A Look Back at the Year of My Uber Life

With the arrival of Musikfest (10 day music festival here in Bethlehem PA), it marks my 1 year anniversary driving for Uber.  I have not been driving as much lately because of my schedule and it got me thinking.  Do I really want to keep driving for Uber?  And to be honest, I am not really sure.  I mean I have definitely have some interesting experiences, like driving Stoner Gamer Dude and the time I drive the offensive coordinator for Lehigh football but has it really been worth it?

To start, since I began last August, there are a lot more drivers in the area and it is harder to get rides, at least harder to get as many rides as I used to.  Plus, I have had a few unexpected rides where I had to drive into NYC or just even from Bethlehem PA to Somerset County NJ, which was about an hour ride.  On top of that, there are all these changes/issues that Uber is having.

Not sure you have heard, but the company seems to be kind of a mess.  First there was the sexual harassment scandal where a woman accused a manager of harassment but it was dismissed because the manager was a high performer.  REALLY?!?!?  So if the manager was a crappy worker, they would have investigated?  Eventually, Uber did start an internal investigation, only to find out a few days later that this might not an isolated incident.  A week or so after that we find out that one of their Senior VP’s steps down after allegations of sexual harassment at his former company.  Stay Classy Uber.

Then Google sues Uber, accusing them of stealing their “self-driving” technology.  Which Uber denies and plans to go to court.  Then, using this alleged stolen self driving technology, one of their cars runs a red light, almost hitting a person who was in the cross walk.  They decide to blame this on human error since there was someone in the car who could have stop this.  Now granted the person assigned to make sure this worked screwed up, but really wasn’t it the car’s error first and the person just failed to react in time?

After that, a video surfaces of the CEO berating a driver.  Now, I give the CEO some credit, he does come out and offer public apology and says that we will get “leadership” help.  Not sure that will help, but it is a start.  The list goes on.  More lawsuits, more executives resign, another self driving car crash, etc…  Like I said – total mess.  And, not that it affects me, but since I started, they have added about $0.70 additional rider fees, so while it is costing the passengers more money to ride, the driver does not see any of it.  Probably because they need the money to pay for the lawyers and increase insurance fees.

Now, you might ask, why did I keep doing it as long as I have?  Well, they are looking into getting flying cars as early as 2020.  How cool is that.  Really, I am not kidding, they are looking to demonstrate these electric plans that would take passengers at 150mph through the sky.  Although with their history with the self driving cars, this would make me a little nervous.  But to be honest, this was not the real reason I haven’t quit.

Since I hadn’t been driving a much, I really have not paid that much attention to all of this until recently.  I think I am going to see how things go this week and half with Musikfest in town and decide after that.  Although at this point I am leaning towards calling it quits.  WHAT!?!?! you say.  Calm down. I do still like writing, so while it might be the end of “My Uber Life”, I might just need to start thinking of other things to write about.

Any suggestions???

Harry Potter and the Uber Stone

In honor of the 20th Anniversary of the 1st Harry Potter book, I am going with the Harry Potter Theme this week.

So I, unlike Harry, was born with no magically powers.   Hagrid did not come to my house on my 11th birthday, and say “you’re an Uber Driver, Kevin”.  So, like every other Muggle when my car gets dirty I need to clean it. I can’t just simply wave my wand and swoosh away all of the dirt from my car.  Nor do we have a house elf that would clean it for me.

I had always thought that I kept my car pretty clean, but when you start driving, you really look at it a lot closer.  I made it a point, before I went out the first time, that I had washed my car and vacuumed the entire thing.  And for the first ride, my car was spotless and I was my usually charming self.  At the end of the ride, I got rated a 5 and I figured this is easy.  Well, that didn’t last long.  For the rest of the night every ride I got rated me a 3 or 4.  I was getting a little self conscience since I was trying to be extra nice to everyone seeing that I was new to all this.  It wasn’t until the next day, when I went to get into my car and happened to look in the back seat and saw an empty soda can.  Apparently the someone from my first ride, had left it back there when they got out of the car.

Another thing I had to worry about was having a new driver in the house.  My daughter, also a Muggle, had gotten her license and started driving my car every so often.  At first, it never really occurred to me that I would need to check the car after she had taken it.  Well, I learned pretty fast that I really need to inspect the car after she was driving too.  For example, there was on Saturday, when I went out driving in the morning.  My daughter had used the car the night before and I didn’t even think about that before I went out.  I woke out, and there was Surge pricing, so I turned the app on.  I got a hit right away without leaving the house.  I quickly grab the keys and headed out.  The first ride I get, the person is very friendly and we are have a nice conversation the whole time.  I drop her off and then head back home since the surge pricing had stopped.  Well when I get home, I check the app to see what I was rated and it turns out she gave me a 1.  WHAT???  I couldn’t believe it.  I go check out the car and it turns out, there was a bunch of garbage on the floor in the back seat.   SMH, well that explains it.

Another time, I pick up this High School kid who just needed a ride to school.  This time I did peek in the backseat real quick and it looked OK.  The kid gets in the car and after a quick hello, his first comment was, “So you have dogs?”.  What, how the hell did he know that.  I let him know that we have 3 and ask if he was allergic thinking maybe his sinuses started bothering him.  Nope, no such luck.  Seems, the night  before, someone had decided to take the dogs in the car to pick up a friend and there was fur all over the back seat.

So, until I get the letter from the wizard owl with my letter to Hogwarts, it looks like I need to continue to inspect my car before every ride.  You never know when a poltergeist, like Jeeves might leave some garbage or dog hair in your car.

Congrats to Harry Potter and the Uber Stone on 20 years.

Photography by Suzanne Drake Photography

One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Uber

I had brought this up before in Uberity where when I started, I always thought the people I picked up would be someone who needed a ride because they knew they were going to be drinking and didn’t want to drive.  Or the people that needed a ride home, because they drank too much. Or even the 3rd type, people needing a ride back to their car because they were too drunk to drive the night before.  And there have been times where I did get these types of rides.

Like on St. Patrick’s day, when I picked up these 2 guys that had just been bar hopping in Bethlehem and needed a ride to their next stop.  Or the guy in Allentown, who had to leave the bar because it was closing.  He lived close, but it was raining and didn’t want to walk home.  Problem was, he didn’t know it was raining when they were kicking him out. He had ordered a drink and had planned on walking home with it.  Well since it was pouring out, he figured he would call for an Uber.  I pick the guy up and he wants to get in the car with his drink.  At this point, I am still pretty much a rookie driver and was not sure what to do.  Do I let him get in and drive with an open “container” in the car, or make him finish it or pour it out before he gets in.

Well, at the risk of admitting that I was unlawful by letting him get in the car or the risk of seeming like a prude by making him pour it out I will refrain from answering. Let’s just say, we reach a compromise and the gentlemen got home safely and was nice enough to give me 5 stars.  He even give me a little tip.  I miss that guy 🙂

Over the last few weeks now, I have come across a few different reasons why people request an Uber.  Like last week when I was in NJ on my way home from work.  I turn the app on and get a ride pretty quick.  I reach the pickup location (a gas station) and it is a man and a women – either husband and wife or boyfriend and girlfriend – or just EXTREMELY comfortable with each other since she had her head in his lap for most of the ride.  As I get ready to pull away, I see that they are headed to Allentown, which is only a few minutes past my house in PA and about a 40 mile trip.  I say “I hope you don’t mind me asking, but what brought you out to NJ that you needed and Uber to get home”.  Well the man tells me that their car was impounded and the needed a ride.  Oops, maybe I shouldn’t have asked.

At this point though, I am really curious as to what happened, but was afraid to ask any more questions.  We get to Allentown and I drop them off, at which point I wish them luck with their car.  The man tells me, “Oh don’t worry, we ARE getting the car back tonight” and gets out of the car.  Now this made me even more curious as to what happened, but I guess we/I will never know.

Really is no moral to this whole story just found it interesting, but maybe consider it more like a PSA. As a wise man once said, “Don’t drink and drive, don’t even putt”. And just make sure if you do have your One Bourbon and One Scotch, get your One Uber to make sure you get home safe.

Hope everyone had a great Memorial Day

Cheers!.

Photography by Suzanne Drake Photography

 PS – No dogs where harmed in this photo, nor did they actually drink any Vodka

Where in the World is Uber San Diego

I think I have mentioned this before, as a driver, when you get a ride, you don’t know where you are going until you pick up a ride.  Then, once they get in the car, you can hit the navigation link and it takes you right to the GPS App on you phone.  I am pretty familiar with the Lehigh Valley, but there is NO WAY, I could drive for Uber if it was not for the GPS option.  Now, that is not to say, the GPS does not have it own issues.

For the most part the GPS has not “steered” me wrong when it came time to drop someone off.   Although, not quite as accurate when picking someone up.  The way it works, is when someone request an Uber, they can either plug in the actual address or, the can select to use their current location.  Then when the Uber driver gets “pinged”, they hit the navigation link (GPS) and it tells there where to go.  That’s when the fun can start.

If someone plugs in the actual address, then it usually works no problem.  When they choose their current location, the GPS can get a little funky.  For example, one time, it told me to pick the person up at 1022 – 1066 Main St.  Way to narrow it down. Its kind of like when the cable company tells you they will be there between 8am and 4pm.   You give a big range so there is less of a chance for error.

There have also been several times, when I got to the address to pick someone up, and the GPS would tell me to pick the person up in the alley behind there house.  Reason this happens is the person requesting the ride was standing in the kitchen or some other room that was towards the back of the house, so the GPS sends you to the closest road to where they were when they requested a ride. Took me about 3 or 4 rides like this before I realized what was going on.  Now, when this happens, I make it a point to stop near the front of the house and then contact the rider to see where they needed to get picked up.

Then there are issues like yesterday when I was driving home from work.  I decided to turn the app on to see if I can get a ride on the way back..  I get pinged and I made the mistake of just accepting it, without really looking at the address.  I hit the navigation link and was on my way following the turn by turn instructions of my handy dandy GPS.  It was not until I was about 2 mins away that I realized the GPS was telling me to pick the person up ON the highway.  At first I thought, OK maybe the person broke down and needed a ride, but as I approached the pick-up location, there are no cars parked on the side of the road.  Turns out the person was in an office building where certain parts of the building were close to the highway.  Apparently the person was in the part of the building close to the highway when the requested the ride.

So the moral of this story is: If you request an Uber and choose “your current location”, if the driver is late, instead of wondering Where in the World is Uber San Diego, just think to yourself, where you were when you requested the ride.

Thanks – Hope everyone has a great Memorial Day weekend.

 

 

Uber Side Story – Part II, Maria’s tale

This story, is a continuation of my last post – Uber Side Story, where I picked up “Tony” who unexpectedly shares a ride with “Maria”.  When we last left these 2 crazy kids, we got to hear Tony’s side and how we just dropped him so that he could buy the bong he always wanted for his birthday, which I am sure he has gotten plenty of use out of since. We now pick up with Maria’s story, that, while it might not be as colorful as Tony’s, I feel that it no less interesting.

For those who did not read part one of Uber Side Story, let me give a brief recap of how we got here.  Basically, Tony had requested an Uber and was walking out of work at the same time that Maria was leaving.  These 2 had never talked to each other before, but to help Maria out so she would not have to wait for a bus, Tony offers to share the Uber.  What a nice guy.  The conversation mostly revolves around Tony while he is in the car.  Although, we do find out that Maria, like Tony, had recently moved to the area, but that was about it – Oh and that she does not know of any good gay bars in the area nor smokes pot.

After we drop Tony off, we talk a little about pot smoking and about not having much of a social life now that we have kids.  Oh, yeah, I forgot to mention, Maria is a single mother of 3 – ages ranging from 8 – 15.  She says, that she moved here to get away from her ex and live with her mother.  She proceeds to tell me about her 3 kids.  The youngest, a girl, has been pretty easy so far.  She stays out of trouble and does pretty good in school.

The middle child, is a boy.  He too stays out of trouble, but not so great at school.  Apparently the kid is really into sports.  Loves basketball and baseball and is pretty good at them, just doesn’t spend the time on school work.  I let her know that I was pretty much the same way when I was a kid and I did what I needed to to get by.  It wasn’t until I got to High School, where I started hanging out with a bunch of guys that not only had the same passion for sports,  but were also pretty good in school that things started to change.  Hanging out with them made me realize that I could still enjoy sports, but also do well in school.

Then we come to her oldest, who had been doing good in school, until they moved.  She said that at first she was happy because her oldest was able to make friends early on. Problem was, these were not the greatest kids.  Her daughter had been cutting school and even got caught drinking a few times.  Maria is now focused on trying to save up some money so that she can move to Georgia.   I asked if she had family or friends down there and she said no, but that she had visited there a few times and really liked it. She thought it would be a good place to start over again and that she needs to do this to make things better for her kids.

I drop her off and she says it was nice to be able to talk to someone and thanks me for the conversation.  I thank her and wish her the best of luck.  At this point, it was getting late in the night and I just turn the app off and head home.

On the way home, I start thinking about my daughters and even how it was when I was growing up.  While family has a big influence on how we turn out, our friends also have an impact on us.  It really made me appreciate not only the friends that my daughters have made but also the ones that I made while I was growing up. To all my friends and family – I thank you.

As for Tony and Maria, I wish her the best with her and her children and that they can find what they are looking for in Georgia.  As for Tony, I hope that he continues to be the nice guy that shares an Uber for those in need and wish him a life time of “highs” with his new bong.

And with that, I will end this Uber Side Story.

Photos by Suzanne Drake Photography

 

Uber Side Story

There have been plenty of times when I have gotten a request for a ride and it is for more than one passenger.  See The Fabulous Uber Boys, the story of boys night out for some examples.  But usually, all of these people know each other.  They were all out and about together and decided to share a ride.  Although, one time, this was not the case.

So, my Uber day, started like most.  I was out running errands and decided to turn the app on to see if I can get any rides.  After the initial ride or 2, I get a request to pick someone up at an assisted living facility.  I see this guy walking towards the car but then right when he was about to get in the car, I see him stop and he starts talking to this woman who was leaving at the same time.  After a short discussion, he opens the car and asks if I would mind giving the woman a ride too.  Thinking they are going to the same place, I said, “Sure, why not”.

Well they both get in the car and it turns out these people don’t even know each other.  While they both work at the same place and have seen each other around, they have never talked to each other before.  Oh, and they are not even going to the same place.  They ask me if this was OK and I am thinking to myself, I have no idea.  But seeing that I am always up for a new adventure, I agree and we are on are merry way.

So as I start to drive and we discuss how this is going to work.  We all agree that since the man, let’s call him Tony, had initially booked the ride, that we would just use his account to make things easier.  We then plugged in the woman’s destination, let’s call her Maria,  (Why Tony and Maria – well I just saw my daughters’ HS production of West Side Story and these were the first 2 name that popped in my head – excellent show by the way) but that I would drop off Tony first.  We figured out that the total cost would be roughly $10 more for me to drop Maria off, so she just gave Tony the $10 difference.

As we start towards Tony’s destination, he starts saying that he just moved here recently from NY and that today was his birthday.  At this point, Maria and I start to sing Happy Birthday to him.  OK, not really, but we did wish him a happy birthday.  He goes on to say that he was heading to this store so he could by a new green bong as a birthday present to himself.  He then realizes what he said and what it implied and admits that he does smoke pot (no really??).  The conversation then transitions to how hard it is to find good pot in the area. He is saying that probably the best people to ask would be the younger kids, but since he is in his later 20’s, if he does that, they all think he is a cop.  He is also reluctant to asking someone older because, like I said he is new to the area and not sure who he can trust.  Wow, what a dilemma.  Maria and I are not really sure what we can do to help so we change the conversation.

Tony goes on to say that he does miss the night life in NY and that there really was no good clubs the area.  I asked him if he tried Visions at the casino or some of the other places in Bethlehem.  He then mentions that he is gay and that he cant find any good gay clubs around here.  OK, well then I am not going to be any help and not just because I am straight, but because at my age, the only time I am deciding on a club is when I am debating between a 7-iron or an 8-iron. The only reason I know about Visions is because I have dropped people off there before.

At this point we reach Tony’s stop.  I drop him off and head to Allentown to drop Maria off.  I could go on, but Maria has her own story to tell so you will have to tune in later to here the rest of this Uber Side Story.

Photos by Suzanne Drake Photography

The Fabulous Uber Boys

Most of the time when I am out uberring and get a ride, it is just one or 2 people.  On occasion, I will get rides with 3 or 4 people, but that is not really the norm.  Now, I have a Subaru Impreza, which can seat up to 4 passengers pretty comfortably.  Any more than that and someone is going to have to find another ride or they are going to have to sit on laps (do not try that at home).

One of the first times that I had large group of people was when I was on the Southside of Bethlehem and got a request to pick someone up at Molly’s Irish Grillle.  I pull up to the corner and I see a group 5 college kids waiting (4 guys and 1 girl).  At first they all try and get into the car.  I apologize and let them know that my car can really only fit 4 people – Ruh Roh.  They all start looking around at each other and I half expected them to start playing Rock, Paper, Scissors to see who would have to get another ride.

In the end they pick the guy who was there with his girlfriend.  I am thinking to myself, wow, chivalry really is dead.  As we’re driving, the guys start talking and it turns out, this was supposed to be boys night out, and the 3 that got into the car were not thrilled that the 4th guy brought his girlfriend.  To this day, I wonder if they did this on purpose so they could ditch the guy or if they really did meet up with them someplace later.

Another time when I picked up a bunch of guys who were going out for a boys night, it was much different.  These were 4 guys who were heading out to Bethlehem for what they called; preparation for an all day baby shower the next day.  One of the guys (and his wife) were expecting their first child and this was like his Last Hurrah!

On the way there, one of the guys wonders if “Sam” (name changed to protect the innocent) the bartender was working.  They start talking about other times they had been there when “Sam” was working.  The guy who is having a baby any day, starts reminiscing about the time “Sam” kicked open the door to the bathroom stall while he was in there have sex with someone.  And then he wonders, if “Sam” realizes that the girl ended up being his wife.   At this point I am thinking, “Could that have been the night his child was conceived?”  They start to talk about it a little more, but at this point, we arrive – CRAP!!  Now we will never know if that was “the” night.

All in all, my experiences driving for groups like this has been petty good.  They were mostly well behaved and very nice gentlemen, at least to me.  Although, I would recommend, that if you do plan a “Fabulous Uber Boys” night out, that you either not bring your significant other or at least run it by the other boys before you show up.

As always, Photography by Suzanne Drake Photography