Ubermensch Rating

First rule of being an Uber driver: Don’t tell anyone you’re an Uber driver. It’s very similar to the first rule of Fight Club. No one can be trusted. When word gets out that you’re a driver now, suddenly everyone needs a ride. Everyone. I’m not kidding. I’ve had former bosses call me in the middle of the night, “Hey, I know it’s 2:30AM, but…ya think you could pick me and a few friends up?” Sorry, no, I am asleep. Actually, here’s where the second rule of being an Uber driver differs from the second rule of Fight Club and I learned it VERY quickly: The “night-crowd” is very different from the “rush-hour” crowd. This is a rule that must be taken into account seriously, unless of course you don’t mind passengers spilling their cookies all over your backseat.

I’ve witnessed the full gamut of Jekyll to Hyde transformation in people starting as early as 5:00PM on New Years Eve and wrapping up only a little bit after the ball drops. Seriously. People literally transformed. I’ve driven the walking wounded home early on Saturday mornings all with a smile on my face. I’ve been referred to as a saint, an angel—one young man REALLY stroked my ego when he commented that I looked like Stephen Amell (thank you my friend, thank you…he even wrote it in my review, so feel free to fact check).

So it’s not all bad. Before I go on, let me make this one thing clear. Overall, driving for Uber has not been a bad experience whatsoever. It has been just that: an experience, like any job that would have you interacting with others on a daily basis. My whole Uber experience has made me appreciate and RESPECT cab drivers far more. So, please. If you are a frequent passenger, understand that you are in someone’s car. Also understand that your driver, like you, is a human being.

My passengers are a completely eclectic collection of people. And people are funny. People are kind. Parents LOVE to brag about their children. People LOVE to complain about their jobs or lovers. People flirt. People can be awkward. People can also want nothing to do with you. When the ear pieces go in, that is the passive aggressive way of telling you, the driver, to shut up.

People also love to bend the rules.

I once pulled up to what initially looked like a garage sale. Turns out, the guy was moving. And I, apparently, was his mover. I ended up putting the majority of his crap in my car because I HATE cancelling rides. I have to keep that 4.5 star rating. I have to give the guy some credit. Pretty crafty. I was far cheaper than renting a U-haul. I think? Don’t U-hauls have wonderful deals now? Regardless, that anecdote highlights an aspect of the job that is pretty nerve-wracking. You TRULY have no idea what you are signing up for.

When I started working for Uber, I intended it as a quick scheme to make a few bucks on my own schedule. That part panned out and is the BEST part of the job. You work when you want to work. And! Unlike freelance work, you are guaranteed some business. People need rides. Every minute people need rides. Like most jobs, some days are better than others for sure. And like most jobs, you find creative ways to keep yourself engaged and entertained. Me? I have turned ‘surge’ pricing into a game. There were a few months there where I was chasing the surge. Let me explain.

Surge prices. Or as I like to call it, Uber Blitzkrieg, is when drivers try to optimize their road time to make the most DOLLA BILL$$ BEEEITCH. Like the passengers, the drivers are alerted that prices have gone up and then, IT. IS. TIME TO GO. Or at least that’s how it’s supposed to work, but here’s the problem. I always seem to miss the surge. And by the most frustrating intervals. Like, by a minute. I’ve started to document this because no one believed me.

Here’s a play by play:

Part 1: The Call. Make that money Robert James.

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See that blue arrow? That’s me and my Nissan about to crush it. That honeycomb looking region by Ramsey? That’s the cash money. That’s the surge price region. In the surge price area any passengers looking for rides have to pay me MORE. Well BUCKLE UP, because I’m about make some extra bucks for my trip to Cabo….

Part 2: The Journey. The Adventure. The Quest for Cash.

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It’s now 8:45AM. Nissan and I are flying. It’s an absolutely gorgeous day over here in Allendale, the birds are singing, the sun is shining and every song on the radio is better than the last. We’re making good time, Nissan and I, and we’re about to enter the nest of cash money.

Part 3: The Hero’s Arrival

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It’s 8:47AM and Rob has landed. I repeat, Rob has landed. I am now in the nest, ready for those high-price passengers and….

Part 4: The Disappointment / Cabo Cancelled

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WAIT WHAT?! It’s 8:48AM! ONE MINUTE AFTER I ARRIVED AND THE SURGE IS OVER?! WHAT HAPPENED!?!?!? POOF! GONE! WTF!?

Here’s the bummer. You drive, you put the mileage on, and suddenly, it’s over before it even started. Dreams crushed. Vacation cancelled. Okay, you’re probably wondering, “Why does this guy have this documented? Isn’t that a little…much?” I have this documented because this has happened multiple times. I have become part of the rat race. Literally. And more often than not, I come in last place. In the difference of a minute. I started taking the screenshots because after the third or fourth time, it started to become almost comical. It was a joke. I sometimes wonder if the Tech Team at HQ watched me and other drivers run after the surge for a sick kind of joke.

Le Sigh.

Where am I going with all of this? I’m not really sure, actually, but I did want to give you the picture of what it’s actually like driving for Uber (or Lyft, or any driving service, really). For anyone thinking about going down that road (ha ha pun intended), here’s something to consider. Yes, it is AWESOME setting your own schedule and only working when you want to work. Make sure, though, that you don’t overlook the downsides. The wear and tear on your vehicle, for one. You’ll add miles and guzzle gas. Yes, you CAN score big with the surge prices (unless you’re me and then you’re just out of luck and doomed forever). Weigh out the pros and the cons, rather, the costs, and you CAN get stuck in this Uber equilibrium.

The best part about the job? The people. Despite everything I said at the start of this post, I’ve met all sorts of characters. I love finishing working for Uber and having tons of stories to share with families and friends. The job is entertaining in and of itself.

Once, a young man entered my car only minutes after breaking up with his girlfriend. He sat in my front seat, looked at me with so much worry in his face and pleaded, “Can you please get out of here as fast as possible.” He was now a fugitive of love. I was his getaway car. His girlfriend, pardon me, his now ex, threw one of her shoes at the Nissan. She was pissed.

He let out a huge sigh and turned toward me again. “It was going to happen sooner or later.”

He was one of the greatest and most thoughtful passengers I ever had. Why? I felt for the guy and he was beyond grateful. “Dude, you just saved my life.”

Now, was my time to shine. We’d just left his relationship in the dust and hightailed it outta there to safer roads and I felt my true calling beginning to emerge: Uber driver became the therapist and compassionate philosopher. (Mind you, my love life is in constant shambles and by no means am I Aristotle, or whoever you think of when you think of sage advice, in this department.) But, we connected. We had this miraculous breaking of the bread if you will.

He called me his hero…which also totally made my day.

Nietzsche (since we’re on the topic of philosophers now) coined the term “Ubermensch”. It is used to refer to an individual as being superior—the next step in human evolution.

It was in that moment where this guy got out of my car that I felt like I had actually made a difference…and evolved…into the Ubermensch.

Social Media….is Media.

I am not going to lie: I am so happy that I did not have a smartphone or a Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, or Gmail account in high school. Or even middle school. Or even elementary school! Former 4th grade students of mine had Instagram! How!? Why!? It would have destroyed me. I can’t imagine being a kid today with all the technological connectivity there is available. Kids used to call me “Acne Acres” in middle school and I could only imagine that becoming a trendy hashtag. Schools are constantly dealing with bullying issues and social media humiliation. I know myself and I am no angel. I would have thoroughly enjoyed posting passive aggressive posts about who I like and who I despised or who I found hot and who was not. “Brett is a total babe and I saw him in the locker room today and God is real.” #BrettandRob4ever” (Brett couldn’t stand me in 6th grade, just saying)

At 30 years young, I’ll be the first to admit that I can get sucked into the social media vortex. Friends are getting married, babies are being popped out, homes are being bought, and the South Pacific islands have never looked more beautiful. Kay Wills Wyma, author of  “I’m Happy for You (Sort of…Not Really)” puts a twists on the acronym OCD and addresses that we live in an age of “Obsessive Comparison Disorder”. You cannot tell me that you haven’t scrolled through Instagram and at some point thought to yourself, “Gee, everyone else is doing great and looks so happy as I sit here on my ass, broke as hell, and single AF. Might as well sit here by myself and rewatch every episode of “Stranger Things” because then I can shift my focus from the hashtags, pics of the South Pacific, or my friends new born baby. REGARDLESS! Is EVERYONE happy? No. Definitely not Barb. Some definitely are. There are happy people out there. But is everyone doing BETTER than you? No. Social media is riddled with lies and you (and me) have definitely attempted to portray that we are doing just great but deep down inside know that begging for likes is as empty as my unsweetened vanilla almond milk carton currently in the fridge. What the hell are we doing!?

I’d like to share with you a few observations and experiences I’ve had with this new phenomena. I cannot stress this point enough though: You are seeing the best of the best on social media. You are seeing pictures. You are seeing small little moments and have absolutely no idea what is true or what is not. Social media is here to stay. There is no turning back now.  And that’s okay – but, please, take care of yourself by hopefully starting to understand the grand illusions. Breathe.  Focus on YOUR business. You’re doing better than you think 🙂

  1. Seeking Validation = Disappointment – I want you to read this slowly – you are worth far more than ANYONE’s approval or validation.  I urge you to please NOT use social media as a tool to seek validation. Listen, I post. I too fall into that trap to make sure people know that my life is great and that everything is just gravy and butter biscuits. But if you’re SOLELY posting to make yourself feel better about yourself BECAUSE you need people to give you that feedback, you’re setting yourself up time and time again to feel worse about yourself. You don’t NEED someone’s LIKE to remind you that you are gem to this world. You know how to make yourself feel GREAT? Start a fundraiser via social media.  Inspire others to travel, run marathons, work in a soup kitchen, whatever! Could you imagine if we stopped trolling each other on the internet and instead, inspired, motivated, and cheerlead those we love?
  2. 5000 Facebook Friends?  You’re Fake – For the past four New Years, I’ve done this Facebook purge, where I defriend individuals who I have lost touch with, who I once friended thinking a love story would unfold (and didn’t), or just simply someone I don’t want seeing my social media life (I.E.: Former boss). People have called me out on this thinking it’s cold but, the truth is, I don’t have the mental capacity to keep up with everyone: especially someone I don’t particularly and honesty care about. Anthropologist and Evolutionary psychologist, Robin Dunbar, came up a number, that we, as individuals, can maintain stable relationships with. The number is 150. That’s it. We aren’t capable of maintaining stable relationships that exceed that number. Haven’t you stumbled across someone’s Facebook, and you feel HONORED that they have accepted your request? I have. Then I looked at their friends. If it’s a very high number, chances are, you’ll get lost in the cyber pool of others. Or, if you’re like me, a hopeful romantic, you’ll STAND OUT with your cool and attractive profile picture, brilliant statuses, and cover photo portraying that you have keen insight on how the world works. Ugh. This hardly ever works. Remember: Quality. Not quantity. Now we have science with Dunbar’s number to back that statement up. I have actually begun to feel as though those with the SMALLER friendship list…or the ones you can trust.
  3. You’re Seeing the Best of the Best – In April of 2016, I managed to get myself to Yosemite National Park. I went on a personal California pilgrimage because I was so upset with my job, my love life, and financial status. I was a disaster. So! What better than to clear my head in one of the greatest National Parks our country has to offer.  I had to document the whole adventure and posted pictures religiously. I was solo. I was a courageous adventurer. I was a nut. I had posted a picture of Yosemite Falls (with no filter might I add) and it was definitely National Geographic quality. I was proud. The “likes” and “comments” were pouring in and everyone was super jealous. Here’s what the audience didn’t see. I cried majority of the time I was in Yosemite.  Not JUST because I was overwhelmed by its natural beauty but because majority of the trip, I was alone with my thoughts, and realized my life was a complete mess. I was in bad shape. But Instagram-Rob was having the best time. You not only don’t know what’s REALLY going in people’s lives through social media, you also have no idea how people actually feel in that captured moment, or what their emotional status is.
  4. A “Like” and a “Follow” does NOT constitute for a friendship –  I’ve heard friends of mine speak of others insisting that they are still friends with so-and-so because they “follow” each other. This is a friendship!? Nay! Factors that make up a friendship: Contact does (Skype, email, phone call, letter, smoke signal, fax (do people still do this?!)). Seeing each other does. Genuinely enjoying each other’s presence does. Supporting one another’s dreams does. Friendship is something that needs to be cherished and this digital era has kind of tweeked what a friendship is. Yes, it’s incredible that today we are able to keep in touch with someone on the other side of the world. Distance is obliterated because of technology, I speak to my friend currently teaching in South Korea every now and then via Skype. But we both make the effort for our ‘chat-dates’ and we both have an idea what we are both up to. Don’t half ass it and think “liking” a pic or having someone ‘like’ your pic means you guys are buds. That is the most minimal effort you could possibly put in! Step it up! A “like” is not the same as getting some coffee with your homedog or gettin’ crunk with ya boy.
  5. You’re Missing Out  – James Altucher summed up spiritually perfectly in his book, “Choose Yourself: Be Happy, Make Millions, Live the Dream”. Being spiritual is being present. That’s IT. Next time you’re waiting for the bus. Next time you have a few minutes at work. Next time you are sitting in a restaurant or cafe. Take note of how many people are looking at their phones. It’s horrifying. When we are scrolling excessively, we aren’t present. At all. We are absorbed in a virtual world. We are looking at pictures of that party weren’t invited to, experiencing ‘FOMO’, but the only missing out we are experiencing is the very moment we are in. True story: After gorging myself at a diner, I stumbled back to my car. I noticed a red-tail hawk devouring a squirrel up in a true.  It was unbelievable. This majestic winged warrior was about 12 ft. away from me.  There was a man, in the same parking lot as me, directly below the perched avian beast. However, he was looking at his phone.  A squirrel was being ripped apart, guts and fur flying everywhere, and this man didn’t even notice. Not to mention!  Some squirrel fur was falling from the tree…slowly on to him and he was oblivious.  What?!  Put the phone down every once and awhile.  You just might miss something so incredibly bad-ass.

Finding balance in just about anything is hard. To go cold turkey is asking anyone a lot….I am not suggesting you deactivate your Facebook, delete your Instagram, and stop the snaps. It’s fun. I’ll be the first to admit it. But. I want to challenge you. Can you sit down…while eating with a friend….phone in the pocket…and start and finish the meal and conversation WITHOUT looking at the phone? Can you go for a twenty minute walk with your phone on AIRPLANE mode (that way you can still listen to your tunes!)? Try it. Believe me. We ALL love distractions and in this day and age with everything at our fingertips, it’s so easy to NOT be present. It’s DIFFICULT to be alone with your thoughts. For some, it is terrifying. I would love to hear some stories on their own experiences with social media. I would love to hear whether you managed to sit down during that meal without taking the phone out. Did you enjoy yourself more? Where you tense fearing that you might MISS OUT?

Think of it this way: you can have a good time too. Allow yourself. Give yourself some credit. You’re not THAT boring.

6/14/17 We are ALL Doug Funnie.

The “Doug Funnie Syndrome” and Questioning our Thoughts

I am the product of 90’s television. Kind of.  I am not a 90’s kid, I was born in 1986. However, as an elementary school child, I was blessed with some of the most amazing cartoons to be bestowed on television.  In the beautiful summer of 1991, Nickelodeon’s animated “Doug” immediately became a sensation. I’ve seen every episode. I think it’s fair to say that most people near my age can either hum or whistle the opening credit sequence. It was such a memorable animated series. Who could possibly forget a name like Patti Mayonnaise or Porkchop or Mr. Dink? Each episode consisted of two 15 minute shorts following Doug in his everyday life, going through the motions of growing up, and confronting all sorts of dilemmas. Doug’s personality traits remained the same throughout the entire series. Doug was neurotic, a self-sabotager, and his pessimistic imagination always conjured up worst case scenarios. In a personal favorite episode, entitled “Doug’s Dinner Date”, Doug embarks on an anxiety ridden journey to convince himself that he can enjoy eating liver and onions. He had been invited to eat with Patti, his crush, and he turned a simple and kind gesture into this potentially horrific and doomsday experience.

I do this all the time.

I try to might light of my own neuroticism…by now calling it “Doug Funnie Syndrome”. Perhaps this term will find its way into the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders one day. I kind of want credit. Perhaps you can relate: you screw up, you say or do something dumb, you’re uptight about tomorrow for whatever reason, and your imagination runs rampant. You have a headache and or your lower back is sore, you look up your symptoms on WebMd.com and suddenly you have brain cancer or some rare spinal fracture. Or Zika has mutated into a super virus and the clock is now ticking!  It’s over. Noooooooo.

I’m not kidding. This is how my head can sometimes work. Look at this story of grandeur. ANXIETY.

Let’s fast forward 24 years later from “Doug”‘s premiere.  In the summer of 2015, two convicted killers, broke out from the Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora, N.Y. The two had managed to bust out by cutting a hole in a steam pipe, stuffed their bed to create decoys, and found freedom. Now, there was me. I was headed to Ithaca, N.Y. for a personal retreat.  I had discovered a little ‘sanctuary’ on AirBnb the summer before and was desperate for a recharge. Of course, I had heard of this jailbreak a little bit before my departure and my “Doug Funnie Syndrome” spiraled out of control.  I had convinced myself that these two convicts were going to find me and kill me. Why wouldn’t they? They totally had a bone to pick with me. They of course needed to leave cryptic clues of their whereabouts. I just Google mapped the distance between Dannemora to Ithaca: 272 miles. Not to mention! Ithaca is in the complete OPPOSITE direction of Canada, where the two were headed. So then, why was I freaking out?

I had created this whole story in my head that I was going to die and that my personal retreat was going to end with an obituary stating that my journey to being cool was cut short. I went to Ithaca, with a whistle and my bear mace (Just for safe measures! I was going to be the NEW type of whistle blower!) Well, I was fine. The escapees, not so much. Google it. I was on the edge of my seat the majority of my Ithaca trip but was lucky to see some great waterfalls and had great weather!  Oh man, and those fireflies put on this spectacular light show for me every night. I highly recommend that you go! My head has a knack for creating these tales of grandeur. I don’t know if this was rubbed off on me from watching so much “Doug” or that my parents have left their own anxious imprints in my head. Regardless, one practice that I have to share with you….is really stopping yourself and asking: is this the truth or is this a lie?

It was my former Youth Minister, Kathryn, who taught me this strategy.  I’m not sure about you, but I have this gift for creating these fictional future realities. I still do it. I’ve got some lifelines that I call when my head goes down the whirlwind of misery. Really ask yourself, “How often am I wrong?” Seriously.  Don’t let your ego and self righteousness get in the way here. Ask yourself, right now, if you have the tendency to be WRONG about what is going to happen tomorrow.  Or even an hour later from now.  Or even 20 minutes from now!

Or try this:  Have you ever entered some sort of situation, so confident that it’ll play out exactly the way you had predicted? Sure, some things might play out the way you had imagined.  But, for the most part, we bullshit ourselves. Forget asking and getting fixated on why do we do this. The more you catch yourself lying to yourself, the easier it becomes to manage and disregard the stress induced feelings. Byron Katie, author of the book “Loving What Is”, is a wonderful read and I highly recommend it. She created a simple 4 step formula called The Work which focuses on questioning our thoughts. The bottom line:  it’s our thoughts that cause suffering.  She states that we should approach our thoughts with inquiry.  Really investigate the thought!

I want to gently add one step to Byron Katie’s formula – laughter.  As I had mentioned before, I have some wonderful life-lines in my life who put up with my own bullshit. When I truly have a “Doug Funnie Syndrome” moment, I know exactly who to call.  They are so unbelievably patient with me and the conversation has a tendency end with laughter. We can all laugh at how ridiculous Rob is being. And I want you to do the same. Well, not laugh at me, but laugh at yourself! Speaking on my behalf, my soothsayer predictions can be absolutely absurd. I once ate a peanut butter sandwich at work, loaded the copier machine with a new stack of paper, WITHOUT having washed my hands, and had convinced myself that some poor person was going to have an allergic reaction to handling their peanut-laced paper. I was going to be responsible for a peanut-butter-allergic-reaction outbreak. Remember the 1995 film “Outbreak”? Yea, well, forget the host monkey. The copy machine was going to ruin everything and destroy lives. I was GUILT ridden for about 48 hours. I even called a friend who I knew had an allergy! HE even told me I was being ridiculous! Nothing happened. No headlines such as “Skippy Peanut Butter: Skipping Your Way to the Grave” made the news. I continue to eat peanut butter….and will continue to respect the ‘No-Peanut Zones’. Next time you have your neurotic moment, try to find the humor in it. Laugh at yourself. Once you are able to do this, you are golden. Laughter is the liberator.

Every episode of “Doug” ends with our troubled protagonist writing in his journal, reflecting on some lesson he had learned and relieved that things worked out. At the end of “Doug’s Dinner Date”, Doug forced himself to try liver and onions building up to this climactic point in the episode. He ended up liking it before having dinner with Patti. Furthermore, Patti admits that she was only joking about the liver and onions. They get Honker dogs and fries. Doug had wasted so much ENERGY on something that didn’t even happen. Save your energy. Do you ever find yourself exhausted from your thoughts? They can be so draining! Question your thoughts. And laugh at yourself. You’re fine. And so am I (And believe me, like you, I have to remind myself of this too!)

6/14/17 -Welcome, to Me. Rab.

Hey there! I’m Rob. Some friends call me Rab. Or Bobert. Or butthead. Thank you so much for stumbling across this blog. Now I need to hook you in. See that picture down below? There’s your hook. I’ll even give you a second to scroll down and look. That handsome devil is me – a 30 year old trying to become the best version of himself. Don’t be fooled by that picture though. I may look like I am radiating confidence but I am a worrier, terribly sensitive, and always torn trying to do the right thing. I’d like to share with you real life and uncensored stories that I experienced in this roller coaster of a ride called life. By doing so, I hope to not only inspire but, to remind you that we are ALL human and that we ALL have similarities (as well as embracing our differences!). I’d like to also open dialogue with you, the reader(s), to create a space for positivity and laughter. If we can laugh at ourselves, we’re golden.

Listen, the truth is, I’m an odd duck. Nice guy. But, a little odd. And sometimes, I beat myself up over this. I stress out if I have plans on both Friday and Saturday night. I put ketchup on everything. In fact, I just went to a BBQ last weekend, and my friends family questioned why I would ever put ketchup on grilled chicken.  Is that THAT weird?! The end of the second season of ‘Digimon’ still makes me weep. I like dudes, bike riding, and iced chai tea lattes. I over think everything. Should I ever dine with you, please put me near a window or door. I freak out in situations were I feel stuck. Give me leg room, and arm room, and torso space, in fact, let’s just eat outside.

At this point in my life, I am sick of surface leveled relationships. That rant above about me, that was me making myself vulnerable.  And boy, I tell ya, MANY people are not good at that. Vulnerability is a muscle. Let’s work together on that. Anyway, surface leveled relationships: the ones where you kinda put on a act….the ones where you are hesitant to be your authentic safe because you KNOW that someone will say something….the ones where you have to fit a paradigm of what the OTHER person thinks of you so not to ‘rock the boat’.

My twenties were full of boat rocking and my life is very different now from what it used to be only 7, 8, 9 years ago. I am STILL trying to break some habits and patterns….but, that’s life right? Growth doesn’t happen overnight.

My writing isn’t necessarily the best. You can probably tell from this first post. It’s truly all over the place. I just went from ketchup, to Digimon, to freaking out in windowless restaurants.

But here’s to STARTING. I will hopefully create some doodles, videos, and self help entries for your enjoyment.

HERE WE GO.

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