• RJ Grand

I Prank My Riders

Updated: Jun 8

I read a man’s lips while I come to a stop under the purple lit awning at Stamford Plaza Hotel. “Hey, she’s here.” His words are easy for me to read, like Serena William’s and Michelle Obama’s. A pair of women looked over, and all three of them appearing to be in their thirties, hustled to my car.

“Hi, you ordered a ride?”

“Yes, for Mandy.”

That was the name on my app. I pushed the door release, and the slider opened.

“Cool doors! They’re power!” The fit blonde woman climbed in. “It’s Mandy’s birthday. We’ve been celebrating, and we’re starved from barhopping!”

“Yeah, I’m the birthday girl! Kent, go in the back,” the curvy dark-haired woman said.

“Sure, shove your friend into the third row.” He scrunched down and climbed over my mint tray and settled on the bench seat.

“We love you, Kent. You’re a good guy. It’s been such a great time,” the blonde said.

“Yes, it has! Thank you, guys! You’ve made my day really special!” Mandy pushed her seatbelt into the lock.

“Happy Birthday, Mandy,” I said.

“Thank you!”

“It’s 1:30 in the morning. Where are you headed?”

“I’m not sure we’re going to the address I put in. I’m famished after all that liquor!”

“Me too!” the blonde said.

“I’m so hungry, if you put your duty between two slices, I probably wouldn’t notice while I ate it,” Kent said, adjusting his dark-rimmed glasses.

“You’re so gross!” the blonde laughed.

My queasy stomach kicked in.

“Where’s there a place to eat at this hour? Connecticut shuts down so early. We didn’t realize it, and there’s like nowhere to eat. It's not New York City.”

“There’s a diner, McDonald’s and Domino’s,” I said.

“I’m pizza-ed out, so I’m not eating that. Let’s go to the diner,” Kent said.

“I want the diner, too,” Mandy voted.

“Oh my God, I want McDonald’s! Those fries! I can smell them!” the blonde shouted.

“You can smell them in your sleep, Sarah. I swear!” Kent laughed.

“You and those fries. Why don’t you gain weight like I do?” Mandy asked.

“I’ll go to the diner, if you really want me to,” Sarah said, not commenting, otherwise.

“I’ll go to McD’s, if you really want to go there,” Mandy said.

“Me too,” Kent glanced at his phone.

“How much cash do you guys have left?” Mandy dug inside her pocketbook.

“Excuse me. You want to go to McDonald’s?” I asked, wanting to start the ride.

“Yes, please!” Mandy pulled cash out of her bag. “I have seven dollars. That’s it.”

“Turn that song up!” Kent shouted.

“Whoo!” Someone yelled.

“Her song is so good!” Someone else hollered.

I turned up Pink’s Beautiful Trauma. The music blared as we went down Summer Street. The car started to bounce. Arms swayed in my rear-view mirror. They sang over each other and fell into laughter.

“I don’t’ feel so good,” one of the girls said.

“If you need me to pull over, just let me know.” I pressed harder on the gas pedal.

“No, I’m good. I’m not going to puke. I’m just over hungry.”

“All right.” My mind flashed back to the chunky yellow and orange vomit I’d cleaned from another ride. I know I restocked the disposable gloves, plastic bags and paper towel. The bottle of Resolve was on the back of the seat in a pocket.

“How much longer is it?” someone asked.

“Just a few minutes,” I said, listening for a window to go down, a sign that someone possibly doesn’t feel well.

“McDonald’s isn’t closing. Are they?” Mandy asked.

“No, it’s open 24 hours,” I said.

“Good. We went to a number of restaurants to find all their kitchens close around ten o’clock or so.”

“Yes, they do,” I said.

“I wanted to go over the state line into New York, but I’m exhausted from partying. I just want to stuff my face and sleep,” Mandy said.

The others chuckled.

“Yeah, I’m too tired to go until 4 a.m.,” Kent said.

“What are you guys getting to eat?” the blonde asked.

“How much fries are you getting, Sarah?” Mandy said.

“If you want some, I’ll get a large. Kent, are you having some?” Sarah asked.

“I’m not eating that. I have to watch my girlish figure,” Kent said.

The women giggled, and they figured out their food order.

“We hope you pick us up,” Mandy said.

“I’m not sure. I have no idea where the app will take me.”

I heard whispering.

“Do you want anything to eat or drink, Reilly? Reilly, right?”

“Yes, Reilly. No thanks, I ate earlier.” My stomach was still queasy from Kent’s disgusting remark.

“Are you sure?” Mandy asked.

“Yes, but thank you for asking.”

“Sarah’s going to hang out with you while we go in and get the food. We’re going to ride back with you.”

If I disagree, they could complain about me. Sitting idle paid a lot less than getting another fare. My income doesn’t consistently cover even normal living expenses. Was one of them staying in my car because they thought I’d end their ride and take off? “You won’t be long, right?”

“We won’t be long. We’ll come right out after they give us our order.”

Mandy and Kent got out of the car. I watched them walk towards McDonald’s, twenty five feet away.

“Thanks so much for waiting,” Sarah said.

“No problem,” I said, then hoped I wasn’t going to regret my choice of response. “What do you do for work, Sarah?” I turned in my seat and made eye contact.

“I work for a radio station.”

“Really?” Hmm.

“Yeah, for about seven years now.”

I had an idea. “That’s a fun job.”

“It sure is,” she smiled.

When she said she worked at a radio station, that opened up a great opportunity. I’m hanging out waiting for them. Might as well entertain myself while doing so, and have a little fun. “Want to prank your friends?”

“How?” Her expression turned serious, and she leaned toward me.

“How about you call them and say we went to the diner, because they both wanted to eat there?”

Her face lit up, and she slapped her thigh. “Oh my god, yeah! Her hair swayed. “Ha ha!”

“When you call them, put your speaker on, so they can hear me talk, okay?” I said. I don’t know Sarah, and I wonder what her friends’ favorite foods are, but there’s no time for us to discuss it. Mandy and Kent could be coming out of McDonald’s in a few minutes. We weren’t parked in view of the fast food doors, so I knew they wouldn’t see Sarah and I, even though we were still in the Golden Arches’ driveway. I’d have to improvise. Sarah was ringing one of her friend’s phones.

“Okay, I’ve turned the speaker on,” Sarah said.

“Nice.” I grinned at her and felt my adrenaline rush.

She smiled back and chuckled.

I chuckled, too.

“Hello?” Kent’s voice entered my car.

“Hey, the driver and I decided to go to the diner. I don’t feel like fries anymore.” Sarah said.

The phone’s silent.

Sarah and I look at each other. We’re grinning.

We hear Kent gasp. “You’re what? Are you kidding? Mandy, they went to the diner!”

I’m holding my laugh in. Sarah and I are grinning. She covers her mouth and holds the phone away from her face for a few seconds.

We hear Mandy say, “Let me talk to her. Hello? Sarah?”

“Yeah?” Sarah said in a serious tone.

“Kent says you went to the diner with the driver. Are you serious?”

“Well yeah, I changed my mind, and Reilly decided she wanted to eat. I guess all the talk about food got her hungry.”

“But you said…”

“Put her on speaker, Mandy, so I can hear what she’s saying,” Kent’s voice got louder.

“Okay, it’s on speaker,” Mandy said.

Sarah and I are covering our mouths. Her eyes are smiling.

“You said you wanted McDonald’s, and that’s why we came here. If I knew you were going to change your mind, I wouldn’t have given in to you,” Mandy said, frustration rising in her voice.

“Yeah, you should have told us. Maybe we could have canceled our order. What happened to wanting the fries so badly?” Kent asked.

I’m wondering what their favorite foods are, but I’m clueless, so I say,” Sarah, what are you getting to eat? There’s so much good stuff on the menu, I’m having a hard time deciding.”

The phone goes silent again. Sarah’s lips tighten to hold in the laugh that’s making her shake. “I’m having the chicken, broccoli with ziti,” she said, matter-of-factly.

“Sarah! We already ordered our food! We don’t have money to get diner food!” Kent shouted.

“I’m putting it on my card. I’m treating myself,” Sarah said.

Sarah said white meat, so I’m going to say red meat hoping we’ve got a couple of bases covered, and one of those entrees will get them salivating. I lean toward her phone. She holds it up to my lips. “I’m going to have the prime rib. Like that one. It looks so juicy. I’m not sure if I want whipped or baked potato. Extra butter and sour cream on the side for me. Oh gravy!” I pause. “They have my favorite salad dressing!”

“I can’t believe you’re doing this,” Mandy’s voice hissed. “We’re starving too, and we’re not getting diner food.”

“I’m sorry, but I changed my mind,” Sarah said.

I look up to check the McDonald’s door. They’re still inside. I lean closer to Sarah’s phone. “Oh my gosh, do you see the cheesecake? Look at all the different kinds they have. It looks so good! I’m getting some. I don’t know what one to pick. They’ve got cherry and whipped cream, pineapple, strawberry... Oh my cookies ‘n cream. That’s what I’m getting! Are you having any?”

“Oh, it does look good,” Sarah said.

“Sarah? What the hell. You don’t even know the driver, and you take off with her to the diner. This is crazy! What did you drink?” Mandy said.

“She probably smoked something,” Kent said.

I put my hand over my mouth, stifling any noise coming out of me. My body is shuttering. I mouth to Sarah, “Shut the speaker off.”

She nods, her hand covering her mouth.

“We’ll be there in a little while. Wait outside for us,” Sarah said into her phone and clicked it off. “They totally believe us!”

Sarah and I howled in laughter, and then I saw movement out of the corner of my eye. “They’re outside.” Kent and Mandy’s arms were loaded with bags and drinks.

“We’re over here!” Sarah stuck her arm out the window and waved it like a flag in a hurricane.

Mandy and Kent look in our direction. Their mouths fall open. They look at each other. Sarah and I crack up.

They come up to the car. “You’re already back from the diner?” Kent asked.

“We never went there,” Sarah grinned.

They stood there looking from me to Sarah and back to me. Kent spoke first. “I totally believed you!”

Sarah and I snorted in laughter as Mandy and Kent got in the car. “I thought you were eating chicken. No chicken? I know that’s your favorite,” Mandy said, and placed a bag of food into Sarah’s waiting arms.

Sarah opened the bag. “Oh good, my fries!” Her hand disappeared inside it.

“I can’t believe you did that!” Mandy unwrapped her sandwich. “You don’t mind that we eat in your car, do you?”

I figured I’d better not say that I did mind. She wasn’t happy. Oh shoot, it’s her Lyft ride. She’s going to rate me. She could give me one star. Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea. Oh heck, her friend works at a radio station. I couldn’t help myself and hadn’t thought past pranking them because when someone works at a radio station, I figure anything goes.

“It sounded so real. I wanted that steak so bad! And gravy sounded really good.” Kent interrupted my thoughts.

I chuckled. “When Sarah said chicken, I figured I’d say something different from her to try to cover the bases.”

“You sure did! And that cheesecake! I could taste strawberries. I even tried to get a strawberry drink. They didn’t have any," Kent said.

I was coughing at that point from so much laughing.

Kent swung into the back seat. “Sarah, I should eat all your fries on you for that one!”

Sarah gasped and hugged her bag of fries. “No!” she said, mid-chew.

Mandy sipped her drink.” So freakin’ believable. I’ll get you back!”

Sarah coughed with fries in her mouth.

I drove to the hotel as bags rustled, and I could hear ice and cups hitting the drink holders. The purple lights illuminated their destination. I put the car in park. Still chewing, they shoved their uneaten portions of food into the bags, and cups into the cardboard drink tray.

“You guys were awesome.” Best one star rating I’ll ever get.” I said, and hoped I wasn’t right.

They burst out in hysterical laughter.

“You guys are my most memorable ride. Thank you for being so great about it," I said.

“You’re the best driver ever!” Mandy piped up.

“Yeah!” Kent shouted. “That was wild. I’ve never been pranked by a driver before!”

“Me either!” Mandy laughed. “You’re awesome!”

“That was so much fun, you guys. Thanks for playing along, Sarah,” I said.

She high-fived me.

“You really were believable.” Sarah picked up the drink tray.

“Yes, she was!” Kent climbed out.

"You were too, Sarah!"

“Thank you!” Mandy waved.

“Happy Birthday, Mandy!” I called out.

“It sure was! Probably the best one I’ve ever had,” she said.

They gave me five stars and a tip. I wonder when I’ll get to prank other riders.


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Fast Food

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