Undercover Bartender

I put my foot in my mouth by asking his friend, “You work at Jumbo’s right?” and they both started laughing.

Andrew approached my car looking like Vin Deisel with his bald head, sleeveless black t-shirt, and jeans. As we drove, I asked what he did for a living, and he said, “Hospitality consultant.”

“What is that?”

“Our company turns around failing businesses: restaurants, bars… that sort of thing.”  He gets embedded for 3-6 months at a given location, spots what the problem is, and fixes it… typically by firing people and replacing them. “Most of the time,” he confided “a bar can grit their teeth and bear it if they’re losing 8% of their revenue to theft (employees stealing). Any more than that and you’ll need to make changes.  That’s where I come in.”

When he infiltrates an establishment, he comes in as a new hire. If an existing bartender shows him the ropes of setting aside a little extra per order, that person is canned. Sometimes he’ll have a bartender friend on the inside who also gets hired as a mole.

His work bears fruit. He said on a recent job he fired 11 people… bartenders/cooks who were stealing or not doing their job well. Every month he was there, the restaurant profited an additional $15k over the previous month.

One time he walked into a bar at night, surprising the bartenders working there.  All three were caught with an extra $300 in their registers.  They had been ringing up customers with the “no sale” button, planning to pocket the difference at the end of the night.

I found this line of work fascinating.  As we arrived at his destination, he departed.  While I was adjusting my GPS to figure out where to go next, he came back out with an attractive female friend in tow.  “Let’s go, my man!” as he re-requested me, and we were off to Jumbo’s Clown Room on a Friday night.

If you’ve never been, I recommend going to Jumbo’s at least once in your life.  The pole dancers can do some amazing tricks, and you’ll have a good time with friends and alcohol.  I put my foot in my mouth by asking his friend, “You work at Jumbo’s right?” and they both started laughing.

We were actually going to pick up a female friend of hers who worked at Jumbo’s instead.  When we got to her friend’s house, she wasn’t there.  We called… and waited… and called again.  Finally, the first lady says, “There she is!  Look at that hooker…” The one who works at Jumbo’s gets in the car, explaining, “Sorry I’m late.  I didn’t know what to wear, so I decided to hooker it up…”  Good times.

Scared of blood

[trigger warning: dead baby]

Chelsea is adorable.  I drove her to university where she’s studying to become a Physical Therapist… because she could never be a surgeon.  Why?  She can’t stand the sight of blood.  Oh gory horror movies are fine, because they’re fake.  But if there’s a real life surgery/operation on TV, she has to change the channel before she faints.  “Nuh-uh!” are the words she uses.

She related a couple examples of her phobia.  One time, she was cutting fruit without a cutting board, and the knife slipped.  Fearing she cut herself, she pleaded with her sister Alice, “Can you look at it?  Is it bleeding?” because she can’t stand to look at her own finger for blood.  Her family makes fun of her incessantly for this.

Another time, she was cleaning a blender and accidentally slashed herself on one of the blades.  Panicking, she shook her hand up and down in the pristine, all-white kitchen to make the pain stop, spraying blood everywhere.  “Alice!  Can you look at it?  Is it bad?”

Alice: “Umm, yeah, it actually is kinda bad…”

Fortunately, their mom was a nurse for over 20 years and was on hand to apply pressure and a bandage to minimize the damage.  Chelsea was able to go to sleep instead of going to Urgent Care.  While she was sleeping, her sister came down and cleaned up the kitchen because she knew if Chelsea walked in the next morning, she’d scream at the crime scene she’d created.  There was blood on the ceiling, the counter, all over the floor, etc.

While she has this phobia about blood, Chelsea is OK with a lot of other things.  One time her school awarded the top students in a contest with a trip to a cadaver museum.  Dried up bodies and dead babies are apparently A-OK, as long as there’s no blood.  She found those fascinating.  In particular, she called out a stillborn baby whose head was partially disfigured.

“It’s like when you have a baby doll as a kid, and its head is messed up…”

“Umm… what do you mean?  Why would your doll’s head be messed up?”

“You know, because you hit something with it.”

“What are you hitting with your dolls?”

“I dunno… my sister.” …as one does.  “You know, it gets a dent in its head, and then you get to fix it.”  If you’re reading this, Alice, you’re my hero!  Chelsea, you’re OK too.

I’d be angry too…

Dee was a petite young lady with a baby face who looked like she was 13.

As Dee approached my car, I groaned internally. The hardest part of this job is turning down rides… which I do all the time to anybody under 18 without a parent. Lyft’s terms of service require you to be at least 18. If a minor rides alone, it violates TOS, and they’re doing so without insurance.

Dee was a petite young lady with a baby face who looked like she was 13.  “Dee, how old are you?”

“23!” She said, beaming.

<in disbelief> “Can I see some ID?  You look so young…”

Sure enough, she showed me her driver’s license and she was 23. We proceed with the ride as normal heading towards UCLA.  In my head, I’m doing the math… “Wait, Dee, did you already graduate from college?”

“Yeah, I’m working full time now…” I found out Dee was on her way to work two hours late because fuck her boss. “I don’t even care. I hate her. She makes me work overtime without paying me. She emails me on weekends to do work for free.  When I make a mistake, she always complains because nothing is ever good enough for her. She really makes me feel bad about myself, saying things like ‘I’m useless.’  I’m so over that place. I can’t wait to quit.”

“Dee, there’s so much anger in you…” :O

“Yeah, I’m either raging or crying. Today you get the ranting…”

Dee, if you’re reading this, I hope you find a new job soon. That sounds like a toxic work environment. I’d probably be angry too if the world thought I was 13 when I was 10 years older… except when I’m 40 and everyone thinks I’m 30.  That’ll be nice.

Touring with Hans Zimmer

She was excited because tomorrow she was embarking on a world tour with her dad and Hans Zimmer

Rachel hobbled up to my car with a walking boot on her foot, a afro to be proud of, and a smile from ear to ear. She was excited because tomorrow she was embarking on a world tour with her dad and Hans Zimmer as a singer of Nigerian music. First stop on this tour was Coachella, an event she’d been avoiding until she could get comped admission or perform in it. Good thing she held out.

When she found out I had an aux cord, she plugged in her phone and proceeded to blast Bollywood music – which she grew up with – singing the words by heart in Hindi. From there we were listening to more Bollywood, then Nigerian music. Btw, she shared that Hans Zimmer is the funniest guy she knows, constantly joking between songs. Good luck on the tour, Rachel!

Go Belly, it’s your birthday!

Lights were flashing and I saw police standing around in the street, so I suspected there was a car accident

Around midnight this past Saturday, I picked up a passenger named Miner.  Note: normally, I change the passenger’s name for anonymity, but for the purpose of this story, you need to know her name was really Miner in the app.  She was a pretty lady with mid-length brown hair in her early 20’s, dressed in an evening gown like she was going to the Academy Awards.  I inquired about her fancy attire, and she said she was going to a party.

We took off for a location I didn’t recognize in the hills above the Sepulveda pass, north of UCLA, south of the 101.  As I drove up the steep and winding roads in the dark, she called her friends who confirmed they just got the address but hadn’t left yet.  She’s worried they won’t make it in time because they need to be there with her to get in.  As we near the destination, I had to brake suddenly because there was a long line of cars going both ways down the street all trying to turn into a single driveway up ahead.

Lights were flashing and I saw police standing around in the street, so I suspected there was a car accident in the middle of nowhere, but then I realized the flashing lights were from the crowd of paparazzi snapping pictures of attendees trying to get in.

“What kind of party is this?” I asked.

“It’s Belly’s birthday, and a bunch of people are going to be there… like Drake and them.”  For those who don’t know, Belly is a Canadian rapper/songwriter/producer who’s worked with The Weekend, Snoop Dogg, and Beyonce to name a few.  The procession of cars was not moving very quickly, and we ended up waiting idle for about 10 mins before finally reaching the front gate of the driveway to this mansion.

birthdaycake

There were about six event coordinators/security guards with walkie talkies at a checkpoint.  They were asking for an invitation placard before letting people in.  I turned to Miner and asked, “Do you have this placard they’re asking for?”

“No…” she admitted, looking slightly worried.  When we got to the checkpoint, the guard asked for the card and she said, “I’m with B-boy, a friend of his.”

The guard relayed this information into his walkie talkie. “People are showing up without the placard, saying they got an invitation via text message.”  At this point, the rain has picked up from a light drizzle to a steady shower, so the security guards/event staffers were getting drenched, and I was sitting there, window rolled down getting wet listening to their walkie talkie chatter.  I don’t know whether he got a proper response or not but eventually, he waved us onward.

I turned to Miner and asked, “So what’s with the Miner?  Is that really your name?”

“No” she laughed.  My real name is Mandy but for some reason it just became Miner in the app, and I was too lazy to figure out how to change it.  As a driver, I’ve heard this story a couple times.  A guy named Chris was renamed to “null” and a girl named Victoria had her username changed to “Acer”… probably a database error on Lyft’s side creating a zombie army of nulls, Acers, and Miners.

I queried, “Wait, are you famous, Miner?”

“No… not yet…”

“Well, when you do become famous, you need to be embrace the Miner and keep that name.”  She laughed and nodded in agreement.

We climbed up the steep driveway and around some circular turns before arriving at the second checkpoint.  This time a female event staffer stopped us.  “Where is your placard?”

“I don’t have one.  I’m a friend of B-boy…”

The staffer reported this information to the person on the other end of the walkie talkie and asked, “Is B-boy there?  If you’re next to him, ask him if he knows a Mandy…”  The staffer never received an appropriate answer, so we were stuck waiting there for a few minutes while the line built up behind us like a tea kettle of angry celebrities waiting to explode.  Eventually, someone yelled at the guard, and she was forced to allow us to proceed.

As we climbed further up the driveway, we reached a dead halt again, as the line of cars abruptly stopped in front of us.  At this point, I got a ping because Lyft had added a new passenger to my queue.  It had been 20 mins that we had been waiting, and we were nowhere near the top yet, so I gave this new passenger a call to relay the bad news.

“Hi, where are you?  Are you almost here?” the new passenger Carrie asked.

“Umm… I’ve got some bad news for you.  I’m stuck in this traffic jam at some party in who knows where, and I don’t know when I’m going to be able to start heading towards you.”

“Oh, cool!  We’re at the party… but we’re waiting outside in the rain by the area with the umbrellas.  I hope you get here soon,” said Carrie.

“It looks like there’s at least 10 cars ahead of us if those lights up there are even the top. I can’t tell…”

“Ugh!” she sighed, but hung up politely, asking us to hurry.  By the time we reached the top, the rain had escalated to a full on downpour.  We’re not even first in line when two Asian ladies ran up to the car, getting soaked.  “Are you Carrie?”  One nodded and scooted into the passenger seat next to me.  Her friend opened the rear door, to find Miner hesitating, unsure what to do because she didn’t have a placard, her friends weren’t here, and it was pouring outside.

“Get OUT!” says the other Asian lady, and Miner flees in a panic. Carrie and her friend looked like Playboy Playmates… if a Playmate can be short and Asian.

As we headed down the steep driveway from this mansion party, the exit route was almost as slow as the way in.  We’re regularly bottlenecked with the steady procession of cars heading up the hill, so we have to wait for them to pass before we can proceed.  Once we reach the first checkpoint on the way down, a portly security guard blocks our way and slowly starts waddling downhill ahead of us.

“You have got to be kidding me!” screamed Carrie and her friend.  Our car was cleared to go downhill, but we were moving at a snail’s pace because the guard in front of us was literally walking downhill in the middle of the road blocking our way.  While I was contemplating how many years I’d get for vehicular manslaughter, Carrie rolled down the window and was getting wet as she yelled at him “We’ll give you a ride!  Get in!” but her words fall on deaf ears.  He continued his slow descent down the hill, as Carrie’s mind slowly descended into madness alongside him.

Eventually, the guard stepped aside when he reached the second checkpoint, and our car really started moving. I asked, “Wait, if everybody is trying to get into this party, why are you leaving?”

“Oh, I’m so over this.  I see these guys everyday.  My friend I went to school with in Canada is friends with Drake and them so they’re always around.  Hey, there’s Tyga!” as she pointed to a limo with tinted windows rolling the opposite direction.  Finally, we reached the bottom of the hill and exited to the road with paparazzi.  I pointed out a trio of girls standing outside the gate, trying to talk the security guards into letting them in.

“Those girls are never getting in. Don’t they know you have to know somebody to get into this party?  You can’t just walk up to the front door like that… I got my two friends in, so my work here is done!” remarked Carrie triumphantly.

As I navigated the maze of winding mountain roads to their destination in downtown LA, I struck up a conversation with Carrie, who was surprisingly chatty and friendly after her ordeal in the torrential downpour and screaming episode at the waddling security guard.   She confessed she’s actually a homebody who doesn’t like to go out, which surprised me, though it probably shouldn’t.   I asked what the party was like in there, and they shared a story of someone rolling the biggest joint they’d ever seen.  That person was posed for pictures with it to post on social media.  Rumor is the party cost over $15,000 to throw, and the host didn’t live here, but was renting the mansion instead.

I learned they were on their way to a second party.  At this point, it’s past midnight. “Wait, you’re leaving THAT party to go to another party now?”

“Heh, yeah. We’re going to something a little more… low-key.”  We finally reached their destination without further incident.  Let me know if you see a picture of me and Miner in a tabloid this week!

 

At least I’m not getting shot…

Daniel was an armored truck driver who would pick up bags of cash from businesses.

I picked up Daniel, a confident young man in his mid-20’s who mentioned he was between jobs and enjoying life at the moment. Unlike others who felt the need to constantly look for work between gigs, he had saved up money from his last job in San Francisco, which he quit to move to LA.

What was he doing previously that was so lucrative?  Daniel was an armored truck driver who would pick up bags of cash from businesses. He said it was a fun gig that paid so well he didn’t have to work while he was applying for the LA Sheriff’s academy.

armoredtruck

“But isn’t that (the armored truck driver job) dangerous?”

“Yeah, while I was working there, another guard was shot while another had two guys come after him with an AK47 and an AR15.”

“Yikes!  Do you even wear a bulletproof vest?”

“We’re supposed to, but it only stops something like a .45. Anything bigger and you’re dead, ya know?  I’d rather be unencumbered if I’m going down…”

In Lyft driver’s groups on Facebook, I see fellow drivers complain about work conditions in this job, but I’m just thankful I don’t have a bullseye on my back and guys with AR15’s coming to kill me. Give me a drunk passenger at 2am any day!

Karaoke success story and the Wall of Death

If you ever see a young male in his early 20’s with a septum piercing screaming a Miley Cyrus song in karaoke in Orange County, it’s probably him.

I picked up Brian in Fullerton because his girlfriend was supposed to go to her friend’s house and drop him off on the way, but she got busy and stayed at home. He needed to go to his guitarist’s house for band practice, so she called a Lyft for him.

As we got to talking, I found out he’s the singer in a deathcore band that plays in Orange County.  He shared that the band discovered him when he was screaming a memorable rendition of Korn’s Freak On a Leash for karaoke at a local bar.  They approached him afterward and asked if he wanted to join their band.  If you ever see a young male in his early 20’s with a septum piercing screaming a Miley Cyrus song in karaoke in Orange County, it’s probably him. [Note: his real name is not Brian]

bandconcert

Brian talked a lot about different bands and venues that he listens to and plays in.  He described an event that happens regularly at shows he attends.  In the mosh pit, a Wall of Death is setup where people form two groups with a large empty space in between.  On cue, they run towards each other and collide, like a battle scene out of Braveheart.  He says one time he elected to opt out of this particular wall because there were a line of 300 pound dudes on the other side looking to take someone out, and they did… and it wasn’t him.

Another time, he said a skinhead picked up his friend, who is 6’4″, and piledrived him on his head.  While we were driving, a red jeep passed us, and he waved.

“That’s my girlfriend,” he explained.

“But I thought she couldn’t go to her friend’s place??”

“Hmm… yeah I thought so too…”