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In that eternal quest for remunerative work, I have had the experience of driving Uber for the past 4 months.
I understand what a challenging and controversial thing Uber is. I know the company is in trouble both because of its terrible treatment of women at the corporate level, as well as its bad balance sheet vis a vis its investors. I know that the taxi industry is up in arms about the company, and that all drivers are being abused in terms of overusing their capital investments (IE their vehicles). But, like a sage friend once said, "if your income don't exceed your outflow, your upkeep is going to be your downfall" and in this increasingly depressed economy, the only obvious thing to do if you are fortunate to have an appropriate vehicle is to drive uber.
I just wanted to share my experiences, in case anyone else is wondering, or thinks it is a good fit.
My biggest problem in life is interacting with strangers, and the idea of letting strange people into my car was panic-causing. However, I'd say 95 to 98% of people are really nice, if not downright wonderful.
When you think about it, people as a rule, unless they're sociopaths or starving, just want to get on with their lives with as little trouble as possible, and want to get from point A to point B in as expedient and painless a way as possible. Therefore, by the time you show up, they're generally grateful to get in your car and get on with it with as little bother as possible.
If you live in a pretty low-key place, as I do in metro Asheville area, this is the rule. I cannot speak to driving Uber in New York or Detroit, but at least here, it's for the most part OK
A few people are cranky, but that in itself is OK. But some people are your worst nightmare. It is a fact. Some people are quarrelsome, hateful, and downright dangerous. The thing is, those are pretty easy to spot: They are the drunks.
Anybody driving can set their own rules by canceling a ride. In general, if you absolutely REFUSE to take anybody who is inebriated, you pretty much cut your possibility of a truly unpleasant and unmanageable ride down to almost zero.
The drunks are pretty easy to spot. Even if you don't see them directly, they're the rides where a third party who's obviously not the rider comes to greet you at the door, wringing their hands, wearing a sheepish expression. Sometimes they'll press a $5 into your hand for the bother (though more often than not, not) and beseech you "make sure Molly or Mikey makes it home ok". Sure enough, there comes the holy terror staggering out the door, held up by various friends or foes, too happy to dump their problems on you for $10 or so a ride.
These are the people who are liable to scream, puke, order you make random stops, accuse you of stealing their things, solicit sexual favors from you, and any other number of unpleasant and antisocial acts. Or they will tell you incredibly intense and painful stories of struggle, triumph, and tragedy that leave you traumatized for days on end. Or in general, due to their unpredictability, they are hard to take.
In a town like Asheville that defines its local economy and thus its entire rain d'être on selling homemade beers, the drunks pretty much are our bread and butter. We learn to cope.
But for those of you not thus burdened, remember: avoid the drunks, avoid trouble.
For me it has been a real treat going into neighborhoods that I either never knew existed or go deeper into neighborhoods I thought I was familiar with. I have been, on one day, from the most expansive, wealthy mansion to the most derelict housing project - all within an hour's time. I have taken drives to these high-up neighborhoods that boast magnificent sunsets and view of the city, and taken to really unusual speakeasies and dives down by the waterfront. I've gotten to drive two states away, or spend entire afternoons going up and down the same streets. Ive seen every kind of house, apartment complex, mansion, airBnB, barracks, store, bar, restaurant, and late-night BBQ place possible. I know so much about my town now that I could never have known before
Most people who have worked in bars or as cabbies can attest to the power of the unfolding human drama, as displayed in the Uber cab. You meet every kind of person doing every kind of thing. I could fill volumes and probably will one day, either write a book called Uber Diaries or host some sort of podcast, because the power of some of these tales is just incredible.
I will say that the experience has made me a more social person, a more outgoing person, less liable to be haunted by the random shyness and social anxiety that has crippled my socializing attempts all my life. For that I am definitely grateful.
You really wear down your car. You get taken to far-off places and cannot get reimbursed for 'the deadhead' (IE the uncompensated ride back). You put an unbelievable number of miles on your car, which means you must spend more on maintenance and upkeep - not to mention gas. It can be hard to find auto insurance that will cover you once you disclose that you want to do rideshare, but you MUST disclose it, because if you don't, you will be left without insurance when you most need it.
It is physically wearying to be in your vehicle for the 8+ hours a day you need to be on call or driving so as to make your rent or whatever $$ amount you need. And of course the longer you are out there the more risks you run of getting into some trouble or other, especially if you're choosing to be on a late-night run (which in my town is the most lucrative)
In short, if you have anything else you can possibly be doing, it is best to do that.
Many times in life I have lacked steady wages. There is something to be said for having that thing that I know I can rely on to make $ on, for as long as it's available. Knowing that just by willing to meet the road 3 to 4 days a week, I can make my rent.
So, in lieu of something better, it is something worthwhile doing, and it is worth it, to have done it at least once, for the experience if nothing else.
So if you're a decent driver, have a smartphone and an 2008 car or newer, why not try it out? It might be worth a story or two down the line, if nothing else, and for some it can actually be a bit of a life-saver.
I LOVE that you posted this. I have SO many friends who keep making pros and cons lists for actually signing up to drive.
Great information given from your experience. Not something I could do because I have a vehicle older than 2008 and after reading about the bad experiences I am certain I would not be able to put up with some of the negative things. I appreciate your sharing your experiences with us.
Very good article, clearly written; i wish you well; have lots of friends dong Uber in So. CA; some quit, others stuck it out; i held out being a rider, and Uber asked me why, and I said, "I don't like the way you treat your drivers."
I used a Uber driver once when I had to get my car out of the shop and no one was available to accommodate me. It was just a short distance, about 3 miles. I must admit I was scared to death. I'd used them again if I had to.