Being an Uber driver in Milwaukee is a one-of-a-kind experience that lets Dave Begel meet some interesting people, residents and visitors to the city. Everybody has a story, and Tales of the Road will highlight some of those stories. The stories have been edited into quotes from riders. Names have been omitted or changed to preserve the privacy of his passengers.
Proud of our pride
He came out of The Knick carrying a mid-sized suitcase and wearing a big smile on his face. He climbed in back. His name was Ryan, and, as usual, I asked him how he was doing.
"Kind of bummed," he said, the exact opposite of what I expected from his expression.
"I was here for Pridefest, and I hate to leave," he said. I asked for an explanation.
"Well, I travel all over the country going to Pride events. I’ve been doing it for a lot of years, and I’ve been a lot of places. I’ve never been to one as great as the one in Milwaukee. Not even close."
I wondered whether his experience in Milwaukee was shaped by the horror of the Orlando shooting that occurred in the wee morning hours before the final day of Pridefest began.
"Not really," he said. "I mean, that was a part of it on the final day. But on Saturday, I went down to those grounds by the lake, and it was amazing. It was crowded, and everyone was so mellow. I ran into a bachelor party, and they just opened their arms and invited me to join them.
"I was with them all night, and that would never have happened in any other city. Other places are so ... out there and full of themselves. Everyone here was so normal and so nice. It says a lot about the gay community here.
"Sunday was sad, sure. But nobody was angry, and there weren’t any protests or anything like that. There was a lot of friendliness. The whole city seems like such a friendly place. I’m coming back here next year. For sure."
Stop this car
Early 20s. Two guys in back. One woman in front.
We were underway for about two blocks when she grabbed my arm and shouted, "Stop!" I did, and she opened her door and jumped out, yelling, "It’s an old man. Almost in the street."
The two guys turned in their seats and watched the proceedings through the back window, providing the following running commentary:
Guy 1: "He must be drunk or something."
Guy 2: "Or high or something."
Guy 1: "What’s she doing? Picking him up?"
Guy 2: "She better be careful. She’s almost got him up."
Guy 1: "Is that a light in the house? That house, there."
Guy 2: "Yeah. And the door is open. Here comes somebody (he rolls down the window). Look out!
Guy 1: "What’s up with this. I mean, what’s up with her?"
Me: "Don’t you guys want to help?"
Guy 1: "She’s okay. She works with old people. At a nursing home or something."
Guy 2: "Do you think they’ll wait for us at the bar?"
Guy 1: "I think it’s like giving old people baths and their meds."
Guy 2: "Where the hell is she going?"
Guy 1": "It looks like she’s taking him up to the door. That other person is standing in the doorway. What the hell is she doing?"
There is silence until the woman gets back in the car. She tells the boys that she thinks the old man suffered from some kind of dementia and just didn’t know where he was. She said it was his house that she led him back into.
Saturday night, just before dusk. Two young women. Short black skirts. Spiked heels. Black tops with sparkles. One brunette. One with red hair. They got settled in the back seat, and the following ensued:
Girl 1: "You know we have to talk about it."
Girl 2: "I know. But … what can you do?"
Girl 1: "She’s not ready for this, like, settling down yet."
Girl 2: "How long has she known him?"
Girl 1: "A few months and he’s going to school in Oshkosh."
Girl 2: "Where is Oshkosh?"
Girl 1: "Near Madison."
Girl 2: "Does she really love him?"
Girl 1: "Who the f*ck knows. She says she does."
Girl 2: "He tried to hit on me last week."
Girl 1: "Get out. No sh*t?"
Girl 2: "No sh*t."
Girl 1: "She can’t get married yet. I mean ... "
Girl 2: "She hasn’t even cheated on him yet."
Girl 1: "No sh*t!"
Girl 2: "No sh*t."
With a history in Milwaukee stretching back decades, Dave tries to bring a unique perspective to his writing, whether it's sports, politics, theater or any other issue.
He's seen Milwaukee grow, suffer pangs of growth, strive for success and has been involved in many efforts to both shape and re-shape the city. He's a happy man, now that he's quit playing golf, and enjoys music, his children and grandchildren and the myriad of sports in this state. He loves great food and hates bullies and people who think they are smarter than everyone else.
This whole Internet thing continues to baffle him, but he's willing to play the game as long as OnMilwaukee.com keeps lending him a helping hand. He is constantly amazed that just a few dedicated people can provide so much news and information to a hungry public.
Despite some opinions to the contrary, Dave likes most stuff. But he is a skeptic who constantly wonders about the world around him. So many questions, so few answers.