Back To Work

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.


  1. I was in Texas last week for business, thought of you. Maybe if I took Uber, I might have gotten the chance to meet you.

  2. In the 1970’s I drove cab for 4 years while in university, full time during break and part time otherwise. I too looked for weird times to get good fares.

    In my town businesses had to provide females a ride home after midnight. I quite frequently got a load of 4 or 5 nice and often very good looking women from the big downtown hotels bound for the same part of town.

    I even got the traditional greeting at the door from a naked middle aged woman on a Saturday afternoon. She invited me in. I fled.

    Lots of widows and widowers picked up from grocery stores and driven 3 blocks and bags of groceries schlepped in. They all tipped me as well as they could and the well off ones more than made up for the old girls who could only give me a dime.

    The polite 3 in the morning drunks who would ask you to pull over before they opened the door to puke. The rude/completely smashed ones who wouldn’t, necessitating a quick trip back to base for the clean up crew to do their magic.

    My dad died in 2010 and when I was cleaning out my parents house I found my old cabbie medallion which dad had kept in his “kid’s souvenirs” box. My brothers and I went through that box later with lots of tears and laughter. The stuff dads will keep.

  3. “So I started driving for Uber about ten days ago, and I have to say that while it’s occasionally frustrating […] I find the thing rewarding, and not just for the money.”

    What? Impossible! I’ve been assured by all sorts of people, especially the morons in the Arse Technica comment section, that the gig economy exists only to screw people over, and you’re being ripped off because you’re not an employee, getting insurance and all that.

    1. Yeah… all that and I get to pick my own hours, where and when I want to go, and if I need a little extra moolah that week, I just work a little harder.
      Customers get better service / less waiting / less hassle, and Uber makes more money which makes their shareholders happy.
      I’m trying to think who loses in this whole thing, but I can’t. No wonder the ignorant are indignant.

      1. “I’m trying to think who loses in this whole thing”

        The taxi companies, who can no longer get six figures or more for a medallion.

    1. Yes. I make sure to keep a running total of income vs. expenses, and other than an imminent set of new tires (tyres, to you) which has been on the to-do list for a few months anyway, I’m way ahead. Even with the new car-shoes, I’m still ahead.
      The way I do it is simple: I use a single credit card (paid down to zero before I started driving) to cover expenses, and have all Uber income auto-transferred to that card each week. It’s in the black…

  4. Glad you found something you like doing. I have thought about doing some cab driving from time to time. I like talking to people, might be what I do when I retire. That day is getting closer.

    At this rate you might even come up with novel ideas for a new book.

  5. Kim;

    I drive for Lyft — about a year, now — and based on that experience and ten years in da cab bidness back in the ’70s, I have this tip about staying at the airport: Don’t. Instead, find the nearest commercial town where there are businesses and shopping centers, and hang there until your dispatcher finds you something. It will almost always be sooner and better than what you get AT the airport.

    FWIW, I almost always deadhead into town from CVG. 75% of the time, I’ll make it two thirds of the way and get a trip in Northern Kentucky. The rest of the time, I have to go all the way into downtown Cincinnati before I pick up any business.


    1. Yeah, I figured that out fairly quickly. Best thing about my part of town is that even if I deadhead it out of DFW, I get a “return” fare back to the airport sometimes within a few minutes of leaving.
      Today, I took four people to DFW; three came from Plano.
      Another reason not to pick up at DFW is that you have no idea where they’ll be going. Last week I made two trips to Fort Worth out of DFW — and believe me, NOBODY uses Uber in FTW.

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