Taken for a Ride

As my 75th birthday present, my sister-in-law gifted me airfare to join her in New York City. Her instructions, sent by email, were to take an Uber to the downtown hotel. I had heard often of Uber but had never used it. When I emerged from the JFK terminal, a man came up to me and asked if I wanted Uber. I said yes. He took my suitcase and led me to a large black SUV parked at the taxi curb.

I was congratulating myself on how easy it had been to navigate the unknown Uber, and what a nice vehicle he had. I asked how much the ride to the hotel would cost. He said it was the “usual Uber cost, set by the company.” As we drove into the City I asked my driver about himself. He said his name was Ali and he was from Pakistan. I had never been there and one of the few things I knew about Pakistan was that it was the Muslim half of the original country of India, a place I had visited. (Pakistan had been created in 1947 as part of Britain’s old Indian Empire so Muslims would have their own homeland and the Hindus and other religions would have India.)

I asked how Ali got into Uber and he said he rented the SUV for $500 a day from “the agency,” whatever that was. I asked how he liked living in the U.S. He said he liked it very much and his whole family was here.

When the City of New York came in view, I looked for the new World Trade Center on the skyline. The last time I had visited New York, there had been only a smoldering hole. He pointed out the new building to me. Then he said, “What do you think about the World Trade Center?”

“What do you mean? The new building?”

“No, I mean what happened that they blamed on the Muslims.”

“What? I don’t understand.”

“Don’t you think it was all an American conspiracy?”

“The disaster? I don’t follow your question.”

“Don’t you think it was an American conspiracy orchestrated by the Bush people? They just blamed the Muslims because they were on the airplanes.”

“But Osama Bin Laden took responsibility. What about the phone calls from the third plane that described the Arab men talking about Allah?”

Ali went silent and we rode the rest of the way to the hotel that way. At the hotel, he said he was stopping before we got to the main door and wanted me to pay. He punched numbers into his phone then told me it would be $165 plus tip. And he preferred cash.

I was stunned. I had brought only $300 in cash with me and asked why it cost so much. He said that was the usual rate for Uber and he would send me a receipt electronically. I gave him my email and paid him $165 with no tip. And I never got a receipt either, by the way

No wonder Ali likes living in America. Here, he has found enough trusting travelers to provide him a livelihood 100 times better than he would have in Pakistan.

Some days later, I returned to JFK for my flight home in a hotel transfer mini-bus. The cost was $20.

So,maybe Ali was right. There might have been a conspiracy after all, only against unwitting tourists.

3 thoughts on “Taken for a Ride

  1. Larry Haggard
    December 30, 2018 at 4:49 pm

    Ms. Short I am a cousin of the late Joan P. Short. My grandmother Velma Bell Heidelberg and Joan’s mother, Joy, were sisters. I live in Midland, Tx and am trying to get some information about the beautiful wedding picture of her and George Short that I found in a box of family photos. I believe it was taken in 1964 but I do not know where. North Hollywood, Los Angeles, Beverly Hills??? Would you be able to help me? I am currently working on a family photo project and would like to write the information on the back of this wedding picture. Thanks, Larry Haggard 3508 Trinity Meadows Dr. Midland, Tx 79707 432-697-6530 (Home telephone).

  2. Dianne West Short
    October 29, 2020 at 7:31 pm

    My website does not let me know when I get a message. So, that is to say I just read your message about Joan Short. I knew Joan fairly well over the years. She was married to my husband’s uncle. George was an extraordinary man, generous, funny, brave and very human. When the building industry crashed in the late 1970s, my father in law (George’s younger brother Billy) had to take bankruptcy as he was building FHA housing. George saved Billy by offering him a job working for his company. George owned a business in Los Angeles called Western Treat. They were the wholesale end of a chain of restaurants called Der Weinersnitzel. He made the hotdogs and serviced all the stores. (as an aside, he told us to only eat turkey hotdogs – words to the wise) So, Billy moved from Dallas, Texas to Laguna Beach, California. His wife Katy, left in Dallas to clean up the bankruptcy mess was torn whether to move to California with Billy or to stay where her parents and children were. We rode together to pick up my oldest son at summer camp in Missouri. During the ride, she debated back and forth, finally deciding to be brave and move. She did and became a terrific travel agent in Laguna Beach. Of course, that job eventually disappeared with the advent of the internet. So, long story short (no pun), after my father in law died and Katy, his wife, moved to Portland, Oregon, we didn’t see George and Joan at all.
    I never met George’s daughter, but after I found George’s autobiography, hand-typed in all caps, I put it in a book, along with any old photos and sent a copy to Susan. George’s son had been killed while changing a tire on the side of the road many years earlier. Joan took Katy’s lead and opened a travel agency, but catered primarily to golfers, a sport she and George shared a love for.
    I wish I had been closer to them but the distance was hard. Joan had a love for people. The last time I talked with her, not long before she died, she had received a copy from me of George’s book and that’s what we discussed.
    If I can help you with any information at all, please let me know. 214.728.9860. I live in Dallas.
    -Dianne West Short

  3. Dianne West Short
    October 29, 2020 at 7:32 pm

    Larry, p.s. I would love to see the photo of Joan that you have.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *