On spending time with dad during late night drives

Art by Pie Tiausas

Age is proportional to late nights out, for the best or worst intentions. Regardless, Manila’s streets aren’t as kind in the evenings, and parents seem to think that more than anyone. So, though we mourn Uber Philippines, “Uber Papa,” as my dad calls his role in these wee hours, is very much alive and kicking. He’s easy to book if a school project had me working at someone’s house. The scenario is less cool if I’m coming from dinner and, shall we say, more than one drink.

My dad has seen everything: grogginess from an almost-all-nighter, noisy friends in the backseat, and the telltale wobble of high heels. He’s had to decipher poorly worded text summons once in a while, obviously from unsteady fingers trying and failing to hit the right keys. Still, dad knows the sermon would sit better in the morning. What lies at hand is time alone with his only daughter, riding shotgun as the roads stretch ahead.

Obligatory conversation in closed quarters usually makes me nervous. I suppose it’s a different matter, however, with someone you see every day, whose presence is routine. Dad knows me, and I know him, but maybe I don’t know enough about him in the present moment. Weeknight dinners are tainted by our day jobs, the meals rushed so we can retire upstairs — for homework then Netflix in my case, or NBA in my dad’s. I witness what he’s up to, once he gets to the house at least. This prior knowledge makes even pleasantries powerful, because a question as simple as “How are you?” translates to how are you really, beyond what you know I see?

Obligatory conversation in closed quarters usually makes me nervous. I suppose it’s a different matter, however, with someone you see every day, whose presence is routine. Dad knows me, and I know him, but maybe I don’t know enough about him in the present moment.

With the right people and setting, small talk can feel like real talk. Dad and I could go over the basics, work and school and whatever event I had just stepped out of. But the car is also for updates on pop culture (“Who’s Cardi B again?” he asks), random history trivia (he’s an enthusiast), or family gossip. The result of our most recent Uber Papa ride was his discovery of Bodak Yellow a year too late — plus mutual horror over finding rouge dentures in the sink at a lunch party.

On the surface, he’s the goofy tito my friends won’t hesitate to chat with. Yet Uber Papa means business as a parent. The same friends who laugh at his dad jokes are the ones he insists on dropping off, never mind if a detour is involved. If tipsiness-induced typos clue him in, Dad would help me to the car, but shoot me wry remarks once the doors close. “Hope you didn’t embarrass yourself,” he’d say. “Stop texting.” And if he senses I need silence, he grants me a comfortable quiet without fuss. The fact of the shared ride means he’s there for me, anyway.

Dad hardly mentions the distance traveled to meet me, or the dinner he missed to be there on time. It’s only when I catch those tidbits that we make a stop to get sandwiches for his grumbling stomach. There are sacrifices to be the one in the driver’s seat, and with each one, my standards for relationships are a bit more ruined. But who can complain when the bar inches higher and higher? Maybe it’s a little of his fault I’m single; maybe that’s been his master plan all along. What I’m certain of is that there’s no one I’d trust more with myself — so all things considered, Uber Papa deserves his five-star rating, hands down.

Tags:
#family #love

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