Uber has been a mixed bag for me. On the one hand, I was once driven across LA with such speed and comfort during the height of rush hour that by the time I was dropped off at work with more than a few minutes to spare, I was ready to propose to the driver. On the other, I once had an uber driver who had no air conditioning on the hottest day of the summer and told me that global warming was caused by a spaceship in the Antarctic. Please, just get me to my destination.
Still, I use the ride-sharing app a lot more often ever since my car was totaled, and each ride brings a new experience to add to my roster of ubers. Will my driver be a foreign man who doesn’t speak to me? Or will it be someone with snacks, who asks me about my life? Some days I prefer one over the other. I tend to enjoy riding in silence, but with the right person, a conversation could be nice. I also pool with other people sometimes, and they can be just as if not more interesting than the drivers.
I once rode with a driver who worked on music videos for a lot of famous people. The man who I was pooling with promptly began networking and asking if the guy could pass along his music to the people he worked with, playing his music aloud for the car to hear.
“It’s not really like that. Nobody notices me- I just sit in the corner and work on the computer,” he said.
When I worked at the pizza place, I would often take home pizza and offer it to my uber drivers. Quite a few of them accepted. The people I pooled with also tended to accept, awarding me with drunken compliments.
“Did you just come out of the closet?” one guy asked me. “Gay men are never this nice.”
I’ve also recently started using Lyft, since everyone told me it was cheaper. The first time I tried it it was a dollar cheaper, so I took a lyft instead of an uber. Then, when I got there, I saw that you could tip on the app, which basically meant I ended up paying what I would have paid for an uber. The next time I took an uber, my driver, Ejajul, adds a 50 cent extra fee charge for an extra seat, because he thinks that a friend I’m saying goodbye to is coming with me. I figured it didn’t really matter but still made the ride a bit awkward.
On the ride he asks, “Why is your uber rating so low? You only have a 4.6.”
I’m like “I don’t know, Ejajul!”
So then I spend the rest of the ride googling why my uber drivers wouldn’t like me, which made me carsick from being on my phone in the car. Apparently, what I’ve found out, is that while you don’t have to tip using uber, you can tip via cash, which I had not been doing. Perhaps that is why my rating was so low. Either way, I was now intimidated away from using uber due to my low rating of 4.6, and figured lyft was cheaper anyway.
However, on the last uber I took my driver was an older man who was also taking a female passenger named Teodora to her destination. He asked her if her name meant anything.
“No,” she said, “It’s just a name. It’s historical. Like a Byzantine princess or something.”
“So it does mean something,” he said.
“I mean, I guess. But it doesn’t translate to ‘poppies’, or anything like that.”
I began to count how long it would take to get me to my destination. I was setting up my gas utilities, and this was my first human interaction of the day. I was not enjoying it.
“Are you on your way to an audition?” he asked Teodora.
“Yes,” she said. “Me and another person are actually auditioning together, so I’m meeting him.”
“Ah, you’re getting discovered,” he said.
“That’s the plan,” she said. She then turned to me. “Are you trying to get discovered?” she asked me.
“Kind of,” I said. “I’m a writer.”
“That’s the most important part,” the driver said. “If you don’t write, we don’t have words to speak, the director doesn’t have anything to do, there’s no show.”
“That’s right,” Teodora said as we pulled up to her stop. She got out of the car.
“I hope you get discovered,” she said to me.
“Good luck on your audition!” I said.
“I’m just kidding,” she said. “I don’t believe in getting discovered.”
She shut the door and we drove away.
“Actresses are weird,” said my driver.
He then continued to drive me to my destination, while telling me about his experience as an actor in Los Angeles. The part of me that doesn’t like interacting with other people and prefers to keep all small talk to a minimum wished he would stop. But the other part of me was fascinated by what he had to say. He talked about drive, and passion. He warned me not to get mixed up in Scientology, which is always good advice. Then he told me about his wife, who was a stand up comedian.
“Would you like to see her?” he asked.
“Sure!” I said, thinking he would take out his phone while driving and show me a picture of his wife, however dangerous that might be.
“Just type her name into Youtube and her stand up will come up. The audio isn’t great but she’s still excellent.”
I begrudgingly pulled out my phone and proceeded to watch his wife’s stand up, which was actually pretty funny. She talked about being a pastor and how for one person’s funeral they had a decoration of flowers surrounding a phone that said “Jesus Calling”.
“To this day,” she said, “the phone will ring and I’ll scream ‘Don’t answer it!'”
We got to my destination and I got out of the car. Before he let me go, however, he had a bit of advice for me.
“Just keep writing,” he said. “And never stop pursuing your dream, no matter what.”
Sometimes I’ll take an uber, and have an experience that makes me think I was meant to be in that car at that moment. I often find myself looking at someone and judges them on face value. I think there’s nothing I can learn from them and I dismiss them. But I know that that comes from fear. I choose to limit a lot of my interactions with people I don’t know, because I’m afraid. I don’t know what I’m afraid of, exactly. Mostly I just don’t want to say the wrong thing. When I choose to look past that fear, and just listen to other people without feeling pressured to be anything other than myself, I tend to hear some pretty wonderful things. And, if nothing else, I experience enough strange shit that I can then write about. So it’s a win-win.