I Hit a Dog (or a Deer) Driving for Lyft
The incident and aftermath of a very messy Lyft ride
By Rob Cockerham |
This is a horror story that really happened. Don’t read it.
I’m back to driving for Lyft.I was, like most drivers, reticent to host passengers inside my car during the Coronavirus pandemic. While passengers were at risk sharing a car with me, I would potentially be exposed to 20 people in the course of one day. That scenario changed once I had my first dose of vaccine. With the first shot, studies have shown 92% efficacy in protecting against COVID-19, starting 14 days after the first dose. (World Health Organization) I had also heard that there was a driver shortage, with lots of rides being requested, but not enough drivers to help everyone. So, in the interest of helping people, I went back on the road.
Saturday nights have been busy. There is a never-ending waitlist of rides waiting for as long as you are available. Customers have been gushingly thanking me but grumbling of sixty minute wait times. Crazy.
Here’s my wildest ride for April: I picked up a couple from a parking lot. The gal had her black hair in a bob and I think the man’s name was Nico. He was wearing a gold teeth grill and looked serious. They had requested a 10 mile ride back to their hotel in historic Folsom.
The trip was easy, along Greenback. They were quiet and it sounded as though the woman had passed out. As we approached Folsom the streets were very dark.
I’m sure my mind was wandering. Then things got interesting.
I was surprised by a lump in the road which I ran right over, centered between my two front tires. There was a wet crack followed by the sounds of sliding and rubbing that sounded like something dragging or a wheel rubbing in the wheel well. We were still about a mile from the hotel, so I needed to check the damage before we continued. I pulled into the deserted Shell station at Greenback and Folsom Blvd.It was midnight.
I got out and on my hands and knees inspected the car. The tires and rims looked fine and the front bumper was unmolested, but there was a dead animal stuck under the … uh, dead center of the car. This was horrifying, and my first instinct was to solicit ideas and consolation from my passengers. The woman was motionless and the guy was quiet and patient. I didn’t explain what was happening.
Yes, It was definitely dead. It was furry and bloody, the size of a large dog or a small deer.
The last thing I wanted to do was to reach in between the tires and try pulling on a leg. I needed to jack up one side of the car or do something to get some clearance between the car bottom and the road.
A quicker man would have asked the passengers to get out to reduce the weight in the backseat and relieve the car’s suspension, but I hadn’t thought of that. Instead my tactic was to guide the two wheels on the right side onto a raised curb, to open more space under the car, between the wheels.
The first curb didn’t seem to be high enough, as the corpse was not dropping off, so I drove in front of the Speedee Lube to drive on their higher curbs. I was leaving a two-foot wide red smear wherever I went.
I felt stuck with these passengers. I didn’t know what I was going to do and I didn’t want to have to deal with them at all. We were so close to their destination, but not close enough for me to abandon them there at midnight.
With two rounds of backing up and rolling forward on two wheels, the dead mass seemed to come dislodged and I was able to roll away. The scraping was gone. I circled the parking lot and headed south towards the hotel, glancing back to see what the body looked like. It was a large dark lump, like one of those bags of mulch they stack up on a pallet at Home Depot.
I drove away. Nico asked “Was it a traffic cone?”
I feel like a real asshole for leaving a dead animal in the middle of the Speedee oil change parking lot, complete with a 20 yard horrorshow snail trail. I feel like an asshole for not checking the tags and breaking the news to the owners. I did not do the right thing. My best excuse is that I had two paying customers I had to take care of.
I drove two more minutes to the hotel and dropped off Nico and his girlfriend. She made a clumsy exit, slumping back into the car and he steadied her up and out.
I got another ride request. I drove out of Folsom and headed west to Sacramento. The car smelled like blood.
An hour later I stopped at a gas station and wiped animal hair from the rear bumper.
At 8:30 Sunday morning I got a voicemail from Nico. His girlfriend had left her purse in the backseat of my car and could I check to see if it was there? I had driven seven or eight passengers after Nico, so I knew there wasn’t a purse back there. But I checked the car and was shocked to find a phone! Somehow I knew this was the woman’s phone.
The screen was dark, so I plugged it in to see if I could log on or even figure out what kind of phone it was. It accepted the USB C plug, so I assumed it was a Samsung. It didn’t spring to life.
I arranged to return the phone. My experience with returning phones is this: It is very satisfying. People are extremely grateful for getting their phone back. Also, no one tips. It puts a kink in your day, it can take an hour and no one tips. Someday someone is going to tip, and I’m definitely going to keep returning phones.
An hour later I was back at the hotel, texted Nico and he came out to collect the phone. I sat in my car.
I handed over the phone. “No purse?” He asked again.
“No, sorry. Just the phone.”
Because I was so close to where I hit the animal, I returned to the scene of the crime. It was 10am.
At the gas station, a lone worker had a lane blocked off and was mopping up the red tide.
Speedee Lube was open and a deer was laying in their parking lot. It was a mess.
At 12:30 I got a phone call from Nico’s girlfriend. She told me that her purse had a tracker in it, and that she could tell that it was still in my car and that I needed to bring it back to the hotel immediately. She said her phone was broken, the screen didn’t work and that she needed her purse because her keys were inside. I told her I would be glad to return to the hotel.
She asked who else had been in the car after her.
I told her the next passenger was a guy named Gustavo or Giancarlo or something and that I didn't notice him reacting to something in the car. I went on to describe his attitude, that he had been nodding off on his 5 minute ride home. I had a theory that he wasn't in the middle of a heist because if he had been, he would have been bubbling with adrenalin and unlikely to nod off.She had hung up.
I wanted to continue. I wanted to ask her if she could remember when we hit the deer, pulled over and spent 10 minutes trying to get it dislodged from under the car, and if that didn’t ring a bell, maybe she wasn’t in shape to remember where she left her purse.
About two weeks later, the timing belt in my car broke and I had it towed to a mechanic. I warned the mechanic about the mess under the car. He later reported that it "looked like a bomb had gone off" and had powerwashed the underside of the car.