I find myself actually working again and earning money. This time, I am Uber driving. Yes, I am driving around the Dallas, Texas area for a freelance cooperative driving service based on a phone app. I pick people up when called and take them where they want to go. I can work whenever I feel well enough to do it, admittedly not often enough to keep a real job, and I can choose where as well as when to work.
But it is not all rose-smelling wonderful work. You don’t get to see or know anything about the people you are carrying in your own personal car before you have to decide if that is a good idea or not. It is true that you will probably not be mugged or robbed by the passenger. Uber knows where to find them if they commit a crime, and I can rate a passenger so low that it affects whether they can get their next Uber ride or not. I probably won’t get raped either. After all, a grumpy old man in poor health is probably not that attractive to potential rapists. But people talk to Uber drivers. Well, all but the pretty young woman I drove to her place of work in central Dallas, but she was probably worried about the creepy old potential serial killer that was driving her and she didn’t get to approve beforehand. And what people say when they talk can be potentially inflammatory, monumentally stupid, and, yes, this is Texas we are talking about, mind-blowingly racist. I guess because I am a white guy in Texas, they believe I must be amenable to any toxic tirade that may bubble up in their pointy little heads.
But talking for a living is what teachers do. I learned to do it well. If you argue with a moron, you get his back up and he digs the trench deeper that he is willing to defend and even die in. It is far better to listen, make neutral listening acknowledgements along the way, neither agreeing or disagreeing, and then when they allow you to state your side of the case, offer it up as “have you ever considered this?” backed up by coherent logic, and they may not only agree with you, but even commit to trying it your way even though you are suggesting the polar opposite of what they told you they believe until their dying day. “I understand that you think Mexicans are dragging the economy down by taking services like public education without paying into the system through taxes because they are undocumented workers. But did you know that most of them have taxes deducted automatically from every paycheck, but can’t claim anything in refunds… ever? They are not eligible for food stamp assistance or unemployment payments without documentation and valid IDs. And even green card holders don’t have all the rights of U.S. citizens. Maybe we should make it easier for them to become citizens so that they could be productive American workers and everything could be legal again.” They at least listen to me respectfully because I listened to them first.
And so, I have worked for Uber for over a week. I have made fifty dollars. And I think it works out to a little over four dollars an hour. Wow! Significantly below the minimum wage. Oh, well, at least I am working and talking again.