The single most surprising takeaway that continues to return to me from driving rideshare in St Louis for about 24 months is that people, in general, are much more decent and have more common sense than we may perceive ourselves as a national community to have. I was not particularly hopeful that I would be at ease to be cordial with my riders because the readily accessible reflectors of our public in general, including television programming, online social media, news programs, art forms like popular music, reveal us in serious measure, in my opinion, to be somewhat shallow, certainly self centered, and interested to spend our precious free time engaged in trivial material and social practices, as well as activities that yield immediate short-term gratification, tremendously lacking in meaning.
I was amazed to find that in general, most of my riders were friendly, thoughtful, empathetic, and most surprising, responsive to genuine respectful interaction. They were interested not just in talking about themselves, but also in chatting with me. They would ask me what else I was doing, how was my day, and very often inquire did I feel safe?
Most of my conversations with riders lasted probably ten or fifteen minutes, which is long enough to have been encouraging in some way. But there were a number of times I had half hour trips within the city with people I would never otherwise meet, who revealed themselves to be fascinating human beings possessing a depth of character and compassion for others as well as inquisitive minds who were not just curious about local goings on, but cared very much about their communities, and were interested and quietly hopeful for the recovery and the rise of their city into the healthy middle class community it once had been. Yes, I said the city of St. Louis once had a healthy working middle class community, and according to my riders that less than twenty five years ago.
For the encouragement of those people and the people of the city of St. Louis, in gratitude for what they shared with me that changed my mind about who also could be present within a community so fraught with challenges, here are the stories of our trips, some of them frank, some joyful, none of them exaggerated.