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Are You Ready to Take a Ride With Me?

For the past three months, I have driven you to destinations spanning the far corners of Central New York and, along the way, I have enjoyed a personal journey of enlightenment and discovery. “Dr. Griff’s UbServations” is my way of collecting and sharing some of your stories and thoughts as passengers in our collective Uber journey. It’s my blog-stream of consciousness in short-themed vignettes!

Are you ready to take a ride with me? Hop into my black Lincoln MKZ (literally and figuratively) and, together, we will share this fanciful journey to destinations’ unknown!

Funny Blog, Syracuse Commentary, Ubservations

PIH Ubservation # 1: Drunks Are the Best Tippers!

Have you ever been the one person in your group that stays sober for whatever Godless reason while all your friends are getting bombed? Well, now I’m that guy every night I drive – but with complete strangers doing all the heavy lifti…drinking and providing brief, but memorable moments (at least for me…) in the back seat of my Lincoln!

Since I’ve started Uber driving, I’ve made the leap from being a weekend wino and “Johnny cocktails” to shuttling home throngs of weekend winos and “Johnny (and Janey) cocktails.” I drive primarily during the PIH (Primetime Inebriation Hours) of 9 – 2 in morning or later, so, yes, THESE ARE MY PEOPLE! Like the gift that keeps on giving, these safe rides home to the countless booze hounds participating in America’s favorite pastime has provided a bottomless wine barrel of thoughts and insights for me to share with you! Today’s saucy revelation: Drunks are the Best Tippers!

Case in point #1: “Drunky McJuicebrains.”

A couple of months ago around closing time, I head over to the Gathering Lounge in Liverpool, a quaint, local dive, to pick up “Mike.” I navigate my way through a gaggle of happy-go-lucky cocktailers in the parking lot – swaying, bobbing and weaving in a strangely hypnotic rhythm, immersed in mini-clouds of their own cigarette smoke, loudly talking over each other (probably solving all the problems of the universe) – and park in front of the entrance, chaotically strewn with strings of discolored Christmas lights.

“Mike” emerges from the bar with a man, who I will call “Drunky McJuicebrains” draped over his shoulder. He clumsily opens my passenger side door (trying not to drop “Drunky” onto the pavement) and pours him into my back seat saying to me, “I don’t know this guy, but he lives right down the street so do you think you can get him home? I’ll tip you..” “Drunky” grunts some nonsense as if trying to reassure me that he’s ok. Although I’m worried that this could turn into my first rider “incident” (if you get my drift), I admire that “Mike” was kind enough to call an Uber for the dude. The ride is short: 3 minutes to the apartments on the same road. “McJuicebrains,” – a middle-aged, slender white guy with disheveled thin brown hair and a pot belly; wearing a too short, faded brown leather jacket; wrinkled, white button-down shirt and khakis – attempts conversation from his fetal position in my back seat. It sounds like some combination of hillbilly Cajun (think Farmer Fran from The Waterboy) and alley cats in heat. “Looks like you had a good time tonight,” I repeat the entire ride, “Let’s get you home safe.”

I pull up to his apartment complex, park, and jump out to help him out the car. I grab his hands to get him upright in the car, angle my shoulder under his right arm, and lift him as gently as I can to his feet. “Drunky” grips my shoulder to steady himself. Like a human weeble-wobble cemented at the ankles, he lifts a finger to (I think) signal me to wait. He reaches into both pockets presumably to find his keys (oy vay…), and starts fumbling around, relieving his stash to the ground. First, a couple of receipts, then a packet of gum, some change…his phone, several crumpled up bills, and finally, a Budweiser key chain with keys! I’m literally in a Yoga Warrior One position anchoring him with my one hand while scooping up his belongings now littered around his feet with the other! I’m sticking shit back in his jacket pockets, and as I straighten out his crumpled currency to neatly place that back in his shirt pocket, “McJuicebrains” has a moment of semi-clarity. “Givemathat” he says (the first semi-coherent words he has uttered…) I hand him the bills and he holds them at arms-length, both hands grasping and flipping through the $22 in front of him, staring intently, like an expert marksman lining up his target…then he hands it all to me… “Than que…5-stars!” he blurts out.

“Drunky McJuicebrains” can’t walk…

 He can’t talk…

He can’t see or stand straight…

BUT… somewhere deep inside “Drunky’s” alcohol-embalmed carcass, the carnal instinct to TIP, reigned supreme!!!

As the son of uber-social Irish Catholic parents, this act of drunken kindness does not surprise me. My father, “Big John,” was the quintessential bar room benefactor. With his big barreling laugh and a twinkle in his eye, he would regularly sprinkle the bar with those golden “beer or cocktail” chips for his buddies…and they would reciprocate in kind! His “go-to” defense after he came home pickled on a Saturday evening after supposedly only going out for lunch with the boys was, “I wass jus going fer one, but then Jack or Pete or Don or Howard or Garbo or Danny or (insert names here) bought a round, then Jack or Pete (repeat) bought a round…I dinda wanna to be rude!” Yes, my mother was a Saint!

I think this drunk tipping phenomenon has been best explained by immortal cartoon philosopher Homer Simpson when he quipped, “Here’s to alcohol! The cause and solution to all of life’s problems!” Or, perhaps more to the point, “Drinking makes everything better!”

Case-in-Point #2 -#5

““F@*&ked up Fred” gave me $20 for a 6-minute ride from Haefner’s to his home. He was elated that two-half his age-hostesses invited him to the bar’s open Christmas party…I didn’t have the nerve to tell Fred that it was an open party and that I was 99.9% sure didn’t have a shot! Even at those odds, “F@*&cked up Fred” would not be denied the opportunity to bask in glow of the all-common alcohol-induced delusion provided by the loveable, Lloyd from Dumb and Dumber, “So you’re saying there’s a chance!”

“Slurry Susan” tipped me ten bucks on a ten-minute ride home from the Clinton Street Pub. She literally apologized to me so many times for being drunk (she must be Irish Catholic!) that I started to wonder if her brain was frozen on this single phrase from whatever icy cocktails she was consuming!

“BSD (Big Swinging Drunk) “Bakari” threw me a twenty from his gold money-clipped stash for a 7-minute drive from a buddy’s house. Man, I know “Biggie Smalls” is gone, but somehow, Notorious BIG ended up reincarnating in this dude! We were “big pimpin” in my linkin’ the whole ride home (yeah, yeah I know Big Pimpin is Jay-Z song so keep your pants on). As you would expect, he topped off his help with a show of dough!

And then there are the payload of guys like “Labeled Louie,” “Game-cocked Kyle (wearing his South Carolina Gamecocks garb)”, “Shot for shot Stewie,” and “Thank you sir may I have another Anton (SU frat guy).” Their generous tips were, both, pre-destined and exponentially enhanced by the only generosity factor more powerful than drinking: sex! They all had equally inebriated women on their arms!

So, what might you take away from this rambling Ubservation?

Have a couple two, tree cocktails before you hop in my car! Let the power of the generosity juice flow, and the love for your Uber driver grow!

Let’s take this one out with the words of wisdom from one of my favorite, awful movies of all time Cocktail.


MOVIE: “COCKTAIL” 1988

I am the last barman poet / I see America drinking the fabulous cocktails I make / Americans getting stinky on something I stir or shake / The sex on the beach / The schnapps made from peach / The velvet hammer / The Alabama slammer. / I make things with juice and froth / The pink squirrel / The 3-toed sloth. / I make drinks so sweet and snazzy / The iced tea / The kamikaze / The orgasm / The death spasm / The Singapore sling / The ding-a-ling. / America you’ve just been devoted to every flavor I got / But if you want to get loaded / Why don’t you just order a shot? / Bar {and my Uber car} is open!

P.S. I have written 90% of this Ubservation three sheets to the wind after celebrating my high holy day, St. Patrick’s Day, all afternoon…Drinking really does make everything better!

Please follow and share my site, www.ubservations.blog with everyone as this ride has room for as many who wish to journey with me! Look for upcoming posts including “Like Fight Club,” “Strippers, Playas, and Women of the Night,” “Uber Smack Talk #1″and “South Side Shuffle.”

All names in this blog have been changed to protect passengers’ privacy

Funny Blog, Syracuse Commentary, Ubservations

Shotgun & a Cherry Coke

If you know me, you know that I am an optimistic person to a fault…I’m the guy who sees the silver lining in everything…the guy who lets things play out as they will. You will hear me saying, “everything happens for a reason” and “Life’s too short to get caught up in stuff you can’t control.” So, as you can deduce, I probably haven’t given enough thought to my own safety driving Uber…until this one ride…

One crisp, sunny, winter afternoon a few weeks ago I picked up “Kiera,” from her place of work in Liverpool. Dressed in a smart, tan pantsuit (Are they still called pantsuits?!) and white blouse, “Kiera,” an attractive African American woman, entered my Lincoln. I greeted her heartily, but I could tell right away she was clearly agitated. I glanced back to see her texting intensely . She was interrupted by a call. “I’m coming right now,” she said. I glanced at my app to realize this was a two-stop ride. “I’m sorry…I was busy…I’ll be there in a minute…  “I’M COMING!” she shrieked in a half-whisper.

As I pulled up to Dick’s Sporting Goods at Destiny Mall, I noticed three cop cars with their lights on parked outside the entrance. A minute later, a young man, kind of resembling the late Tupac Shakur (if Tupac didn’t work out or eat much); dressed in chinos and an untucked, striped button-down under his drab green army jacket emerged carrying his purchase…Being the master of the obvious that I am, I immediately recognized the end-to-end double-bagged, 4-foot object to be a shotgun.

My first thought: it’s not an issue…the young man bought the gun in Dick’s. There must be background checks, an identification process, a psychoanalytic profile, right?! Damn, I’ve been meaning to brush up on NYS gun purchasing laws…well, at least I knew it wasn’t loaded.

I swipe right on the Uber app to reveal my destination…Southwest end of Syracuse near South Ave and Colvin St…about a 18-minute drive into the city. Not the most reputable section of our beautiful city…

“Alshon” hops in, bagged shotgun in hand. He issues a slight nod and grumbles, “hey” and sits silently as we weave our way out of the mall parking lot. Before we turn onto 81, he erupts, “Where the #%*#% were you! I called juue 10x…I coulda gotta a Uber 20 minutes ago…you know I couldn’t take the bus…whas wrong wit you Kiera.” She tries to defend, “I was working and didn’t have my phone…I texted you…I got the Uber…I’m here…” Why don’t you understand,” he bellows, “You didn’t answer, you knew I was gettin this, you knew, you knew, I coulda got a ride, you don’t get it, this is bulls#*%$&!” She tries to deflate, “I’m sorry Alshon, I’m sorry, I was at work, I got the Uber…” This is escalating quickly…

FLASH TO DR. GRIFF THINKING MODE…

Holy crap…what do I do here? There’s an agitated man with a shotgun screaming at his girlfriend in my backseat…That escalated quickly…hehe…love that fight scene in Anchorman…wait, stop, think…. Should I say something? Ugh, Griff, you always say things at inappropriate times…just stay calm, stay quiet and drive….

Anywhoo, for the next ten minutes that seems like an hour, “Alshon” continues to rant on about a whole range of things including 1. Getting the gun for a cousin 2. Something about probation or an upcoming court date 3. Yelling at Kiesha for not supporting him more…(gulp)!

“Kiesha” continues, ineffectively, trying to deflate the situation by doing the old “I’m sorry but…” routine. A little advice for both men and women in arguments…Either defend or defer your position, but don’t try to do both!

I’m just trying not to make a wrong turn that would extend this ride…

On Onondaga Blvd., we pass a gaggle of cops surrounding a meth head on the side of the street who is ranting and raving, hands in the air like he’s giving the Sermon on the Mount. Ashlon, addresses me for the first time, “That’s Eric, he’s one crazy meth addict…” I’m thinking I would trade places with Eric right now…

Then, something snaps in Ashlon…He says to me, “hey I’m sorry man. Do you have any of those Uber waters?” Although I’ve not yet graduated to the super-Uber-elite-drivers who regularly carry goodies for their passengers, I did just buy a Cherry Coke. I offer to Ashlon. He thanks me, opens it and takes a long swig…

I’m telling you what happens next could well be the be fodder for the next great Coke commercial! Up there with Mean Joe Greene throwing the kid his Jersey after he offers the former Steeler great his Coca Cola! “I’d like to teach the world to sing, in perfect harmony…”

Ashlon turns to Kiesha and says, “I’m hungry, what are we having for dinner?” Keisha replies, “I was going to make some chicken and potatoes in the air fryer,” Yes! Now they are talking my language! I interject, “I love my Air Fryer! I use it all the time to cook chicken wings and vegetables. In fact, I just cooked up some Calamari the other night…delicious!”

The last five minutes of our ride turns into an episode of the “Rachel Ray” show. Keisha is very health conscious. The air fryer is a great way to cook veggies without all the grease and fat. Ashlon loves his chicken wings. “Have you ever tried quinoa?” Keisha says. Ashlon cringes. “I make a mean kale, quinoa, and white bean salad with homemade lemon vinaigrette!” I reply.

I deliver them to their duplex. They both thank me, apologize, and walk hand in hand and shotgun up their driveway.

So, what can we all take away from this Uberservation? Well, I, for one, am going to offer my wife a Cherry Coke the moment she reads this blog post as she might be a little miffed that I didn’t share this story with her when it happened!

It’s only fitting that we let Tupac take this out… “And I know they like to beat you down a lot; When you come around the block, brothers clown a lot; But please don’t cry, dry your eyes, never let up; Forgive, but don’t forget, {Uberservation lovers}, keep your heads up!

Please share my site, www.ubservations.blog  with everyone as this ride has room for as many who care to journey with me! Look for upcoming posts including “Like Fight Club,” “Strippers, Playas, and Women of the Night,” “Drunks are the Best Tippers,” and “South Side Shuffle.”

All names in this blog have been changed to protect passengers’ privacy


 [GG1]#Ubservations #Uberstories #DrGriff #Shotgunride #Creativewriting #Syracusecommentary #Griffinstratetgic

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HAMSTER WHEEL

One of Steven Covey’s “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” is “Begin with the End in Mind.” So, I figured the place to start our “Ubservations” journey together, is where I, and I’m assuming, every other Uber driver in Syracuse, ultimately end up every time they drive – Syracuse University.

There are 22,000+ students enrolled at S.U. Virtually all of them have Uber accounts and they are NOT afraid to use them! The average duration of a ride for a student? 5 minutes. The most popular pick-up and drop off points (in order)? Dorms and other student living facilities, bars, frats and sororities, restaurants with bars, dining halls (do they have bars in the dining halls?), library, class. Now, by no means do I mean to suggest that SU students are essentially lazy and drunk (thinking Animal House’s Dean Wormer telling Blutowski “Fat, Drunk, & Stupid is no way to go through life son”). To the contrary…

First, I drive mostly at night from 9p – 2a or later so naturally, my rides will not include as many academic destinations. Second, it is Syracuse in the winter…that 5-minute drive might be a perilous 15- minute walk up and down the hilly knolls of campus (yes, I’m sure I’ve told the ageless tale about walking up and down hills for miles in the snow to get to class when I was younger to at least a few completely uninterested student passengers…).

With close to 25% of my rides coming from the University, my perspective on Syracuse University students is a work in progress. However, things really came into focus on one snowy Wednesday night I now refer to as “Hamster Wheel.” Over the course of 2 ½ hours, I literally drove in circles around campus picking up and dropping off students; a virtual microcosm of the collective student body in my car.  What is the definition of insanity? Yes, doing the same thing over and over again, expecting a different result…

My journey onto the wheel started with a pick up of four Indian Information Technology students at Destiny USA coming from the movie “Gully Boy.” On the chatty ride to campus, they taught me “kya haal hai (what’s up?) and “tumhaaree raat achchhee beete” (Have a good night) in Hindi just in case I ever Ubered them again (because I’m certain I will remember how to pronounce either!)  

“Rico” rushes into my car from Brewster Dorm. He needs to make a quick stop at the college store to pick up an item for his fraternity pledge packet on his way to his first house meeting…he has 11 minutes to get there or else! He nervously practices the Greek alphabet on the ride scolding himself when he gets caught up on Phi, Chi, Psi…Good karma ensues as we see two of his fraternity brothers trudging through the snow towards the house. I offer to pick them up and I do! Hopefully that will save him from the basement or whatever frats do to pledges now when they mess up the Greek Alphabet under pressure!

At Bird Library, I pick up “Meghan,” a sophomore film student focused on the horror genre. She’s passionate and determined and so nice…I think that perhaps a future in rom-coms might be a better pursuit but perhaps she has a dark side that will make her the next Wes Craven or John Carpenter?!

Three sophomore co-eds wearing mini-skirts, spaghetti strap tops, and high-heeled pumps hop in at the dorm…apparently headed to a party that “Mark” will be at and they contemplate whether “that bitch Lainey will be fawning all over him.” It is 10 degrees and snowy…My parental instincts kick in and I ask the girls where their jackets are? “Elisa” says, “my dad would say the same thing.” Ok, I feel old but validated!

“Ryuki” who goes by “Pete” hops in. He’s headed to Starbuck’s to meet a late-night study group for an upcoming exam in international relations. He’s a Freshman from outside of Tokyo studying in the Maxwell School. Man, I never knew how many international students’ attend Syracuse University…but the ones I have met are super impressive! We better up our game in this country if we expect to compete in the global economy.

Two first-year law students hop in fresh off a meeting for their upcoming competition trial in Pittsburgh, PA… “Mark” and “Elle” both say law school is kicking their asses but see a bright outlook for the future…I drop them off at the popular bar, “The Orange.” “Conversational Cocktailing” must also be a law school core discipline.

I pick up “Tess” and “Jake” all dressed to the hilt…they were on a date night! Taking them back to his off-campus apartment I find out it is one of their first dates. She seems to be very into him. They are laughing and flirting. I’m certain I’m thinking the same thing he is about his prospects for the rest of the night…Crap! I’m a dirty old man…

Off to one of the sororities to pick “Jen” an upper-class sister, heading to the dorm to hang out with her “little, and her little’s little aka her “grand little?” So, this is the sister whom “Jen” adopted when she was pledging and the sister whom her “little” adopted currently as she goes through pledging. Sounds like a nice family affair…three co-ed sorority girls bonded by sisterhood hanging out in their dimly lit dorm room drinking, laughing, pillow fig…crap…sorry.

I pick up “Dillon” from California and his two buddies from Connecticut and Long Island at Day Hall on Mt. Olympic…Man, are they stoned to the bejesus! Pie-eyed and laughing like Beavis and Butthead (and Butthead) “Dillion” is complaining that the dope out here doesn’t compare to the “kush” he gets back home. Well, “Dillion,” either you and your boys imported your shit from Cali, discovered Vermont, or your complaint just doesn’t hold water…I’m pretty sure you devoured two or three full pies at the Acropolis where I dropped you off…

I finally got off the hamster wheel when I picked up a well-spoken African-American Junior student-athlete going home to Dewitt with his laundry in hand at 11:30p. “Eric” and I chatted for a few minutes about the great year SU football had before he called his long-distance girlfriend at Hobart William Smith and his mother, speaking lovingly and respectfully to both…good to see chilvalry among our youth is not completely lost! I wonder if mom still does his laundry?

I truly love picking up SU students…I remember my undergraduate experience at St. Lawrence University well and in a single night on the Hamster Wheel, was able to evoke lots of good memories of my own college days…not to mention that at $5 to $7 bucks a ride and 19 rides in 2 ½ hours…a nice little pay day for the entertainment!

And mom and dad, don’t worry. If one or more of these student stories resemble your SU student, that’s ok…they’re not doing anything we weren’t doing ourselves in College…ummm…actually, maybe we should be afraid, very afraid…

Many more “Ubservations” to come on Syracuse University! In the meantime, Go Orange!

All Names have been changed to protect passenger privacy.

#SyracuseUniversity #Ubservations #DrGriff #SUCommentary #UberBlog #SyracuseBlog #SyracuseCommentary #FunnyBlog

Funny Blog, Syracuse Commentary, Ubservations

Let’s Get This Party Started!

I’m hooked! Three months ago, after driving my wife and 3-year old boy off at Syracuse Hancock Airport at the ungodly hour of 4:30a, I turned on the Uber driving app for the first time. Five minutes later…pure rush as my phone screen lit up and the melodic electronica alert signaled my first ride…I picked up a thirty- something man from his home in North Syracuse sporting a low-brimmed hat, J-crew sweater, jeans, and a new pair of Nike Sneakers carrying an over-sized backpack. “Matt” was heading to the airport I had just come from to meet his buddy and embark on an eight-week journey of Asia. He shared they had a loose itinerary based around several major cities to explore but was looking forward to spontaneity of his adventure.

Little did I know at the time, what a perfect metaphor my first passenger provided for the journey I was about to begin as an Uber Driver! Three months and close to 500 rides later, as I have driven you to destinations spanning the far corners of Central New York, I have enjoyed a personal journey of enlightenment and discovery. Every ride and every conversation is unique- another thread adding to my understanding of the rich fabric of our community and a greater appreciation for the beautiful afghan that is our human condition.

“Dr. Griff’s UbServations” is my way of collecting and sharing some of your stories and thoughts as passengers in our Uber journey. It’s my blog-stream of consciousness in short-themed vignettes! As a shameless teaser, some of my upcoming blogs will be entitled, “Weed,” “Like Fight Club” “South Side,” “You Had Me at Hello,” “Syracuse University,” and “Big World, Small City.”

So, are you ready to take a ride with me? Hop into my black Lincoln MKZ (literally and figuratively) and, together, we will share this fanciful journey to destinations’ unknown (unless of course you are physically in my car, then I’ll get you to where you need to be!)!

P.S. Truth be told, I’m not a Doctor and no, I did not stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night! A few years ago, my good friend’s wonderful fiancée dubbed me “Dr. Griff” saying that I always made the people around me feel better. Sure, alcohol may have had something to do with it…but I like it! Hopefully, you’ll also feel better after reading my blog!

#Ubservations #Uberstories #SyracuseMusings #GriffinStrategic #Uberblog #Blogstreamofconsciousness

All names used in this blog have been changed to protect passenger’s privacy