With seven minutes and two more streets to cross, the toy car slowly approached the traffic signal at the intersection of Topanga Canyon and Erwin on my mobile. The threatening milestones at work were gloomier than the overcast sky today morning and I couldn’t wait for my Uber ride to arrive sooner. The laptop bag was weighing a ton on my shoulder, and I was hoping the days when my folks would provide me a Mac were just around the corner.
Maybe the Mac was a stretch, but I did see that the car was now around the corner. In two more minutes it’ll be here, and in forty more minutes we could together brave the traffic to my office at LA downtown.
Just then, a beast for a car crossed me to take a U-turn and stood right next to me. If not for the U sticker on the car’s windshield and the toy car on my mobile parked at the same spot where I stood, I wouldn’t have given second thoughts about the Rolls Royce that rolled in front of me like Aladdin’s carpet. I do not belong to league of ultra-luxury car owners, but I know a Rolls Royce when I see one. How could one miss the Spirit of Ecstasy on the bonnet? This one was of Adriatic blue color with a gleaming piano-shine finish.
The windows rolled down and the lady driver gave me a can-you-get-over-with-this-soon look. I glanced at either side of me to confirm if there were any other passengers waiting for their Uber LUX drive, but since there were none, I had to get in. And the five star passenger that I am, I naturally opened the front door on the passenger side, only to find someone else seated in the back seat.
Oh, I didn’t order Uber pool. Well, I didn’t order for a Rolls Royce ride either, so I just shut up and sat tight.
Some Arabian Nights kind of music was on, not like the ones played at belly dance classes, but like the ones that the movies play as back ground score for scenes of royal Sheikhs. The car in the inside looked like a mini limo, not that I’ve been in a limo before. This must be one of the Phantom series. I’ve seen Daniel Craig drive this with his intense oceanic blue eyes and chiseled jawline. Sorry I digress. Let me just say that am an avid fan of Bond movies and the Phantom had made a sassy appearance in it.
Am indeed a person of acquired knowledge!
I thought it would be rude if I missed to greet my fellow passenger, though the air inside the car wasn’t welcoming any idle conversation. So I craned my neck to the left to wish her the customary ‘Hi!’, while noticing how plush the seats were. Apparently the lady in the back seat didn’t think so, my well intentioned ‘Hi!’ was given the cold shoulder.
Whatever! But what’s with that wig with braids and pearls? Who wears such things these days? And trust me, I am from India and I know pearls, and the ones on her wig were exquisite. And such haughty demeanor, she wasn’t even pretty to be mistaken for a Hollywood celebrity, en route to the studios.
Maybe she was a Silicon Valley entrepreneur on one of her business visits to LA, whose chauffeur is now fired for a no show due to a bad hangover. Or maybe she was one of those high end escorts who was extremely creative in bed and it was her sugar daddy footing her spa visits, this Phantom ride included. No matter who she was, she sat there as if the car was beneath her and strangely her act was convincing. And another thirty minutes passed by with eerie silence.
“Take me home Iras. I’ve had enough of this and am tired”, I heard her say.
“Yes ma’m”, the driver responded with such respect that I felt that it was my duty to join them on the ride to their home and ditch my route to work.
I gathered my senses and when I was about to protest, I observed that the driver had taken the Wilshire Blvd exit. Good, I’ll be at office in another few minutes.
“I have immortal longings in me”, the lady cranked up again.
“Just drop me at 4705 Wilshire and you could have whatever longings you feel like”, I almost blurted out.
Wait, I know this line from somewhere, am very sure about it.
Oh please, I have enough to be thinking about, and not jostle the fluids that bathed my brain tissues with a line of poetry from god knows where. The car stopped in front of my office. I gladly hung my laptop bag back on my shoulder, got out of the car and gently closed the door.
Should I curtsy now?
Oh, for heaven sake this is your Uber ride, not the Queen of England giving you a lift, now get to work.
And after a tiring day, tackling the fresh horrors that work beckons me with every day, these lines struck me like lightning from nowhere.
Give me my robe
Put on my crown
I have immortal longings in me
Weren’t these Cleopatra’s lines to Iras, who died even before Cleopatra could commit suicide? God, didn’t I hear her addressing the driver as Iras?
Was today’s ride a reality show prank or truly Cleopatra herself happened to be my Uber driver today? I wish I knew!