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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.