A Phoenix-based Uber driver shares stories from behind the wheel.
Two jobs, two sons, and a husband was not enough. I was in a rut and feeling bleh. After running into a childhood friend one day, she put the Uber bee in my bonnet and I was hooked.
I have had a romantic notion about cab drivers for some time, formulated in part by the song Taxi and the film Night on Earth. Becoming a taxi driver is expensive and full time, but becoming an UberX "partner" is fairly uncomplicated, almost free. I work when I want, and the money is nice. I have been able to do good things with the extra cash for my family and for people I know.
A certain amount of suspension of conventional beliefs about strangers has to occur in order for the app-based ride-sharing thing to work. I have to trust that my riders will not be serial killers or meanies, and my riders have to trust that I am not a kamikaze Formula One wannabe. Extreme scenarios aside, the system works well, and a by-product of this side job is a chance to meet interesting people and hear their stories.
After my second week of "Uber-ing," I began sharing stories from behind the wheel, changing the names and facts a bit to keep my riders' identities private. Here is a sampling:
Last night, I was thinking I would call it a day and head home, but took one last ride. A guy about my age got in the cab and pronounced, "I LOVE UBER!"
We were hitting it off famously, talking about this and that. He showed me a picture of his son and told me his name. It was then I realized I had grown up with his brother, who passed away a few years ago. After a few small-town Phoenix moments, we reached his destination.
He handed me a 20 and I tried to turn it down. (Uber drivers tips are included in the fair, so riders have a cashless transaction.) He said the 20 was from his brother, who had put us together in the Uber experience and would be upset if I didn't take it . . . sweet! (and sweet).
How to handle "Are we in a safe part of town?" after picking up three adorable Costa Rican college students (in town for the Clinton Institute in Tempe and unable to find any affordable rooms closer) on 24th and Van Buren Street.
Do I . . .
A. Say "Hell no!"
B. Give them a history lesson of Phoenix and Tempe, including tales of prostitution, stock yards and the mental hospital to distract them from the question
C. Give them small comfort by saying, "Well, it's not the WORST part of town. Make sure you're packing and the door is locked."
Drunk people have bad ideas, and they are very insistent. It's one of the many fatal flaws of SuperDrunkGuy, or is it one of his powers?
SuperDrunkGuy thinks his wife would love to meet me.
I know there is no way this could be true, but in SuperDrunkGuy's world his wife and I hit it off and become best friends. That's because everyone is friendly in SuperDrunkGuy World.
SuperDrunkGuy tells me he will not get out of the car if I do not agree to meet his wife. "This is such a bad idea," I tell him. "She will LOVE you!" he says.
As SuperDrunkGuy and I head up the walk to the front of his house, he realizes something important.
"I forgot to tell my wife I was golfing today."
The door opens.
He started out by telling me to plug in the aux cord so he could play his own music. "Now bump it!" he commanded.
Even though I knew the way, he insisted on giving me step by step directions, including which lanes were better, and when to run the yellow lights.
We picked up his companion. He opened the door for her and she slid into the backseat. "Thanks for the ride," she said sweetly.
"She's a the driver! That's her job!" he laughed.
We drove to their destination.
I looked in the rearview mirror. Were they holding hands?
"Keep your eyes on the road!" he barked.
I pulled up to movie theater. They got out.
"Love you mom, I'll text you when to pick us up."
Yes, that's right, I'm a taxi mom, too.
Not everyone wants to talk when they get in a cab. On my list of "Uber variables" is the talker/texter differential. The usual topics of short ride converstion are:
- Uber - the weather - my car - good restaurants - their job
If the rider is a talker, the conversation can get more personal depending on the length of the ride. If the rider is a woman, and ONLY if the rider is a woman the conversation might turn to relationships, specifically, "Why are men such dumb asses?"
On this topic, I feel I might be an expert. I have been married for 29 years, and have two sons.
This is what I believe, almost without exception: Men are inherently irrevocably different in the relationship department. It's too bad, but it's nature. Accept it, then decide if you can live with it. If you can, find one that's not terrible most of the time, and then get most of your emotional support from other women.
Of course, it's not that black and white, but I feel if I paint it that way, my backseat patient won't ever be disappointed and might even be pleasantly surprised someday.
Texting women in the back, put down your phones!
The doctor is in.
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You got into my cab without realizing we are neighbors and have met on many occasions (and I forgive you since my recent haircut has confused quite a few people). You were on the phone the entire time you were in my cab, telling your sister (?) anecdotes from a recent family trip. The stories about your husband were funny, warm, and adorable. Maybe you thought I wasn't listening, even though I was chuckling aloud right along with you. I learned you have much love, friendship and humor in your marriage. Cool.
Sorry I was eavesdropping,
Your Uber Driver