I know, I know. I’ve been quiet on my blog for awhile, but it’s largely because the thing I most wanted to write about needed more processing before I could put it into words. Here we are, almost a full year later, and I still am processing. I’m realizing that in putting it into words here, I may finally get over the hump so to speak. I’m going to just lay it out here and hope that then I will be able to finally put it to rest.
One year ago this week, I became a driver for Uber in Seattle. I have always enjoyed driving. Having spent a decade as an appraiser in the area, I know Seattle and surrounding areas well enough to not need a map or GPS. Best of all, I am a major off-the-beaten-track and tourist-attraction-geek around my favorite city, so it seemed like a really natural fit for me to shuttle visitors around when I needed income to supplement my art habit. I waited until the day our kids’ school started to start driving for Uber. I was excited that I could make my own schedule. I loved that I could work around art days and kid obligations. I believed I’d be readily available if anything came up. I was wrong.
Our now sixth-grader son has an off-the-charts food allergy. He’s a smart kid and he doesn’t take unnecessary risks, but it’s not HIS risks about which I worry. The nature of being a parent of a kid who could be ended because someone else didn’t wash their hands after eating a PB&J means that there’s always some part in the back of your brain that is awaiting a call from a nurse, doctor or other emergency contact telling you your worst fears are being realized. This was not in the forefront of my mind as I set out about my day as an Uber driver. Again, it’s always quietly gnawing at me as it has been for nine years now, but it wasn’t where my mind was engaged on that October morning.
On October 24, 2014, I was happy to get the beeping tone that meant I had a fare awaiting pick-up. He needed to get to SeaTac Airport which just so happened to be my favorite place to take people. It also happened to be in the next county over and a good 60+ minutes away from home in typical traffic. My passenger was in great spirits and fairly chatty about his experiences in the area. I was happy as a clam when he asked my opinion about what places he should check out when he came back next month for another work meeting. We had just crossed the county line when my phone rang. I don’t have a hands-free device and have always maintained a ‘don’t-answer-calls-when-driving’ policy, and there are no exceptions. I noted the call was from the school district emergency line, but let it go to voicemail knowing that if it were really important, my husband or non-related emergency contact would handle it.
Thirty seconds later, my husband called. Again, I don’t answer when driving AND I had a passenger on a fairly tight window to make his flight. Again I let voicemail answer it knowing that my non-related emergency contact could handle whatever it was. Of course, that fear in the back of my head started to gnaw at me.
Thirty seconds later, my phone rang again. It was my non-relative calling. My passenger looked a little uncomfortable and asked if I needed to answer.
“Nope. I’m sure everything is fine. We’re ten minutes until we reach the airport. You’re going to be on time”.
As my phone chimed that I had yet another voicemail, I could feel the sweat forming on my upper lip. I was overwhelmed with nausea and I had a very clear and disturbing image of my son having an anaphylactic reaction at school and there wasn’t a damn thing I could do about it.
I got my passenger to the airport and unloaded his bag. He shook my hand and said “I hope everything is o.k. and next time I’m in town, I hope you’ll drive for me again!” Then he grabbed his bag and headed into the airport. I got back into my car and drove to an area where no one was loading/unloading. As I dialed my voicemail, I began sobbing and shaking uncontrollably.
We live in Everett, WA. North of us is Marysville, WA. The school emergency line, my husband and my friend/non-relative-emergency-contact were all calling to notify me of the school shooting that happened in the freshman class at Marysville-Pilchuck which claimed the lives of five freshmen and to inform us that our children in OUR district were never in any danger from this student-shooter in the neighboring city.
[Breathe, Kristol. Breathe]
I sat there in front of the airport sobbing and shaking for a full ten minutes before I could see and think clearly enough to drive home. I never took another Uber fare again.
At my son’s request, I got an emergency substitute teaching credential and became a substitute at our neighborhood elementary school. I don’t love the work; certainly not nearly like I loved being a driver for Uber. It keeps me tethered close to home like a dog on a short leash, but I know it keeps me where I need to be for now. At least I have kids for whom I CAN stay close to home. I know the parents who lost those five kids that day would give anything to trade places with me; so for that, gratitude beyond measure.