When you identify your Lyft driver as potentially having bipolar disorder

By | February 15, 2019

I remember September 27, 2018 like it was yesterday. When Ashley* picked me up from my apartment Thursday morning, I thought it would be like the 138 past Lyft rides I’ve taken since 2017. I was wrong.

After I waived to Ashley from the curb, I got settled into the right back seat. The doors locked, and she asked me the usual question.

“You from Houston?”

“Yes, I’m a local.”

“That’s great! I’m from Louisiana.”

“You must love the food over there.”

“You know my food? I own the licensing of a few restaurants in the French Corner.”

At this point, I didn’t think much of that last sentence because she smiled and laughed as she said it. We were just having a fun conversation. I was wrong.

“You know, I tried some famous cases in Louisiana, if you look my name up on Google you’ll see I represented some famous people.”

At this point, I thought she might have a form of bipolar disorder based on how pressured her speech was, how her statements did not make logical sense, and from looking at her outward appearance, it seemed that Ashley hasn’t slept for several days. We were about two minutes into the ride, and I decided not to say many words for the rest of the trip, but to play along. I feared that if I didn’t, she would immediately pick up on my building discomfort and either A) cause us to get into a major car accident on the highway or B) become belligerent and I would suffer as the passenger.

“Really? Which people have you represented?”

“Oh you know, James Harden, Richard Nixon, Michael Jackson, Oprah, Weird Al, even Obama, and his wife, Michelle!”

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“That’s awesome. They must have been very grateful.”

“Oh, I know they were! I even starred in rap videos, and I make rap songs for artists. You like rap?”

“I listen to whatever is on the radio.”

“No Lil’ Wayne? Jay-Z? T.I.? T-Pain?”

“I know of them, but don’t really listen to their music.”

“Oh, you gotta listen to them hunny! They’re the classics, give me a sec.”

As she disengaged her eyes from the road ahead to turn on the radio, a white Ford truck loudly honked at us. Ashley had swerved the car for a split second out of the lane and nearly got us into an accident.

I was praying hard, praying to God that we would make it to my destination. I have never in my life feared for my life until now.

“So I see you’re going to the University of Houston Law Center, you gonna be a big shot lawyer one day?”

“We’ll see, school’s going great and studying law has been a fun experience.”

“Let me give you my number after we arrive. I can hook you up with my clients for when you graduate and start practicing as a lawyer hunny.”

“Sure I would appreciate that, thank you.”

After 14 minutes and 35 seconds, we arrived at the school’s main entrance.

“Thank you for the ride, Ashley.”

“No thank you T.J.! Before you leave, do you have Facebook? We should connect and help each other.”

“I don’t have social media.”

“What about your cell phone number that I asked for earlier?”

In her seat, Ashley turned her body 360 degrees towards me and looked directly into my eyes.

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“My cell is 281-___-____,” I said.

As I was saying each digit of the fake number, Ashley pulled out her cell phone. And then she tried calling the number.

“You’re not picking up? I don’t see or hear your phone ringing.”

“I noticed that my phone was low on battery, so I turned it off a few minutes ago.”

Ashley continued to look at me, now with a skeptic look. I now thought of an alternative way to escape her car; breaking the passenger window using the window breaker on my keys. I still didn’t hear the doors unlock, and as my left hand anxiously and slowly inched towards my pants pocket, Ashley responded.

“Sure thing hunny. Well, I’ll let you go now. Don’t want you late for your class. Don’t forget your bag on your way out. When you turn your phone back on and charge it give me a text or call back would love to hear from you and connect.”

“Sure, have a great day Ashley and thanks again for the ride.”

As I exited her car and saw that she drove away a safe distance, I immediately turned on my phone. Within a minute, I submitted an incident report to Lyft.

Did I feel bad about sending the report? Yes, I did. I knew deep down that Ashley was a Lyft driver as her sole source of income. However, I knew that if I was not the one who sent the report, the outcome for a future passenger might be injurious.

What if I did not know the signs of bipolar disorder? What if Ashley picked up someone else that morning and not me? The individual would have responded differently. “I demand you to stop this car and to let me go right now!” Reacting in a hostile manner is not the appropriate way to act, regardless if you suspect something is wrong. You always have to think before you act.

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The reason I am sharing this story is that every person we come across in our lives is different. As human beings, we must always be mindful of this difference, and in-kind show continued respect for one another. Even when we staunchly disagree with the other person’s physical actions or verbal sayings. Even when every fiber in our bodies pushes us to react right away to emotional triggers without due care. The world would be a better place if we always treated people the way we want to be treated.

“Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.”
― Desmond Tutu

* All identifying information has altered to protect confidentiality.

Ton La, Jr. is a medical student and student editor, The New Physician.

Image credit: Shutterstock.com