As decided yesterday by Kat on Twitter, the writing prompt for this week is, “Write about one of your strangest Uber rides”…However, I’ve extended it to writing about any car journey in general. I myself am going to stick to the original prompt (well…sort of….) so, without further adieu here is my first #OnWednesdaysWeWrite post.
When I moved to Los Angeles I was inundated with the unsolicited opinion that I would HAVE to get a car.
Which to me sounded like, “yOu cAN’t SuRviVe in lA wIthOuT a cAr”
Everyone told me that public transportation was rubbish here, which is true. I once got on the metro and saw a tramp asleep across three seats with his trousers around his ankles and his arse hanging out. Needless to say I got off the train and walked straight out of the station. I don’t blame that man…he has to sleep somewhere, and there is a distinct lack of support for homeless people in this city, so I do feel for him. But a confined space underground with a half naked man who smelled like he hadn’t showered in a month was not how I wanted to start my morning.
I did momentarily think that I would get a motorbike when I moved to LA since I had one in London, but after coming across a man trying to get his motorbike onto the back of a pickup truck because he’d wiped out on Laurel Canyon and broken his ankle, I changed my mind. It took us half an hour to get it into the truck. Good thing I came along, too, because him and his mate weren’t using the laws of physics to their advantage and without me stood in the bed of the truck to help pull the bike up they’d have probably done even more damage to it.
Amongst the many reasons not to drive a motorbike, or any vehicle for that matter, is the fact that third to only Moscow and Beijing, I have NEVER seen worse driving in my life than what I’ve witnessed in Los Angeles. If I had two bits of advice for anyone who drives in LA it would be:
One – stop honking. Everyone. Just stop.
Although the idea of driving a motorbike along the Pacific Coast Highway was romantic, the reality of probably dying within a week of driving one in this city meant that particular plan went out the window immediately.
I did have a chance to have some first-hand experience driving in LA every day when I was hired by a family to pick their kids up from school every day – WHICH in and of itself was a horrible idea as I can handle kids for a couple hours at a time, but every day for hours on end? EUGH. I then had to drive them to their after-school activities and endure hours of conversation every week with a 9 and 12 year-old. I’ve never in my life woken up and thought, “Hm, I’d really like to sit in traffic with two highly hormonal pre-teens and answer all their questions about my views on popular culture…” After one week of driving two hours a day I was like, “Absolutely not.” But I stuck it out long enough for all of us to resent each other. The mum was constantly asking why it took me so long to get back and I couldn’t bring myself to tell her that I pulled over for at least fifteen minutes every day to have a moment of silence after I’d driven the kids to their respective activities before returning the car home, where I’d inevitably have to talk to her about all her problems. I’m pretty sure psychologists get paid a lot more than what she was paying me.
ANYWAY…that job ended. Not entirely on my terms, but whatever. That doesn’t matter. I went back to a standard 9-5 job where no one makes me sit and listen to them gripe about their ex-husband while they chain smoke and drink rosé, so I’ll take it. This job involves a commute that does not have a convenient public transport route, so luckily for me modern technology has given us affordable taxis that you don’t have to hail off the street like a chump. My use of Uber as my exclusive mode of transportation commenced once more.
When I worked in sales, the “law of averages” was heavily emphasised in training. The premise is that 10% of customers would be fantastic and friendly, 10% would be distinctly terrible and 80% would fall somewhere in between. If you needed to make 10 sales you had to speak to 100 people in order to find the 10 people you needed to sell to. They weren’t all the 10% who were pleasant to talk to, as sometimes those people had no money or already had whatever you were selling, but half of the sales were usually from that 10% and then the other half were from the 80% of people somewhere in between friendly and awful. If you had a good product at a good price and enough patience you’d find the people you needed on a daily basis.
What does ANY of this have to do with Uber, you ask?
Well, whenever I tell anyone about a nightmare Uber journey the usual response is something along the lines of, “This is why I don’t use Uber!!” And while I’ve had some pretty diabolical Uber drivers, I look at Uber from a law of averages point of view.
10% of rides are so bad that I’ll give a one-star rating along with a very detailed review, which typically results in a full refund and apology from Uber.
10% of rides are with people that have a significant impact on my day and whom I have an instant and genuine connection with and end up tipping about the amount of the ride.
80% of the rides I sit in the backseat in companionable silence with the driver, scrolling through Twitter before giving a cordial, “Have a nice day” at the end.
The latter types of rides are pretty uneventful unless I see a dog, so I’ll leave those kind of anecdotes to Twitter. What I’m here to tell you about is the worst and best Uber rides I’ve ever had.
The absolute worst Uber ride I had wasn’t the time my driver almost merged his Prius into oncoming traffic twice, or even when a driver handed me his business card that let me know he was also a Honda used car salesman and told me to call him…it was the first and only time I got the same driver for a second time.
The ride sharing apps have an algorithm which will not pair you with a driver twice unless you give them five out of five stars. Since I commute to and from work it makes sense that a driver who begins driving at the same time I finish work would get me as a passenger more than once. The only reason I know this is because this driver told me as such the second time he picked me up.
“Thanks for the five stars!” he had said.
“Oh, you’re welcome!” I replied. He then asked me if I usually gave five stars and I explained not always since sometimes drivers were inappropriate and asked me out, making me feel extremely uncomfortable.
He nodded in understanding. “I can see where that would be uncomfortable, but…” Why is there always a “but”? As soon as he started this sentence I knew I wasn’t going to like where it was going.
“But…” he said, “you are extremely beautiful. Your boyfriend must be very jealous.”
This has got to be the stupidest trick in the book. Dropping any kind of reference to one’s partner in order to figure out whether or not they’re single.
“Yeah…he hates it,” I lied. I hadn’t dated anyone for two years. Well…not exclusively at least.
“So you do have a boyfriend?”
At this point I’m like
and just praying for this journey to end.
I had JUST told this man how creepy it is when drivers ask me out and here he was…trying to ask me out.
What prompted Kat to suggest this as the first #OnWednesdaysWeWrite topic is a post I saw on Twitter about a girl finding this note attached to her door…
If you don’t find this anything except creepy as all fuck then you clearly are not a woman who has had to use a ride-share service alone. I’ve started using Uber Express Pool, not only because it’s cheaper, but because it doesn’t drop you off at your door and thus prevents complete strangers from watching me walk to my apartment door for this exact reason. I’ve had way too many weirdos ask me out and it’s shit like this that makes me all sorts of
But, again…that is only 10% of my experience with Uber. The other 90% is overwhelmingly fine. If I get from point A to point B I typically consider it a successful journey.
Now…the BEST Uber journey I’ve ever had was with a driver named Jason.
It was one of the three days it’s ever rained in LA while I’ve been here, and as soon as I got into his car he was like a big ol’ ball of sunshine.
“Hey, [my name]! How are you?” he asked, and it wasn’t that kind of insincere greeting where someone asks how you are in lieu of just saying “Hello”…he genuinely waited for a response. Just like I typically do. Which is why I’m so good at sales. No one really talks to anyone anymore, so if you ask someone a question and earnestly want to know the answer you’re probably already way more engaged in that person’s life than most other people are.
Over the course of our 30 minute journey, which should’ve only taken 15 because people forget how to drive in the rain, I told him all about my writing and he told me that he was a singer and a model. When he finally reached my destination it was kind of sad to have to leave, but he told me his full name and to look him up, and when I did I realised that he’s kind of a big deal.
So…while taking Uber on a daily basis isn’t always ideal…it’s definitely always interesting.