Slice of Life: Pride, prejudice and 4-RIDE

He knew me by my first name. To him, I wasn’t “Ali the Intern,” or the slighted high school version of myself, “Little Peters,” or even my friends’ personal favorite, “Alitude.” I was Miss Peters, and he was my therapist, carpool mom and tour guide all in one. Superman should have given up while he was ahead; that archaic red cape has nothing on my 4-RIDE man.

Sticking around campus this summer meant finally getting back to GW for the crappy housing situations and the oh-so-pleasant 8 a.m. Guthridge construction wake-up calls. If I was going to beat this summer heat, I had to get my money’s worth from GW. To make up for every inflated bookstore buy, every study room closed early because of University policy, and every brain-dead TA, I was going to chisel away at my GW grief through 4-RIDE gas prices. Gas prices got higher, and I grew lazier-it was the perfect marriage of innocuous G-dub rebellion. How’s that for sticking it to the Knapp?

Feeling like I hatched the smartest plan on Earth, I called 4-RIDE like it was my job. When 7 p.m. rolled around, you bet I had somewhere 4-RIDE could take me. Elvis Presley had tight leather pants, Lindsay Lohan had Absolut Vodka and I had 4-RIDE. I was addicted.

During this past school year, I often avoided 4-RIDE. They took too long, and by the time you actually got on the phone with someone you could never understand them. Too often, 4-RIDE seemed like the place where common courtesy, personal privacy and music taste went to die. No thank you, I’d rather take my chances of running into the Georgetown Cuddler or infamous Bicycle Flasher.

So, imagine my surprise this summer when my 4-RIDE request was picked up after only two rings and then, a van actually came to my building no later than 5 minutes after I called. What’s more, the tunes and air condition were on full blast, and there were no awkward acquaintance passengers. Now this was living.

At some point in mid-June, I stopped calling only out of vengeance and tuition spite. Some people had hot summer flings in Cape Cod, others had real-life Parisian romances, I had 4-RIDE. I loved how quickly they answered my calls, remembered my name and picked me up. The conversations between destinations were usually short, but I like to think in terms of quality not quantity.

By the time July rolled around, I was one of the regulars. One especially outgoing guy routinely asked me, “Done anything you can’t talk about yet?” Of course I did, and he wanted to hear it. We talk international politics and the hottest D.C. club scenes in the span of the short blocks. I loved the idea that I never knew which driver I would end up with, which quirks, which commonalities, I would uncover.

Dating advice was another favorite among my 4-RIDE drivers. Having chauffeured around The Good, The Drunk and The Ugly of the GW dating scene, the drivers could fill the Gelman stacks with their dating knowledge. A definite 4-RIDE highlight was the summer matchmaking service. It was like the GW version of MTV’s hit dating show “Next.” Some unsuspecting guy would schlep into the car and the driver would play mood music and prompt conversation. Once the guy left, the driver and I would have a good laugh. “Not for you,” he guffawed. “No, not for me,” I giggled back. While my 4-RIDE dates more often than not ended up being 4-RIDE duds, I still credit 4-RIDE with some of my most memorable first dates-even if they only lasted a few blocks.

All summer flings come to an end, and my 4-RIDE affair ended in early August. I knew our meaningful relationship was ending when the response center stopped picking up my calls on the first ring. Still, I look back on my time with 4-RIDE as a completely remarkable experience. I’ve had drivers go out of their way to accommodate completely inebriated students. I’ve seen drivers rather heroically look the other way as students steam up the back windows. They pick us up at our sloppiest and put up with our 20-person cramfests. Talk about modern-day superheroes, this crew deserves a medal, a plaque, a cookie and diplomatic keys to D.C. If the journey is part of the destination, then GW 4-RIDEs literally gave me the ride of my summer.

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