That One Time I Thought The Uber Driver Kidnapped My Mom
And the indisputable power of paranoia
Where’s my mother?
She left for her substitute teaching gig almost half an hour ago and I’m sitting on the carpeted floor looking at my phone after the fourth attempt to reach her.
Last night — was tortuous for mom because of the really bad cold that manifested the day before. She was exhausted from relentless sneezing and I was hoping to escape the pattern of inheriting her virus. I made her tea — took the cap off the NyQuil — and watched her swallow it. While she entered the bed — I assured her that the option to call out in the morning was still something to consider. She asked me to turn off the light and to tell my dad to be extra quiet rummaging for his Pajamas in the dark. I did exactly what she instructed and then later — while chomping on chocolate chip cookies — I allowed the options on Netflix to set the tone for the rest of the night. And when that didn’t work — I reached for the almost empty bottle of NyQuil that contained the portion I stole earlier. That did the trick.
Morning comes and the fierce rays of the sun fail to brighten my disposition.
But mom seems to be cheery and relatively back to normal. I ask how she slept and she confirms that despite a setback around 4 am — she managed to get the rest she needed to face a crowded classroom of third graders. The ritual commenced as usual with my dad packing mom’s lunch and mom eating her bowl of Quaker oats while CNN plays in the background.
Once it was time to call Uber — mom insisted I do it so I could show her how to apply the $2 coupon that was sent to her inbox. She didn’t know how to pull up her email — so I quickly grabbed the phone and did what needed to be done and handed the phone to dad — who likes to watch the map of the driver heading our way so he can announce his/her arrival.
As usual — he did just that — and helped my mom into her coat as I got up to prepare for the goodbye hug and kiss. The door closed and my dad went back into the bedroom and I turned off CNN — and browsed my Twitter timeline to catch up on overnight developments.
It was almost 9:15 am when I decided to get my shit together and head for the gym.
My phone rang — and I disconnected the charger to answer. It was mom. Shit! I hoped she didn’t forget her lunch like she did the last time. “Hi mom!” and then the voice that came through sounded nothing like her. It was a woman who sounded Black and relatively young. She said she heard a phone ring in her car and realized that my mom — her Uber passenger — had left her phone behind. She called this number and now she was hoping to go back to the drop off point to return the phone.
I thanked her for calling me and re-confirmed that she was indeed on her way back to the school. She said she was and that she would call me once she got there. After we hung up — I remained seated and noticed that my dad was in the kitchen. I told him what happened and he seemed unfazed. He mentioned something about how careless my mom can be sometimes and then headed for the restroom.
I was alone and starting to panic. My mind began to work overtime as I envisioned a scenario that included my mother — bound and gagged in the back seat — listening to her captor assure me that she was going to do what she really wasn’t planning on doing.
This was all happening because I couldn’t stop wondering how in the fuck she knew to call my number. Of all the numbers in the phone that I bought my parents — how did she know to dial me? And when I answered — it was as if she was prepared to talk to me because she already knew who I was. It’s not like my Nigerian name would be obvious to anyone who isn’t Nigerian. Then the shit got worse — as my mind generated images of the woman and her boyfriend (or friends) banking on the hope that keeping my mother hostage would lead to monetary rewards. Times are desperate for everyone and even I have wondered what it would be like to rob the bank down the street.
Once the light hit my eyes — I came out of the coma and quickly got up in an attempt to shake myself back to reality. I needed to get back on schedule and head to the gym and stop behaving like a crazy fuck. As I approached my parents bedroom — the door was slightly ajar and I peeked in. I gave my dad the rundown. He said “Isn’t it weird that she called you?” Suddenly my pores began to close in on me as I breathlessly muttered “Yes!” And then he said “That’s how God works, He always finds a way.” All I could do was nod and give a faint smile. I didn’t know whether to feel sorry for him or envy his ability to avoid the hell of my own making. His approach to this predicament was rooted in the faith that my mom was waiting to get her phone back. And my nightmare was seeped in my mom being held against her will or worse.
I changed into my gym clothes and forgot to brush my teeth or wipe my face. I went back to the living room and noticed there were no missed calls so I called my mom’s number. Someone answered. It was the Uber driver and she was trying to figure out where to leave the car so she could run inside the school with the my mom’s phone. I told her I would stay on the line while she was figuring shit out. I could hear her ask someone if where she left her car was okay — but I couldn’t hear the response. In fact it didn’t sound like she was outside. It sounded like she was completely still and talking to herself. I still held on while she told me she was out of the car and walking towards the school. And then I didn’t hear anything else. I took the phone off my ear and saw that the call had died.
I needed to pee again. I pee a lot when I’m anxious.
Afterwards — I tried to call my mom’s number and got voicemail. Suddenly I was sweating and the breathing sounds were deafening. My father and I made eye contact and he didn’t notice my hampered temperament as he watched me put on my coat and reminded me to mail the two letters on the table. After he walked away — I tried again to reach my mom and got nothing. Once I stepped into the frigid air — I looked up at the sky and felt the ominous swaddling of the unfathomable. As I walked towards the mailbox — I tried the call again with the same results.
Fuck! What had this bitch done to my mother?
How was I to know that the hug I gave her would be the last? You read countless accounts of the last time the bereaved set their eyes on their loved ones — and it always sounds like what I was going through. The day starts off like any other and then unfolds into something that nobody anticipated. You never think a stranger would take your mother away with no warning — and yet here I was — opening the door to the gym — and wondering whether to just go ahead and dial 911.
As soon as I entered the empty space — I felt lost and confused. Why was I here? I can’t locate my mother, my father thinks everything is okay and my brothers are carrying on with their day jobs. How will we go on without her?
I tried my mom’s number again with no results. In full-blown panic mode — I called the school. my hands were sweaty and my mouth was dry — but I couldn’t take a sip of water until I knew my mother was where she was supposed to be. The first number was for the location in the city and the woman with the kind voice gave me the correct number. I dialed it and a man answered. I told him I needed to confirm that my mother had showed up to work. Once I gave the name he made it very clear that not only had she showed up — but he knew she needed her phone back. I thanked him and we both said a hearty “goodbye” and hung up.
My body began to rejuvenate — and I got up with gusto as I walked over to the elliptical to begin my routine. I tried to play off all that had transpired — but I couldn’t stop examining the rate of my paranoia and how it overpowered me with crippling efficiency. I truly considered the fact that my mom had been taken against her will and that the woman who called did so to confirm who I was as part of a scheme — not in an effort to do the right thing.
Once I got home — I updated my father as he ate breakfast and then went to the room to remove my sweaty gear. My phone lit up and I saw my mom answering the text I had sent almost an hour an earlier. She wanted to let me know that she was in possession of her phone and that the Uber driver — was actually a woman that works at Giant — the supermarket across the street. She recognized my mom immediately. My mom asked how I knew the phone was missing and I told her that the driver called my number. And then she said:
I hope it never happens again.
In the meantime — my main takeaway is that my paranoia has gotten progressively worse with age. Also — God really loves my parents and I need to give British procedural crime dramas a rest.