In the simmering chaos of Los Angeles, the city of angels and demons, with the Hollywood sign casting shadows and the stretch of Sunset Boulevard illuminating stories, there I was – a man consumed. It wasn’t riches, or the high of narcotics, or even the tantalizing call of the Pacific; it was something far more digital and seductive: my ratings.
The unyielding glow of my smartphone became a beacon in the night, and the predatory gleam in my eyes, perpetually darting to the rating tab, was like a moth frenzied by a flame. But each time, it was the same: the numbers didn’t shift the way I wanted.
You’re looking at a modern-day gladiator, an Uber charioteer, if you will, battling the pretentious onslaughts of Echo Park hipsters and the unrelenting waves of one-star insults. With every ping, my heart raced, wondering if this would be the ride to break the cycle. Analyzing, dissecting, and obsessing over what alchemy I needed to turn that rating into gold. I wanted that illusive 5.0
Yet, despite my fervor, the climb seemed steeper than the roads winding up to Griffith Observatory. Each day felt like a revolt against the system, a system manufactured by the likes of Travis Kalanick and the Silicon technocrats. I’d pull out all stops, smooth-talking, keeping mints at the ready, even perfecting the art of conversation or silence based on the passenger’s vibe. But damn, it never seemed enough. Those complaints, like a noose, tightened with every ride.
But the beast within wasn’t ready to yield. I am, after all, carved from the same fervor that fires up those musicians in the Whisky a Go Go, or the long board surfers off Zuma Beach. There’s a rhythm to this madness, and I aimed to find it.
Yet, with every swerve around the LA County sprawl, that gnawing pang of despair grew. Fueled by a concoction of Red Bull and the city’s frenetic energy, the dread of never reaching that pinnacle loomed large.
However, surrender was not a word in my lexicon. I believed, as any madman does, in that glimmer at the end of the tunnel. That day when the five-stars would rain, and I’d feel like the king of Mulholland Drive, with the city sprawled below me. I’d roar it to the high heavens, and even the stars at the Walk of Fame would dim in comparison.
So, with grit and blind determination, I maneuvered through LA’s arteries, the haze of Smog City, my constant companion. My mission? Five stars. My mantra? Just one more ride. Always another ride. And in this relentless pursuit, almost anything was fair game, the exception being that ever-annoying sound of someone adding an infernal stop or modifying their damned destination.