I have to admit it. I have been driving for Uber. I, like many who are doing the same, need the extra money, and can’t manage any other way. I wanted to work in a grocery store, or something else where I could put in regular hours and make at least minimum wage to supplement my shrinking pension income. But my health is not sound enough to hold a job where I have to work every day for a set number of hours. I am only well enough to work about ten hours a week, and then only when my arthritis isn’t crippling me, my diabetes isn’t making me stupid, and other factors aren’t overwhelming me with upset stomach, psoriatic itchiness making me scratch myself bloody in all the wrong places, or having trouble simply getting enough oxygen to stay among the living. Uber works for me because I can go do it any time day or night that I feel well enough to do it. But the job involves a bit of craziness along the way.
One thing that makes it crazy is the way Uber drivers have, as a group, developed a somewhat sketchy identity. Sure, they sometimes aid superhero actors who play Doctor Strange and Sherlock Holmes in saving people from attackers (You know, that Bandersnatch Cummerbund guy). But they also get tried for raping or robbing passengers. They get into bizarre accidents and shoot their passengers. How do you convince the female passenger that it is safe to trust you despite the scruffy beard and homeless guy ambiance you are stuck with due to poor health? Certainly you are aware that you look like a serial killer, right?
And back-seat drivers all have visions of the bloody, fiery car crash you are going to put them through in return for their $5.00 riding fee.
But given a chance, I can drive like a master. I had a daily commute that was 30 miles long (45 stop lights) one way that I spent hours practicing on before and after school for a total of 4 hours a day for 180 days a year for a space of 7 years. Passengers have gasped when they see the threats coming at us from two lanes over at twenty-miles-an-hour-faster-than-the-speed-limit, but breathe a sigh of relief when I avoid the impact by several feet. I watch twenty things at once in Dallas-area traffic.
Lately though, I have been limiting myself to food deliveries. I have a car that. due to a faulty heat sensor that has defied recall repair three times, constantly thinks it is suffering from engine overheating, so that, in order to keep going, I must roll down the windows and put the heater on full blast. That doesn’t sit well with passengers in Texas heat. But it means I must endure a high-speed Easy-Bake Oven ride while driving. And today, when I parked at the main office of the apartment complex and walked the meal to the appropriate apartment, which was as it always is, on the far side of the entire complex, I got locked inside. I couldn’t get back out through any of the security gates because I didn’t have a car to activate the pressure plates at the exit. And the Spanish-speaking maintenance man who let me in the place was nowhere around to let me out again. And the next meal delivery was waiting for me to pick it up at Taco Bueno, not getting any warmer while it sat on the counter. I had to squeeze my jelly belly through the narrow opening between the two sides of the security gate. This I was able to successfully do only probably because the mad dash through the hot sidewalks of the apartment complex had lost me just enough weight to make it.
Given the option, I would really rather still be teaching. Uber driving is a crazy way to make money. But we do what we can actually do in life, and at least I get a funny story or two to tell about later… if I manage to survive the next Uber drive.