My Life With Uber: Part 3 – From the Bird’s Nest
I haven't visited this subject in a while but with summer almost over and my taking vacation time ended (for now), I thought I'd resume these stories. Thanks to those of you who have told me that you've enjoyed them.
Here are some of my experiences as an Uber driver: As always, names have been changed to protect the guilty.
SHE JUST HAD TO LIVE MAS: I picked up Lily at a local bar. She was in her late 30's early 40's. Her husband was out of town and she had been partying with friends. Her friends wanted to continue the party. She was ready to go home. It was a good choice on her part. She was pretty much "done." She got in the vehicle and I confirmed her destination. But Lily was no sooner buckled in when she said, "I needa go to Taco Bell." Now, I have to admit, that's a place I don't frequent much and I didn't know where the closest one was. I asked her if she knew and she said to "go that way."
Well, "that way" didn't have a Taco Bell that was open. We were about to get to an intersection with two other fast food places and they would be the last ones on her route. She said to stop at one of those, but added "I really needa go to Taco Bell."
Well, as it turned out, both of those fast food places were closed as it was after midnight.
"Oh, $&!#," Lily said " I really needa go Taco Bell." I offered to pull off to the side of the road and check my phone to see where the nearest Taco Bell was, but she said she'd do it. She fumbled with her phone, complained because it wasn't working (she was struggling to input the info) but finally got the information. The closest Taco Bell was three miles away. That didn't matter.
"I really needa go to Taco Bell."
So, we found one about three miles out of our way. I asked Lily if she knew what she wanted and she said yes. She offered to get me something but I declined. (Eating Taco Bell in a car isn't easy when your driving...or when you're not.) Of course, there were a few cars ahead of us which didn't please her and she complained about it taking so long. We got to the window and they ran her card and of course, AFTER that, she tried to add to her order and, then as we left, complained they short changed her (which I KNEW would happen.)
But Lily had her Taco Bell. Which she proceeded to wolf down as we rode to her house. No seriously, she was getting after it. And, with each bite, lettuce and cheese dropped onto the seat of the car. But no worries. She picked it up and ate that, too. We finally got to her place and she got out of the car, got all of her containers together and made sure the seat was clean before she left. She was one happy lady.
DON'T CRY IF YOU DON'T HAVE MONEY -- I picked up Suzie at a bar between Lafayette and Broussard. She got in the car and I asked how she was doing. "I'm okay," Suzie said. "I'm drunk." Hey, no problem, that's why I'm here. So we drove toward Broussard and suddenly she said "Oh No!" I asked if something was wrong, like did she forget her purse or phone at the bar. "I don't have any money!" I reminded Suzie that wasn't a problem, as Uber is a cashless service. "No, I don't have cash to tip you!"
I told her it wasn't a problem (and it wasn't, because at the time, a vast majority of riders didn't tip) but she was really heartbroken. She told me she relied on tips to make a living (which told me she was a server somewhere) and knew how important they were. She actually cried because she had no cash. I kept reassuring her all the way to her place. She apologized one more time as she got out.
Since that trip, Uber has (finally) adjusted its app where passengers can tip directly on the app. This has been a bone of contention for some time. Now, when you finish your ride, you can bring up your driver's name, rate him/her and add a tip if you wish. I'm finding the vast percentage of passengers still do not tip, but those who do, tip very well.
NO SURGE PROTECTOR---Weekend nights can get really busy, especially as the night winds down. If you've used Uber or Lyft in the past, you know that prices can fluctuate depending on the demand. I took an Uber home from Festival International some time back. I don't live out in the boonies and my charge from downtown to my house was about 30 bucks. The biggest time for a surge starts about 1:30 am. Some weekend nights are busier than others. This particular Saturday I picked up two couples downtown at about 1:40 am. By this time the surge was heavy (we can see it on our app). I entered their destination and thought "wow." They were headed well past Acadiana Mall near Milton. They were really nice folks, I'd say late 20's. We talked mostly about dogs during the trip. But the man in the front seat acknowledged the ride was going to be costly. When we arrived at the destination I thanked him for his contribution to my kids' college education. When I confirmed the dropoff and started back, the price of just MY share showed on the screen. $42 dollars and change. Which means the ride home cost him about 60 bucks, at least three or four times the norm.
LESSON LEARNED.--I had a notification to pick up Ashley at a bar on Johnston Street. When I arrived, a young woman walked up to the car. She said they used Ashley's phone to summon Uber and she needed a ride home because she was really drunk. A tall woman was staggering toward the vehicle. Her friends got her in the vehicle and I headed toward Ashley's house.
And, I was about to learn a valuable lesson.
We arrived at her place. I told her we were there. Nothing. I said it louder. Nothing. She was laying in the third row seating, passed out. I got into the back and called her name loudly. Nope. I put a hand on her shoulder and called her name. Nope. I shook her near her shoulder. Nada. I tried to pull her by her arm to get her toward a sitting position. Nothing.
Well, here's what I COULDN'T do. I couldn't reach around her to try and pull her into a sitting position. Imagine you being awakened in a vehicle you aren't familiar with a strange man pulling you up with arms around you in order to get you into a sitting position. She would (understandably) panic. And, I might be in deep trouble.
So...I pulled as hard as I could on her right arm. (now I mentioned, she was tall...not Brienne of Tarth, but in the ball park), so it's not like she weighed 90 pounds). I got her halfway up and her eyes opened but only saw the whites of her eyes. I tried again. And again. Finally her eyes opened and I could see her eyeballs. Progress. I kept talking to her loudly and finally got her sitting up all the way. I pulled on her arm again and finally she responded. She got out of the car and I asked if she was OK. She said "yeahimauberdriver." I responded "no, I'M an Uber driver. She said "YOU'RE MY UBER DRIVER!" and hugged me. Now. she had to navigate the front yard. I couldn't really walk her to the door (that's another red flag for the passenger) so I told her I would wait until she opened her front door. And, prayed she wouldn't fall, because if she did, I would have been in a nearly hopeless situation. Fortunately she made it.
But I learned a valuable lesson.
I should not have allowed someone that intoxicated to get into my vehicle alone. I should have insisted one of her friends ride with me and offer to bring her back to the bar at no charge. That would have made it easier to get Ashley out of the car and would have protected me. In the future I might go as far as to refuse the ride (which we have a right to do.) But I certainly wouldn't be doing this by myself...for Ashley's sake...and mine.
SHE LIVES MAS. AND MAS. AND MAS. AND MAS.--I picked up two young women not far from downtown. Kathy and Ronnie had been drinking but certainly weren't sloppy drunk or anything like that. I tapped the app to find the destination and it was Taco Bell. Now, Ronnie (she said I could call her Sassafras for this story, but I'll stick with Ronnie) was the one really excited about Taco Bell. I should say, in order for you to appreciate the story, that Ronnie is 4'11" and probably doesn't weigh a hundred pounds. Kathy told her to order something for her and she really didn't care. She didn't sound like she was all that hungry. We pulled up to the drive through and I was amazed.
Ronnie started with four soft tacos. "Do you put tomatoes on them? If you do I don't want any tomatoes because I really don't like tomatoes." She was assured of no tomatoes. But that was just the beginning. She added chalupas, quesadillas, burritos and more that I can't remember. She was especially particular about the burritos. "Do those come with rice? I don't eat rice, so if they come with rice can I order them with no rice?" She was told she could and that made her happy. Now, she didn't order a drink, nor did she order any combos. Just food. (She did, however, ask for every sauce imaginable..lots of it.) . Her total was nearly 14 dollars. Now, even if Kathy was going to help, that's a LOT of food at Taco Bell, especially if you aren't even five feet tall. From there, Kathy entered their final destination which was close by. The two young women were really fun to visit with. But I'm betting Ronnie made a run for the border before all was said and done.
More stories on the way....