Tag Archives: Uber driving

Scary Uber Stories

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After driving for 45 minutes today, I discovered that I had earned only $4.16.  And this after having the air conditioning give out once, having the engine overheat twice, and having to change which direction I searched for building number 210 three times before I found the guy’s second-floor apartment and delivered his 40 chicken nuggets and two large orders of McDonald’s fries.  Normally when it takes that long to deliver food over more than 10 miles of city driving you make more for the effort.  But they don’t start paying you until you pick up the food, and from home to Ronald’s place in Irving, Texas was easily eight of the ten miles.

Really scary story, huh?

But that’s what Uber driving is like.  It is benign sort of slavery where you use your own car and gas money, your own car insurance to protect you from Texas Bubbas in Chevy pickups, and your own wits to survive and deliver hot food in the punishing Texas summer heat.

meethxx234569The worst experience I got from this summer’s food delivery came at the hands of a fellow school teacher.  I had to deliver faculty lunch to an elementary school in the last week of summer school classes.  It was a large lunch with two bags of burgers and a tray loaded with drinks in flimsy cardboard cups.  It was a short drive from the restaurant to the school.  But when I got there, it was a school with many entrances and kids playing on two different sides of the building.  I went to the door I thought the Uber navigator was directing me to.  I knocked.  When I got no answer, I called the lady who ordered everything.  I told her I was at the west door.  She told me that I had to find the main door on the south side of the building.  So I managed to juggle the two sacks and the easily spillable drinks to three different doors on the south side, all locked.  I called again and was told I must have the wrong building, so I went to the school building across the street and found an office building with only kindergarten and daycare kids present.  I called again.

“How can you mess it up so badly?  Our food will be cold and we have no time left to eat it.  And you are at the wrong building!  None of the other Uber drivers had this much trouble.”

So, after having been called an idiot, I quickly found a playground guardian to ask and was directed to the proper door on the NORTH side of the building.  I apologized and delivered the food.  She made complaints to Uber and told them that my behavior was unprofessional and the food was late.  So my job as an Uber driver was briefly in jeopardy.  I called the Uber driver masters and offered to refund my four-dollar fee to the customer to make amends.  They told me they appreciated the sentiment, but they NEVER give the money back.  So I went home grumbling, dripping gallons of sweat, four dollars richer and an hour’s worth of misery wiser.

I hope you appreciate that I waited four weeks to write this horror story.  It was the only way I could write it without profanity or bad words.

 

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Uber Crazy

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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.

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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?

man_file_1061878_uber-driver-be-likeAnd 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.

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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.

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Uber Dooby Doo

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Yes, I am an Uber driver.   I have combined passenger fares and meal deliveries 118 times in the 4 months I have been doing this.   I have made a few hundred dollars in that time that have at least temporarily allowed me to continue to buy food for my family as I try to pay off my bankruptcy debts.

And there is absolutely no way to explain why anybody in their right mind would ever want to do such a job, so I won’t try that.  I will, instead, try to explain why someone like me who taught middle school long enough to get brain damage actually kinda enjoys it.

You see, a teacher does his job each day by standing in front of a motley mob of hormone-crazed immature higher primates and talking to them with the insane hope that they might actually listen, and even more insanely believe that they will learn something from it.  And as a side benefit, you get to listen to them talking to each other and to you.  You learn about who they are, come to appreciate them as unique individuals, and sometimes even love them (though never in a way that will get you thrown in prison; rather, only through Christian agape-type love).

Driving Uber is the same thing with all the responsibilities and consequences greatly reduced.  You take somebody somewhere, talk to them if they want to talk, don’t talk to them if they are giving off “Shut-up!” radiation, or just deliver food to them, and then Uber gives you money… like magic.

I can effectively Uber drive because I spent seven years driving all the way to Garland, Texas from Carrollton in order to do my teaching job.  Forty-five stop lights and a thirty-five-minute to three-hour commute.  That’s a lot of city driving for practice.  And of course it is driving experience in Texas where any idiot who can get behind the wheel is allowed to drive, and many of them have guns.  I have learned how to do defensive driving pro-actively and aggressively.

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I have put up with paying passengers who are backseat drivers and complain about every passing motorist and lane change. I have experienced an Uber navigator app that sends you to the wrong location routinely and sometimes advises you to make a u-turn in the middle of a major highway intersection.  I have had to juggle two meal deliveries at once on opposite sides of the city.  I have also driven drunks to liquor stores to buy more crazy sauce.  (You wouldn’t believe what kind of wild stories you can hear from drunk guys.)  And restaurant managers that I’ve worked for more than once are often relieved to see me rather some of the drivers they have to deal with.

So here’s my assessment of life as an Uber driver.  I don’t make much money, but I can make enough.  The hours are good because I can drive at any time of day or night and for as long as I feel like doing it.  I don’t have to do it at all if I don’t want to.  So it is practically a perfect job for retired and sickly crazy old me.

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Uber New Year

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Who knew that being an Uber driver required the skills of a swashbuckling hero?

But that is exactly what it is.  I am approaching the end of my first $100 dollar week.  And I have already been on a harrowing ride through the world of ride-sharing for money.

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The key to successfully picking up and ferrying passengers to the site of their choosing is a matter of being personable and at ease with driving and talking.  Of course, I have talking skills.  My whole 31 year career was a matter of learning to effectively talk to kids all day long.  And you may not believe this, but adults, people who actually have money and the freedom to choose their own path, are easier to talk to than kids.  I have learned about people’s families, people’s jobs, opinions of their bosses, opinions of the government and taxes, and even some tell me about their love lives, both directly, and second hand.  If there are two in the car, then they forget that the driver has ears and can hear (within the limitations of really old ears).

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One recent passenger was absolutely convinced that no Uber driver actually knows how to drive.  That passenger sat in the back seat and sent a barrage of traffic warnings and worries forward for me to deal with at the same time I was watching the road ahead.  It was almost exactly as harrowing as driving with my wife as a passenger.  I felt like a child again, driving for the meanest teacher I ever had growing up.  (Sorry, Ms. Rubelmacher, I learned a lot from you.  Don’t give me detention for writing that.)

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But why did I say “Swashbuckling hero” if I am only going to talk about talking to passengers?  And why all the Batman gifs?

Well, I am talking about driving in the Dallas Fort Worth Metroplex, ain’t I?  Do you know what Texas drivers are like?  On Saturday I picked up a coach headed for a retirement party at a Luby’s on the border of DeSoto (a southwest Dallas suburb.  That was a twenty-two dollar trip from east-central Dallas catty-cornered all the way across the city in a diagonal direction on the tollway and then I-35 South.  I had three cars cut me off for driving too slow (by which I mean the speed limit.  Hey, Uber monitors that through their app.)  The Uber Navigator told me to keep right at a time when keeping right nearly threw me off 35 onto an intersecting highway, so I had to make a quick two-wheeled Starsky and Hutch turn through the corner of the median to stay on course.  (Fortunately, Uber can’t monitor that.)  Dallas drivers are a combination of speedy predators in WASP rockets, Texas killer grandmas in Cadillacs, and Elmer Fudds going too slow in classic cars from the 50’s.  They provide you with a booby-trapped obstacle course to drive through, and go so fast that the speed limit becomes dangerously too slow.

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So I definitely appreciate Batman for providing me with all the animated illustrations to use for portraying the high-risk life of an Uber driver.  It makes driving this way easier to pretend that I am one half of the dynamic duo driving the Batmobile in Dallas downtown traffic.  Yes, it’s true, I am saying I pretend to be Batman.

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Driving, Driving, Uber Dallas

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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.

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