The Amazon Philosopher


{excerpt from UBER NIGHTS}


Moron after moron, drunk douchebag after drunk douchebag.


Night upon night, the tread on the mental tires wears thin.


Then, Michelin Man, Jr. appears. And you feel giddy, renewed. Brand spanking new cerebral radials to hit the streets.


I pick up a teenager at the Amazon warehouse. Kid must be straight out of high school. Blue collar workaday. Definitely some Protestant work ethic in him.


And he’s got something to say: “Dude, what’s the meaning of life?”


I look at my phone. We have a 25-minute ride ahead.


“Kid, it’s your lucky day.”


I begin with a definition of Theodicy. The Problem of Pain. A subject I’ve studied for the past—oh, I don’t know—30 years.


“First, kid, what you’ve got to understand is that suffering is inevitable. It’s going to happen. One of the meanings—yes, plural—meanings of life is how to accommodate pain. Here it comes! Tsunami wave and all. Ride the wave, until it drops you on the beach. Rather, until it beaches you.”


He’s silent for a moment. “Whoa. Like, let me process, dude. No one has ever—”


We nail a couple of nasty-ass South Carolina highway potholes. Bump ditty bump ditty bump!


“—no one has ever actually answered my question.”


I check the rear-view mirror. “Well, here we go. Let’s start with Reverence for Life. Once upon a time, there was a man named Albert. He was a world-class musician and doctor. He said that it’s just not right to take life unless you really need to do so. He also said that while pain is sometimes necessary, we should do everything we can to avoid and alleviate it.”


My passenger digests. “Dude, Albert was onto something.”


“Kid, I’m telling you. If you’re really seeking truth, just know this. The Golden Rule is truly golden. Treat people the way you want to be treated. But don’t expect the world to be kind. It’ll cut you. It’s after you. Still, be kind and generous whenever you can.”


I exit the interstate. We’re nearing the transport end game.


My passenger exhales. “Dang. That’s a lot of meaning.”


“You asked for it, kid. It’s a wild, wild world out there. It’s vicious. Big teeth. And it’s after you. Its goal is to fuck you up. But, you—you—can be the difference. A difference. Human kindness is a rare grace of warmth in a very cold Universe. You’re the blanket atop the uncaring Void.”


We arrive at the young man’s home. He is hesitant to exit. He wants to talk. He’s also trying to digest it all.


“I wanted the meaning of life. And I got it, sir. I mean, I really got it. I got to go now.”


The Universe is funny. I pick up the Amazon Philosopher three days later. He lays it on thick to me. He’s been processing:


“So, mister, let me get this straight. The world’s coming after me. It’s gonna cap my ass. But what I really need to do is show it all the kindness I can. I mean, even if it’s a dick.”


I nod my head. “Even if it’s a dick. No. When it’s a dick.”


“Damn,” he says.


“Damn,” I agree.


Might just might be the two purest “damns” ever uttered. He was seeking wisdom. He got what little I had to give.


So many assholes. Be kind, anyway. And so it goes.




Excerpt from UBER NIGHTS, Arik Bjorn’s ninth book, published August 15, 2022. UBER NIGHTS, is about Arik’s late-night rideshare misadventures in the Deep South. In South Carolina, you never know if your next passenger will be a naked lady with a toothbrush, a banana spider, or a punch-drunk redneck.


UBER NIGHTS is available at Amazon.



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