“Are you sure of where you want to be?” our Lyft driver asked.

“Nope.” I said. “But definitely not here.” 

“Well, this is the address you gave me. 3090 Frenchman Street.”

Sure enough it was.  But I knew something was up several blocks ago when we turned left away from The Quarter instead of heading toward Frenchman.  But I didn’t say anything.  I was only a second time visitor to New Orleans.  He was a local with a GPS.  My friend Rutter and I stared out the window at the dark, empty warehouses and out-of-use railroad cars, wondering if the driver was going to kick us out.

“Don’t worry,” he said. ” I won’t leave you here.”  Relief.

“Check the address T,” Rutter said, “It has to be a GPS screw-up.”

The address! Dammit!  I never checked the address.  I knew the club, on Frenchman, was called “30 90” so I just assumed the address was 3090 Frenchman Street.  Big mistake.

I slid the phone out of my back pocket and googled.  Turns out the club is called 30/-90, in reference to the nautical coordinates of the city.  The actual address was 520 Frenchman Street, a few miles from the industrial graveyard we appeared to be in. 

After my embarrassing confession, I put my phone down beside me, on top of my trumpet case in the backseat of the car, and reminded myself not to forget it when we got to the 30/-90 Club.  We were headed there to play at the open jam session we learned about the other day during a random encounter with a musician at Po’ Boy Fest.  Rutter had struck up a conversation with him after his band’s set.  Rutter is good like that.

“Thanks for not leaving us hanging,” he told the driver. “That would have sucked!”

We didn’t know it but the Lyft driver was only halfway through his good deeds for the evening.  And his biggest feat was yet to come.

A few minutes later we turned onto Frenchman, gawking at all the activity as we slowly rolled to a halt.  We thanked the driver again, grabbed our horns, and bounced happily out on to the street.  The distinctive sound of a brass band poured out of someplace, and we went to find it.  

Half a beer and two tunes later, I thought to snap a pic of the band before we headed down the block to 30/-90 for the jam session.  As I reached for my phone, the evening’s second adventure began as a sick, panicked feeling swallowed me.

“Mark!” I yelled over the music into Rutter’s ear. “I left my phone in the Lyft car.”  I was out on the street before I heard his reply.  I don’t know why I thought the driver might be there, he had dropped us off over 20 minutes ago.

Rutter’s phone was of no use.  In the excitement of leaving for the trip, it was abandoned days ago, on his dining room table back in Pennsylvania.  

We were officially off the grid.  Two grown men, a thousand miles from home, each irresponsible enough to have lost their phone.  Well, at least Rutter knew where his was.  Mine could have been anywhere with anyone.

I did need to get to a phone though so I could at least tell my family why I wouldn’t be responding to texts for the rest of the trip.  I tried to lean on the “brotherhood of musicians” and started scanning the street for anybody with an instrument case.  I hoped to bond instantly with another player, then advance our new friendship up to “phone borrowing” status in a matter of seconds.

No deal.  Turns out musicians aren’t that willing to hand their phones over to total strangers on the street.  Who knew?

Somebody on the crowded sidewalk noticed my situation.  “Hey man.  There’s a pay phone across the street.  About 5 doors down.”

A pay phone.  For real?  Of course, I didn’t have any coins.  Do they still even use coins?  Grateful for the tip, I headed across the street to find this relic of communication history.

“Hey T!” I heard as I reached the other sidewalk.  It was Rutter, who had gone on his own phone-borrowing expedition.  I turned around and looked back.

Behind Rutter was arguably the greatest human being in New Orleans, possibly the world.  Our Lyft driver!

“He has your phone!” Rutter yelled above the street noise.

Sure enough, he did have my phone.  “How’d you find us?” I asked after thanking him a million times.

“I picked up two guys at the corner after I dropped you two off.” he said.  “We drove a few blocks, and the one guy finds your phone on the back seat.  He tells his buddy in the front seat, and they’re talking about resetting it and selling it.  I said, “No man, you can’t do that.  Give me the phone.”  He didn’t want to, so I told him to give me the phone or get out of my car.  Since we had that address mix-up in the rail yard, I remembered the club y’all were trying to get to, so I came back to see if I could find you.  Your friend and I just happened to run into each other on the sidewalk.”

“Wow.” I said.  “So you helped us out of our address mix-up, took us to the right place, got my phone back from these other guys, drove back to Frenchman to find us, had to find parking, then hunted us down on this crowded block?  You’re a true hero!”

“That’s how we do it down here in Nawlins,” he said through a smile. “Well some of us at least.”

I couldn’t thank that driver enough, although I stuffed his virtual tip jar as much as I could, and even called Lyft to let them know about the good deeds he’d done.  It wasn’t enough.  He sacrificed about 2 hours of prime driver earnings, along with some patience, to help out a couple of knuckleheaded out-of-towners.

I still think of that driver often.  What if we all acted towards each other the way he had toward Rutter and I?  Our problems were our own fault (mostly mine) but he helped us anyway despite the inconvenience it caused him.  He didn’t blame or ridicule us.  He made an effort on our behalf just for the sake of improving our situation, because we needed it.  He is humanity at its best.

With the drama behind us, Rutter and I finally stepped into the loud, crowded 30/-90 Club and added our names to the list of musicians hoping to get on stage and play.  The night had more in store for us, but those stories are for another time.

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