The air over the airport in San Francisco was damp. Where was the drought that Richard had heard so much about last year? It seemed like the drought was fictitious — off in a distant past that no one seemed to be able to muster. As if, the change in administration had created alternative facts that were now the status quo, and the past was no more true than the words on the pages of J.K. Rowling’s latest. No matter. He was here. This was the place he had read so much about. This was the place he would make his dreams come true.
He called an Uber. He had never done this before. It was useless to him back in Minneapolis, where he owned a car. It felt strange — entrusting his life and his safety to the hands of another. He hadn’t taken a ride in another’s vehicle since he attained his learner’s permit back in high school. He looked about frantically, trying to find his Uber. The app said the driver had arrived. It took him a while to find his driver, but he managed.
The car was well maintained, by the looks of it. Rather new too. Couldn’t have been more than 3 years old. It was very much a departure from Minneapolis, where the cars seemed to be good indicators of the age of the drivers. The driver was a middle aged gentleman, in his 40’s. His hair would suggest otherwise, with all the greyness, but everything else about the driver suggested the man couldn’t be over 45. Richard made his quiet observation and sat shotgun to the driver. He remained silent. He wasn’t sure how to act in this situation. He wanted to hurry on to his accommodations for the night and call it a day. But, the driver didn’t seem like the silent type. And, lo-and-behold, the driver was the first to open up a conversation.
“How are you?” asked the driver.
“Fine. Just a bit shaken,” responded Richard.
“What’s the matter?”
“First time in this part of the country.”
The driver was intrigued. He had never seen anyone who’s never been to California. In fact, everyone he ran into, wherever that may be, seemed to have been to California, at least once. The driver doubted his mind. There was no way this strange, reclusive passenger could have meant the entire state. HE probably meant the Bay area. He inquired again, “Oh, you mean to the Bay area?”
“Oh, well, California in general.”
“Oh, where’re you from?”
The conversation stopped abruptly. It made Richard very uneasy. There was tension about the air inside the car. They were speeding down the 101 now, about 80 miles and hour, and yet, the atmosphere was as if time had stopped. Richard hated this. He was used to the silence, but the silence was always amidst a sea of vibrant progress through the space-time continuum. This — this was an entirely different animal. Richard wasn’t going to let the awkwardness kill him. He, against every instinctual bone in his body, opened his mouth up for conversation.
“So are you a native in from this area?” asked Richard. His lips trembled as the words escaped his mouth, as if he had gone through some traumatic moment.
But just as those words escaped his mouth, the driver interrupted, “We’re here!”
Words could not express the relief that Richard felt. He was exhausted from the social interaction. But, simultaneously, he felt an uneasiness about him. He had heard that Silicon Valley was all about networking. Had he not done enough to get to know this mysterious gentleman?
The car came to a stop in front of the hotel. This would be his home for the night. Richard got out of the car and walked towards the trunk. As did the driver. The driver beat Richard to the bags. This was his final chance. This was the moment he came out of his comfort zone and into the great unknown. He pulled out his business card — the one from his old job, and handed it to the driver.
“I’d love to grab coffee sometime! I need someone to tell me how this place works. I don’t have friends in the area,” Richard said in a hurried manner.
The driver looked confused for a moment, and then smiled. “I thought you’d never ask. Of course I’ll help you! I’ll shoot you an email, alright?”
The two shook hands, and the driver drove off into the darkness that was the night of Silicon Valley. Richard made for his hotel.