of the last few years as a part-time ride-and-share driver, I’ve made more than 4,300 trips, most of them originating and terminating in the city.
Trips can begin and end anywhere in this incredibly diverse region, from North Philadelphia, where conditions are so perilous in some sections that residents have imprisoned themselves behind foreboding wrought iron fencing to keep the danger on the outside, to the magnificently manicured lawns and multi-million dollar homes on the Main Line.
Folks from every race, religion, socioeconomic and education levels – from the four corners of this Earth — pack themselves in my modest sedan, and almost without exception our exchanges are friendly and edifying.
After so many trips, one can’t help but construct mental passenger profiles — it’s human nature. There is a client type that I – and I’m sure many others using this evolving form of entrepreneurship – would prefer that the blind algorithm responsible for pairing drivers with riders would not place in my car.
More often than not, these trips originate on a Friday or Saturday night, usually downtown, Delaware Avenue or any other hot-spot for the college set. Mostly, they terminate sometime after 2 a.m. at one of Philadelphia’s prestigious universities.
This demographic, usually disheveled, red faced and drunk, stumbles into the backseat. During the trip, the passenger may roll down a window — if you’re lucky — and vomit outside, so in the best-case scenario you are just washing your car. If not quite at that point and in the company of friends, he’ll speak freely and uninhibitedly about anything – oftentimes of his genitalia, past-and-future sexual exploits, whatever. A subject-matter expert on everything, they’ll often punctuate their mostly indecipherable ramblings with excessive and unnecessary profanity.
At this point I’m often tempted to expel them from the vehicle. However, you learn to embrace that they’re just an incoherent and unruly fare — cash — and nothing more.
After witnessing the obnoxious mix of entitlement, belligerence and privilege oozing from U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh during Senate Judiciary Committee hearings into allegations of his drunken hooliganism decades ago, I couldn’t help but connect his behavior to the same entitled drunk young white men struggling through an alcohol-induced haze to summon my services on their phone.
When I’m ferrying a single mother with two young children who is struggling to transfer money from one account to another on her cell phone to avoid bouncing a check she just wrote to prevent the electricity from being shut off, they are not foulmouthed, inconsiderate and oblivious to their surroundings.
No, it is the young white male Philadelphia college student, whose parents are usually paying two or three times more for his education annually than that young mother makes in a year. The privileged student acts deplorably and speaks as if anyone within range of his voice is just coincidental and extraneous.
To go to the schools that put Kavanaugh into the position he’s in today, money can’t be an issue. For a boarding student at 9-12 Georgetown Prep, where Kavanaugh went before attending Yale, four years’ tuition will set you back $241,120. Going to Yale College? Lock in today’s rate for four years and you’re paying $277,720 for a bachelor’s degree. Yale Law School, with everything included: $85,000 a year.
As I watched a sober Kavanaugh’s crying, admonishing and generally bipolar responses to questions about his past that must be answered, I didn’t see a stable jurist ready for the highest court in the land; I saw entitlement and privilege. I saw the late-night, early-morning passenger, albeit much younger, who sits unsteadily in the back seat of my car, the one I must constantly keep an eye on with intermittent glances in the rearview mirror.
I just want to get him away from me as quickly as possible and move on.
John N. Mitchell has worked as a journalist for more than a quarter century. He can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org and Tweet at @freejohnmitchel.