The dark blue Honda Accord approaches the curb and slows. There is a woman driving and a man in the passenger seat.
The person at the start of the line, standing just in front of me approaches the back seat behind the passenger, and I hold up two fingers, making eye contact with the driver.
They nod in unison, smiling, so I walk around to the back seat of the driver’s side, get in, and put my seat belt on.
We proceed onto the on-ramp of the 24, and the driver adjust the volume of NPR. Louder, so we can all hear it.
The male passenger hands her a mason jar of green liquid, presumably a spinach-apple-ginger juice.
She stares straight ahead, gripping the steering wheel, eyes never leaving the red tail-lights in front of her.
Her phone is held by a case attached to the air vent. He taps the screen, exploring the other options reported by the GPS. He finds a slightly faster route and softly but firmly says “Let’s go over. Over. Over. Good here. Stay. Good.”
She follows his lead.
“Now cut left.”
A large black suburban paces our car.
“That guy’s being a jerk.”
“Go. Now now now.”
She successfully changes lanes.
We’ve made it to the carpool lane.
They breathe sighs of relief.
Silently, they pass the jar of juice back and forth.
“We should do this every day,” he says.
The NPR reporter is speaking on the ethics of doing expensive heart surgery on opiate addicts. Specifically, following the story of a drug addict who has had recurring bouts of endocarditis, an abscess on his heart valves. This drug addict says he has been clean for the past two years, since his most recent bout of endocarditis.
Endocarditis. The disease that causes addicts to quit and start anew.
I think about the value of a human life.
She says softly, “that’s crazy”.
He affirms, “that sucks”.
He offers her the last sip of green sludge. She politely declines. He gulps it down. Puts the lid back on the mason jar and the jar by his feet.
He notices a red dot on her screen. He updates her apps.
The phone rings.
He answers for them.
“Jeff! We have a table setting ready to go for you for tomorrow night, are you in?”
That’s what I’m calling about. What time?
We can all hear him.
She chimes in, “I already put it in the text, 7 o’clock.”
“7 o’clock,” he echoes.
Well, I’m coming from Sacramento.
She says, “He can come any time, we’re just looking forward to seeing him.”
He repeats, “you can come any time, we’re just looking forward to seeing you.”
Jeff says, “Ok great, see you tomorrow.”
They discuss another text they’ve sent.
We’re at the base of the off ramp.
He says, “You can drop them off on the left.”
“Is that safe?”
“Yea it’ll be ok,” he reassures.
He turns to us in the backseat, “Ok, we will drop you off here.”
She says, “Have a good day.”
We part ways.