Yesterday I called a Lyft to take me from The Holding Company in Ocean Beach to my home in South Park, and what I expected to be just an ordinary ride home on a Saturday night turned out to be a trip chauffeured by a madman.
When the Ford Expedition — Lyft decided to upgrade me for no apparent reason — picked me up in front of THC, I opened the door to see a man wearing clothes that caused me to second guess my decision to step into his SUV. The Lyft driver had red hair that looked the texture of shoelaces, and it was bursting out of a stovetop hat. He had on white makeup, which made him look like a ghost, and rouge around his eyes. Around his neck, he was wearing a ridiculous bow tie that would have been appropriately sized for Yao Ming, not a man that appeared just under six feet tall.
It took me a moment to realize that it was Halloween weekend, and, no, I shouldn’t turn down the free luxury Lyft. And that the man was, indeed, playing a character from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. He was Johnny Depp’s version of the Mad Hatter.
Ironically, I had recently finished reading Lewis Carroll’s masterpiece, and I was thinking about how this one character had transformed from the book to the Disney cartoon to Johnny Depp and now to the driver of my Lyft. It has been a long time for this character to exist, and what I found ironic was that in the original Alice’s Adventures in WonderLand that Lewis Carroll gave as a gift to the real Alice, the Mad Hatter wasn’t even in the original text, according to the BBC. The Mad Hatter was only added later when Carroll — a man steeped in mystery over his mathematical mind meets psychedelic journeyman meets potential pedophile — when he decided to take the book and try and publish it.
The Mad Hatter is someone who is a bit of a holy fool — someone who appears mad but actually has wisdom. It’s an archetype that has existed from Shakespeare to Rick and Morty.
I love these types of characters. Individuals who seem lost in the world, investing in passions and visions of life that others don’t find appropriate, conventional, or sane. These types of people are creative, imaginative, and, sometimes, dangerous. They are my type of people.
The Lyft driver certainly appeared to be revealing a lot of about his inner character, his inner madness, with his costume, and when he began to talk, I continued to be surprised.
For some reason, he started telling me about how his expedition was custom built, and he said that he needed the expedition to be climate controlled, comfortable for long hauls, and big. It turned out he needed these specs because he collects reptiles, especially snakes. At the mere mention of the word snakes, I looked down at my ankles and anticipated a new version of Snakes on the Plane, except the title would obviously have to change, to begin with me as the protagonist, and from the vents and the floorboards, I would suddenly be swimming in reptiles. Perhaps a cobra would snap into my achilles tendon.
Of course, I know this wasn’t going to happen, but we all have an irrational fear of snakes, and here was a man who collected them and was driving me home on a Saturday. He said that he owned about 300 different snakes, and they were in his house.
My immediate thought was about the reaction a date would have when the lyft driver brought her or him home to his house of serpents. I had so many questions: Did he warn them about the snakes before entering the house? Are some of the non-venomous 🐍s simply slithering around the floors? Does he ever have someone stay the night?
Honestly, it would take a very specific person to be able to handle a one-night stand with this man. Imagine a couple, a night out drinking, ripping off each other’s clothes before they entered an apartment. The door opens, the man fumbles for the light switch, the couples pants are almost off: Then the hissing begins. The rattling. The inaudible yet intense sound of slithering.
That’s when the date, I imagine, would end.
So, instead of asking all the prying questions that I wanted to ask, I simply said: “Do people get nervous when you bring them over?” To my dissapointment, he had an apartment next door to where he kept the snakes, and he owned a separate apartment to sleep. It’s not great for my blog, but it’s good for his personal life.
Of course, when someone tells you they specialize in reptiles, you’re going to ask questions. A couple things I learned that were interesting was that he gets bit all the time by snakes, but he compared them to dog bites. He said, some dogs are more aggresive than others, and some dogs are smaller, so their bites hurt less. That’s just like snakes.
But what I found also interesting was that he had a tortoise. In fact, over the years he’s sold many tortoises. Somewhere, I heard tortoises live a long life, and it turns out that his great great great great (not sure how many greats honestly) grandfather received a 🐢, and they had been handing it down in their family ever since. The Lyft driver still has the tortoise, and it’s 180 years old.
When I did the math, I realized that the 🐢 was alive when slavery was still legal and before Lincoln was president or assasinated. Part of me wonders if this is bullshit, but I’ll never know. Slate has an article that backs up that tortoises can live a long time.
Really, at the end of the day, I have no idea if what this man told me was accurate, but I enjoyed my Saturday night ride with the mad hatter.