This weekend I signed up to be an Uber driver. As if I’m not busy enough.
The idea is appealing. I can log on when I want to, accept the fares that I want to, and make a bit of extra cash during times when I don’t have my kids or when I’m not at work. I had to send in copies of my vehicle insurance and driver’s license, and get my car inspected, then I had to download a driver app.
And so, on Saturday night, after my plans ended, I opened up the app and clicked ‘go online’ for the first time. “Well, here we go,” I thought.
Within seconds, the app rang loudly and I pushed a button that told me the first name and the location of the person I would be drive, but there was nothing about them or where they were going. I clicked a key that gave me driving directions toward her and began working my way through the complicated downtown traffic, made much worse by a police cordon; I later learned the police had shot a young black male and people had had a small riot over it.
Soon I picked up a young woman with spiky gelled hair and a thick leather jacket. She was on the phone. She piled into my front seat, said “take me to the nearest grocery store” without actually looking at me, then returned to her phone call as I drove her a few blocks away. “Listen, mom, grandma has been a grumpy bitch for years , even before she got the cancer. But I’m telling you if there is one thing I know about it’s pot. Drive her to Colorado, get her some medical marijuana, and watch–she’s gonna cheer up and get happy, feel better, and it will cure her cancer. Trust me.”
I dropped her off, closed the fare (about $4, all sent electronically) and got another ping, soon driving to pick up a middle-aged couple who wanted to try out a new trendy bar. After driving a sad, very drunk girl home from another bar nearby, I logged off the app and went home, that was enough to start.
But seven hours later, I was back at it at 5 am. I drove a man home to his wife after he’d been out all night drinking, and he hoped his wife wasn’t angry with him. I drove a couple home from a friend’s house, where they had stayed up all night partying, and we went up and down the streets until they could find where they had parked their car. I drove three men from India to the nearest Wal-Mart… so they could get haircuts. I drove a woman from Peru to her job at an architect firm.
At 2 pm, I drove a very drunk couple back to their apartment. The woman rolled down all the windows, sang loudly to the radio, and kept calling me Chad Michael Murray as she reminded me, repeatedly, that it was “Sunday, Funday.”
I drove two teenage girls to the mall, and they hoped their mother wouldn’t find out they were going to a business on a Sunday. I drove a moustached woman all in leather to her job at a call center, and a very shy man from Pakistan to his job in a kitchen. I drove a man with a major nosebleed all the way up to Snowbird Ski Resort so he could meet some friends, then drove a couple of economics professors back from there to the Airport so they could catch their plane.
North, South, East, West, on the freeway and off, turning around in driveways, passing slowly over speedbumps, through yellow lights and stopped at greens.
Out of 25 fares, I got two tips for five dollars each, and by day’s end, I had earned about $250. Not bad for a first time driver, I thought.
I stretched heavily, my back sore from a full day in the car, my head spinning at all the people I had met, and I calculated getting out of debt and all of the things I could do then.
I went to bed exhausted, then woke in the morning, my finger already on the Uber button.