Well, that didn’t take long. Saturday morning was my first Uber drive and here we are on Monday and having my Uber Driver’s app buzz me no longer brings a major thrill. I have come to quickly realize that whether someone needs a ride or not at the time my car happens to be close to their location has nothing to do with whether I am a worthy person. It’s all about logistics. Now that the thrill is gone, my attention has shifted back to my original purpose or at least to something akin to that purpose. As you will recall, I had wanted to gain a hands-on feel for how many workers in our new economy are trying to make a go of it. That remains the case, but a new purpose has revealed itself.
Today’s venture was trip five and a pattern is beginning to emerge. I had assumed most Uber riders were like me, out for a night’s event where alcohol was being served or needing a quick ride in another city from the airport to a business meeting. I’m certain riders of those types do make up a reasonably large percent of Uber users. What I have found though, in my admittedly very small sample, is that the nature of the riders are at least as interesting as the drivers (and in my case, far more so). Four of my five rides – all my rides have been during daylight hours — have been with very ordinary folk just trying to get to where they need to get quickly and not spend a significant part of their daily income in doing so. Three of them have included stops at a local train/subway station. I have no idea what they did B.U. (that’s Before Uber). I can’t imagine they used a taxi. A one mile taxi ride from my local train stop to my house, just one mile away, recently cost me $12. And that’s without any tip. I don’t know yet if there is a minimum Uber fee. As a driver, I sure hope there is. My fare for a two or three mile trip has been on the order of $6. But $12? At minimum wage, that’s nearly two hours’ worth of work. Again, I can’t imagine any of the four riders I took could have or would have paid that much. Would they have had to resort to taking a bus or two? That’s possible I imagine, even likely. But I know that instead of a five minute ride with maybe a five minute wait, door to door, a bus route would take five or ten times as long. Not a wonderful option for sure.
So here’s my take on day three. While the students at my university love the option of taking Uber home from a late night downtown and that’s an entirely worthy cause, an even more valuable purpose is to serve regular ole’ folks who need to do regular ole’ things (like get to and from work) and not empty their wallets. I am becoming an even bigger fan of my new employer – or should I say the company for whom I work as an independent contractor? More on that to follow.