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Friday, January 19, 2018

Uberman

For those following my life story on this blog, you know that I ended the teaching experiment. I have to make some money, so I decided to try rideshare driving. I should have done this long ago, as I kind of love it. I'm working for Uber, since I figure this is the most popular one, despite their use of an Aryan's favorite word as their name.

Uber, if you don't know, and I really didn't until three weeks ago, is like a taxi service, except it's all cashless and riders arrange rides through their phones. Drivers, using their phones, are contacted (the closest driver is chosen) and they go to pick the person up, driving them where they want to go. Simple.

I live in Las Vegas, which may be the perfect Uber city, as there are so many tourists and so many people without cars (that also fits New York City, but I think driving an Uber there would be harrowing). I get all sorts of people, but the most common are the tourist going from their hotel to an attraction/restaurant, tourist going from hotel to the airport, and Vegas resident going to and from work (also Vegas residents going to the Strip, but not that many). I have so far worked three weeks and made over 150 trips, and I can only say that a few were unpleasant, but not overly so.

Here's the great things about Uber: you make your own hours, you don't need to deliver anything, and there is no interaction with a boss (I will be notified of my ratings, etc. but there is no personal supervision). So, this is better than delivering pizzas. I can also wear what I want, not those dorky pizza chain shirts and hats.

What I really like about Uber is that it becomes a sort of game. Many rides take me to different parts of the city (some are only a few blocks). So each ride leads to the next. I typically start at my apartment, and that rider may take me to Henderson, or to UNLV, or the Strip. I then pick up somewhere near there, and so on. The other day I went from one corner of the valley to the other. Tonight I went as far north as one can go. You don't know where the rider is going until they get in the car. Usually I hope for long rides, as they earn more money and there's less worrying about the next ride.

When I started, I was a bit flummoxed by some things. The only real aggravation is finding people. Uber is keyed to UPS (a guy told me today he took a cab and the cabbie got lost--I would have thought they'd all be equipped with GPS by now) and usually it's accurate, but sometimes goes wacky, and will take me around and around until I find where the person is (the app enables you to contact that person without knowing their phone number). Hotels on the strip have different places for pickup than cabs or limos, and sometimes finding them is like being a rat in a maze. For a while I didn't want to pick people up on the strip, but now I feel comfortable doing it.

I usually drive during the day, so I may be missing out. I usually can get $100 a day in about six-seven hours. But I've heard that driving from midnight to five AM can be lucrative, as the drunks are stumbling home and can give big tips. Tipping is not suggested, but I have gotten a few twenty dollar tips. One couple, already tipsy, tipped me to stop at a liquor store.

I've had a few of the things you'd expect in Vegas: women in for birthday parties (no bachelorettes yet), guys going to or from strip clubs (but I haven't picked up a stripper to take her home, which I'd love to do), and a car full of very drunk prison guards blowing off steam. Some people are chatty, others are as silent as the grave.

My most annoying fare were two women, though I did make good money off them. I drove them all the way across town to a salon, but it was closed. They changed their location to a marijuana dispensary, where I waited about twenty minutes while one bought dope. Then they changed their destination to a Wal-Mart, but the girl who bought the dope was carsick and threw up (at least she did it outside the car). I finally got rid of them after about an hour of driving them, and went to have lunch right near when I dropped them off. When I got back to the car, my first trip was--guess who? Those two again, having finished their shopping at Wal-Mart. The sick one wasn't there, she was in the restroom, so again I waited. Then she wanted to stop for cigarettes. I hope I never see them again.

I've been reading about some of the complaints about Uber, such as drivers sexually assaulting passengers (the only requirement to drive for them is to be over 18, a licensed driver, and passing a background check). This is in addition to the ire it has inspired cab drivers, who are not surprisingly angry about having new competition. It's turned violent in some countries. But geez, Uber has just built a better mousetrap. The pricing is upfront, and I would imagine that it's a nicer experience than some smelly old cab.

This is really a perfect part-time job for me. I'm pretty sedentary, so sitting in a car all day does not bother me. I can either read or listen to the radio when I'm between rides, and the one thing I was worried about, that I'm letting strangers into my car, has not been a problem. I've never felt in danger or gotten into a shouting match or anything like that. People have been nice.

I've done it every day now, and it almost goes the same way. I stress that I'm not getting rides (sometimes a half hour or more may go by without a nibble) but then they start coming and I'll get some long rides and I've made my self-imposed quota. I can still sleep in and have time for some recreation, which for me is watching movies.

I never knew how popular Uber was. It's been around for eight years, and now is like a major thing. The word has become a part of the language ("I'll just grab an Uber," has replaced "Call me a cab"). Hopefully writing this has not jinxed me.

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