“This seat is very comfortable,” I sighed. “Well, I would expect that to be true in a Jaguar, even in an unattractive one like this, no offense— Jaguar, by Waymo, really. Do you know where I need to go? Can I roll down this back window? I don’t like filtered air.” There was no reply. “I knew it.” The car took off without a word. How rude can a driver be. Oh, these driverless cars annoy me. I don’t know why I succumbed and got in one. I downloaded the app yesterday because during trial period, rides are free.

“I’m usually, not easily hooked, and I prefer a taxi,” I said to the car. “Would you mind taking Scott Street over to Bush; I don’t like Divisidero.” I wanted to see if it could follow my request.

This car has no desire to please. It only goes the way it’s programed.

“Do you use Google maps?” I tried asking a question again, nothing. “You know, a cab driver works with me, shares my day, sometimes tells me his secrets.”

Then I heard. (Are you enjoying your ride, Sir?) It was a man’s voice coming out of a speaker—like a BOA recorded message when they put you on hold. But actually, with a less pleasant tone.

“Not really, and I am not a sir.” I said indignantly; “I am a they.”

Now the driverless car was really confused. It was silent. Waymo didn’t factor in gender fluid language. I am going to write an article and post it everywhere I can. My mind whirled as I pressed the window button again; this time it moved three inches down. I wonder how it knows to unlock it, even though slow on the uptake.

“I want more fresh air. Down Gilmore.” I pressed again. “You’re just protecting yourself from a liability issue in the event a thief reaches in or I want to jump out.”

I sat back. The car stopped at a red light at Divisadero and Eddy. “I don’t like you,” I annunciated; “Let me out right here.” The car stayed put until the light then turned green then moved ahead. Now a bit louder, I leaned forward, “Let me out, right here. Calling all cars, come in please.”

It stopped again in the middle of the next block. Another Driverless car was parked blocking the lane with its flashers on. The door opened; no one got in or out. Then, a guy came trotting down the steps of the yellow flat in white socks and took what looked like a bag of take-out. He had his phone in his hand, said nothing to the car, then backed away. The door remained open until he climbed his steps. Then swung shut and locked. How does that car know how to open the door and when to close it.

“You know, you are a stupid driverless driver—you, headless horseman–and inconsistent. Did you see the Waymo in front of you? Efficient!”

I pressed the call button on the back of the seat. (If you need help, just press three. Waymo will be right with you.) Great another robot.

(I hear you want to get out. I can’t do that until it is safe.) The same voice came through the speaker. In two blocks the car, pulled to the side, and the door unlatched. (Thank you, Sir.) The invisible man spoke.

“I told you, not sir.”

I stepped onto the curb. “You’re rude,” I said to the driverless driver. (If you ask nicely next time, I will respond to your requests, Sir.) A deeper voice with a Filipino accent came from the call box.

“Now who are you?” I piped up; “The nerve. I will stick with Yellow Cab; they value the human soul.”

I turned right down Ellis Street to Scott. I saw another Driverless car double parked. Behind it was a ticket cop on foot, dressed in blue, holding a ticket pad, the old-fashioned way—writing a ticket to an entity. Where do I live, I thought and lit a cigarette. Mayor Breed is probably getting a bundle for the city allowing these cars to ride around here. I never really trusted her, but she was good with Covid protection, I’ll give her that. The I bent down and tied my right shoe lace, stood and pulled my backpack higher upon my shoulders, relieved, and trotted on, puffing a long one.

Andrew Pelfini has been writing in multiple genres for over thirty years and is a member of The Intergenerational Writing Group. Andrew is a psychotherapist and graduate educator by trade–and often in the evenings can be found at the ballet barr, where he takes part in adult community classes.