An Uber New Year and Beyond – TS Owen

jp03Ride2-articleLargeWoke up at 4:35 this morning, already late. Dressed in the dark, eased the front door shut at 4:43 and went online. For the next 20 minutes, I paced in the cold morning gloom, waiting for a ping that would tell me I hadn’t slept through the morning surge to LAX. Alas, I had. Picked up the silent phone, blew on my cold fingers and went back inside to brew coffee. Post five o’clock, six o’clock flight passengers are already at the airport. I’d spent two hours from 5 to 7 a.m. the day before trolling streets and gotten two short rides. Sigh.
I still had the afternoon rush.
Uber, Sidecar, Lyft and other share drivers spend their time trolling for riders or thinking about it. They don’t have shifts; they can work 24/7 with the push of the “Go online” button.
It’s a great way to fill in empty times in the day with the possibility of making some extra money. You meet fascinating folks on their way to parties, dinners, events, work. I could meet them on their way home, but I choose to skip the paparazzi-like crowd of drivers stalking riders at big events. Being out at 2 in the morning to drive folks home, some of whom have had way too much fun, isn’t my cuppa tea. This is common enough that Uber has a service fee for cleaning your car if it’s really been violated. One exception was Christmas Day, when I spent five happy hours driving folks home from family and friends’ homes. They were happy and tired, shared their day and even tipped – a practice Uber, for some inexplicable reason, discourages (unlike Lyft and others). I drove all over Manhattan Beach south, saw spectacular light displays, and when I’d worked my way to Torrance, I hopped on the 405 and came home.
I’ve learned from experience not to drive more than 5 easy or 4 tense hours. Nighttime, pouring rain, event-packed downtown LA is not my cuppa, either. Been there & could wind up there again, because after I accept a rider, they are in control of where we go. I could trace my shifts like Connect a Dot, with home as the start and finish. Or a “Pingball” game: leave the house and get a ping, pick up the rider, take them to their destination, go online & get another ping, head to the pick up location…some days it only stops when I do, hopefully somewhere near home.
Bad days are when you cruise for 2 hours and get two short rides. Good days, you have to go offline to use a restroom or get a cup of coffee or snack.
Morning is my nemesis because I either wake up at 2, too early, or past 4, when the airport surge is over. I will nail that in the new year.
I like 4 in the afternoon to 8 at night. It’s still light so you don’t have to blindly circle around searching for street signs or waiting riders. Folks are happy coming home from work or headed out for dinner with friends. There’s a chance for a surge so you get a better rate.
I leave home headed for cheap gas to start the shift. I’ve driven Santa Monica to Woodland Hills, Hermosa to Simi, and I want the best price on gas before I start.
I’ve have folks I would befriend forever and…others. One ice queen directed me to “Just go straight” and flew into a fit because I asked for clarification on a street that forked. Her comment was, “I told you to go straight!” She meant the left fork, how could I be so stupid?
Riders know their area while I have my one-step-behind GPS. I check it, see a right turn, start to turn right and have the annoyed rider correct me. “You can see that on your GPS.” Which is true, it had caught up and I was still going by its former directions.
Thick skins help. Folks come in all colors of moods, emotional states, states of inebriation and compassion, and it’s my job to please as many as can be pleased. The residue of one frosty lady is erased by a soldier home from Afghanistan early and thrilled she can spend Thanksgiving with her grammy.
Whichever way your weathervane’s facing tonight, call a driver. Rideshare. Friend. Taxi. We’re all out there to help everyone celebrate safely and welcome 2015 with joy.

www.culvercitysymphony.org

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