So I started driving for Uber about ten days ago, and I have to say that while it’s occasionally frustrating — e.g. dropping off a passenger at DFW Airport and finding out that there are 205 other Uber drivers ahead of you for your next fare — I find the thing rewarding, and not just for the money.
Of course, I don’t work that hard; I get up at about 4.30am so as to take advantage of the benighted business travelers who have to catch early-morning flights, then drive until about 11am, whereupon I come home for lunch (sometimes “dead-heading” all the way across town, no big deal). Then, if I feel like earning more, or I’m not too tired, I head out again and take fares until rush hour starts.
I prefer to pick up fares in and around Plano, because there are lots of them (especially around Headquarters Drive — Toyota, Frito-Lay, Hewlett-Packard, J.C. Penney, McAfee, Pepsi-Cola, Dr. Pepper and Ericsson all have large offices there) and because they tend to be executive types.
I prefer to ferry middle-aged people around because I can chat to them companionably and it relieves the tedium of driving on DFW’s crappy highway system. Young people (i.e. yoofs) are generally silent passengers, and spend all their time playing games / watching movies on their phones. However, two fares were eye-openers.
Case #1: Some Black dude with an impenetrable Ebonics accent (“Little Elm” came out “Li-Ell”). Plus, he had serious body odor. However, it was one of the best drives I’ve had so far. He was on his way to Fort Worth to be with his mother — his brother had just been killed in a car accident — so after offering condolences, I started to chat with him about our families. What a revelation. This guy was a retired professional soccer player who’d played for West Ham FC in London. Even more astonishing, his kids were also headed for the same profession: the oldest (18) is already playing for FC Schalke in the German Bundesliga, his middle son (15) is in Crystal Palace’s youth team in London, and his youngest (13) is in Team USA’s development squad, and has a chance of playing for the US in the next Under-17 internationals. And lest you think this was all bullshit, it wasn’t. I know a great deal about European- and British football, and this guy was the real deal. We even talked about their business manager and agent, whom I’d heard of, and discussed how Spanish “fooball” today isn’t played according to the Spanish style, but in the Dutch manner, thanks to the influence of the late Johan Cruyff, one of the greatest footballers ever and Barcelona’s manager in the early 1990s. When my passenger got out of the car at his mother’s place, he said, “Who’d a thought I’d get to talk football with an Uber driver from Souf Effrica?” (At least, I think that’s what he said; I’ve had easier conversations with ESL students.) Incidentally, he was using Uber — and getting me a $50 fare — because his BMW was broken “again!” and he warned me against ever buying the 440i. So much for that stereotype.
Case #2: I picked up a kid named “Jesus” (guess the ethnicity) outside a gas station in Dallas. He was a little agitated when he got in the car, and was worried about being late for his “appointment”. Anyway, I reassured him — it wasn’t a long trip — and so I asked him how his day had been. “Pretty good” was his non-committal reply. He was your typical Hispanic adolescent, a little sullen-looking and taciturn, but reasonably well-dressed and had a short haircut. Still, there was something a little “off” — he looked nervous, jumpy even. I figured him as a potential problem, so I watched him carefully all the way. Then we arrived at his destination: a U.S. Army recruiting office. “You joining up?” “Yes, sir. Signing the papers right now.”
You may consider me suitably chastened.
More memorable tales as they occur.