I never talk to people while taking Uber or Lyft. Part of me has never felt the need to engage with people that I think I will never see again. But more and more as I listen to my heart, I realized that my desire not to engage with them stemmed from fear.
We are so afraid of connection because we think that people will hurt us. But in the process of disconnecting, we only hurt ourselves. After all, we are the ones who have to inhabit our bodies and minds for the entire time that we are alive, and disconnection leaves me without hope for what’s up ahead.
I was physically tired and still in the tail end of my flow state when I got into the Lyft. I had spent the earlier part of Saturday morning at jiu jitsu, where I told everyone that I had entered into a tournament as an invitation for us to both go at competition speeds. I went through my Creative Genius framework in a reaction video for my career coach, which meant a vulnerable and frank look at what I was good at. Again, our greatest fear––not that we are weak, but that we are powerful beyond measure. Then I got on a train and composed a haiku in my head as I headed towards Walter Reed to meet a stranger that I had only spoke to over the phone for a volunteer event.
Walter Reed is a hospital campus but it is also a military base. The person who I was talking to works part-time for a non-profit that helps put on events for wounded warriors at the hospital. For some reason she discovered that there were not a ton of pictures from these events which put them in a difficult position when it came to fundraising, marketing, and reporting generally. I thought it was amusing that our first few conversations were all fear-based (as that was somehow the next easiest thing to talk about besides the weather), including as we pulled up to the military base in her car.
She interrupts my story of how I made friends with someone on the internet and then went to photograph them for free at a tournament by telling me to get my ID ready.
“They usually give us a hard time. Hopefully you are on the list and then we can get through. I’ve had a lot of difficulty at these events before.”
The next two cars go through.
We pull up to the gate. A man with fatigues (how is he not cold?) says hello. Reaches in, grabs her ID. I take my passport card out and start leaning towards his general direction from the passenger seat.
He hands her back her ID. Waves us through.
I smile when I think back on this event because it’s funny how we both made up a storyline in our heads that the check-in process was going to be difficult. It was a little weird too, and I love it, because had imagined everything to be going well already in my head and so it surprised me a little, but not too much, that we breezed through security.
I like to think of myself as people’s good luck charm.
The event was quiet. I felt a twinge of sadness move through me when I thought about people sitting at tables on a Saturday night watching UFC, but I always ask myself to question my own perceptions. What I want on a Saturday night is a hot mug of tea and my husband and my cats. These people wanted UFC and pizza. And so in my photography I tried not to be distant to them, but to say hello, to smile, to have a little moment of connection even if it was unfamiliar, so that my photography was not cold or distant, but up-close and personal. I even got some smiles back.
At this point it was past 10 PM and the last thing I had eaten had already dissipated in my stomach so I was reaching a state where I was almost delirious. And so in a 30 minute Lyft ride with that driver we talked about how he overcame his addiction to going out and drinking with his friends on weekends; his fear of loud noises as a teenager and how the Army helped him overcome that; why you seem to spend more money to hold onto something than to let it go; my haiku; the value of work to him; overcoming my fear of driving by learning not in a city but in the countryside; the importance of practice; and the symbolism of The Little Prince.
In the end he asked me for my name.
There was one other time someone asked me for my name, and that was at a bus stop at a frigid morning in Virginia. She asked me if the bus was coming at a time when it was obvious that the bus wasn’t going to come. It was also obvious that she was late for an appointment at someone’s house (she showed me a book of addresses). I pulled out my phone and instantly regretted it because the wind was so cold, and called her an Uber.
I refused the $20. She asked me for my name.
Shady Grove metro
A Common destination
But different stops