Ghana to Silver Spring
As I was waiting outside for an Uber Pool, the driver cancelled on me. I was frustrated about that until I got into the car with Charles (not real name) and we had an enjoyable conversation on the way back home.
Bryan: Hi Charles – would I say your name the French or the English way?
Charles: The English way. I’m from Ghana.
Bryan: We used to have a nice restaurant in Adams Morgan called Ghana Cafe. Then it moved to 14th street. Unfortunately, it went out of business. They had really good food and sometimes palm wine.
Charles: You’ve had palm wine?!
Bryan: I really like palm wine. The owner would pour it into half a coconut for us. He also had this drink called Akpeteshi. He said it was also called “Kill me Quick”
Charles: Akepteshi is strong! Like fire! Back home, we used to clean things with it. The only Ghanaian restaurant left in Washington DC is Bukom Café. Washington DC is too expensive now so you’ll find most of them in Maryland.
Bryan: How long have you been living in the Washington DC area?
Charles: About 12 years. I’ve been living in Silver Spring the whole time.
Bryan: Do you have family here?
Charles: My wife and I have a six-year-old. But it is expensive to live here. She and I both work full time and it costs a lot of money for child care. So we sent my son back to live with his grandmother in Ghana. We see him every year though.
Bryan: That must be tough for him to be away from you and his mother?
Charles: He loves his grandmother and being in Ghana. We see him every year. Now my wife and I need to focus on making money. I can drive a lot and save up.
Bryan: I think it must be hard on you and your wife to be living so far away from him?
Charles: Now is the time for my wife and I to work. Here there are opportunities if you are willing to work hard. Where I come from it is all about who you know. If you are Ghanaian, people don’t care about your expertise – just your connections. It’s a great place for foreigners, though.
Bryan: You’ve been driving a long time then?
Charles: Well over a year with both Uber and Lyft. You see and hear a lot of things. People tell you their life stories and they make you laugh. Sometimes they fight.
Bryan: What do they fight about?
Charles: I picked up two girls going to brunch and they were laughing and having a good time. Then one of them mentioned she was fooling around with a particular guy. Then the other girl stopped laughing and I could tell something was wrong. Turns out the other girl was fooling around with the same guy. They got into a heated argument with a lot of yelling. One girl got out, slammed my car door, and walked away.
Bryan: It isn’t easy to focus on driving when something like that is happening in the back seat!
Charles: Let me tell you the most awkward thing I ever had to deal with as a driver:
This old man who had to be about seventy years old got in the passenger’s seat and took out his phone. I thought he was going to show me a picture of his grand-children or something but instead he shows me a video of him having sex with a much younger woman. I told him repeatedly that I didn’t want to see it but he kept putting it in my line of vision and saying things like “See, I still got it, right?”, “Check out my technique” and things like that. It was a real long ride. Felt like the longest.
Bryan: So do you have these weird experiences more with Uber or with Lyft?
Charles: For sure my weirdest experiences are with Uber. But I can get one Uber after another and it isn’t always like that with Lyft. Even taxi drivers use Uber now for when they aren’t getting enough passengers. Uber doesn’t have enough drivers to meet the demand – especially now with the Metro not working well.
Bryan: That’s why I started with ridesharing. Uber Pool is less expensive for me than the Metro is and I enjoy talking to people.
Charles: Hey, you know what I want to do someday – I want go to Australia. I have Australian passengers sometimes and they are all fun. Australia would be different than anything I have ever experienced before. Yeah, I’d like to do that before I die.
Bryan: I hope you make it to Australia too! That’s my stop over there.