Desert Companion

Night rider


Brent Holmes

Stavros Anthony, Uber driver


With passage of a bill allowing ride-for-hire services such as Uber and Lyft to operate in Nevada, aspiring drivers are getting into the business — drivers such as city councilman and failed mayoral candidate Stavros Anthony. Here’s a transcript from a ride Anthony recently gave Henderson passenger Michael Vicenti, a web developer.

Vicenti: Oh, thank God for you guys. My car’s in the shop, but this is one client dinner I can’t miss. So glad they legalized Uber!

Anthony: I am as well. Where can I take you tonight, sir?

Vicenti: Downtown. Cognoscenti, that new restaurant everyone’s talking about. Great mixology program, I hear.

Anthony: Yes, Downtown is full of nice surprises these days. You sound like you’re new here.

Vicenti: Seven months already! And I don’t miss those Chicago winters, believe me!

Anthony: Hm. Even in Vegas, one ignores history at his peril. Twenty, even ten years ago, Downtown was a very different place ...

Vicenti: I heard it was a little rough around the edges.

Anthony: Rough, yes. But also a blank slate. I mean, it still is, but things are a little different now. It’s a blank slate, sure, if you have the right backers. The right money ...

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Vicenti: Welcome to America, heh, right?

Anthony: ... the right connections. (staring rigidly ahead as he drives, in deep thought) Do you have dreams, Michael?

Vicenti: Uh. Yeah, doesn’t everybody?

Anthony: Ah, yes. You are correct. Everyone has dreams. Dreams are the hallmark of being human — some might say the curse of being human. We hope, we plan ... we dream ... Michael, what is your dream?

Vicenti: Um, I’d really love to grow my business as a web developer. And of course, I, uh, love my girlfriend very much, and we’re pretty serious, so we’re starting to discuss—

Anthony: And yet — do you ever hear it? At the edges of your dreams — at those borders where hope and action merge, where the mystery of human agency resides, borne by a simple desire to do something — a noise that sounds suspiciously like ... laughter?

Vicenti: (nervously) Oh, like how life is what happens when you’re making other plans? Something like tha—

Anthony: I won’t abide such platitudes, Michael — and nor will the blind, inscrutable forces that rule our puny conception of the known universe. It is laughter. Let no one tell you otherwise. Plans ... dreams. Hopes. You’ll perhaps write this off as a crude rationalization, but I am, in fact, glad I didn’t become mayor.

Vicenti: Mayor? Hey, you’re, uh, going awfully fast—

Anthony: Because that would have been but another pretext, a blank slate, if you will, for that cosmic laughter to curdle, and infect. And mock ...

Vicenti: Uh, guy, that was a red light we just ran—

Anthony: (accelerating steadily) Winning? There is no winning. Winning the mayor’s seat would have been a mere prologue to even more vicious humiliations being visited upon me. My name. My identity. My family. I will admit: The loss was most instructive, Michael. In that loss was a gain. I came to realize the futility of labels: mayor, councilman ...

Vicenti: Councilman? Can you slow down? I thought you were just an Uber guy—

Anthony: I shed it all in order to embrace ... the ultimate absence of labels. The absence of meaning. (Laughs indulgently) Some may write it off as cheap nihilism — the cynic’s shortcut to enlightenment, the suicide’s borrowed courage. But words like nihilism cannot even contain it. There is no vessel of meaning. Not anymore. But perhaps there never was, Michael ...

Vicenti: Slow down! I think this is it coming up—

Anthony: I gave it all up. I left it all behind. I am the blank slate now. There is only me, and the road, with darkness as our only source of succor. The road offers direction, the promise of volition. Intention. Perhaps even hope once again — hope of a true human agency that acts, knowingly, despite the laughter, the laughter that forever looms at the cusp of our every endeavor ...

Vicenti: Here it is. Stop! Stop! Please!

Anthony: (skids to a standstill) ... And that, Michael, is why I drive the night.

Vicenti: Jesus! Okay, enough. Some driver! How much?

Anthony: Thank you for choosing Uber. That’ll be $72. 

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