One of the biggest drawbacks of driving for a rideshare platform is that you have no control over where you go throughout the day. Every ride is a roll of the dice. Some cities are compact, so this doesn’t matter much to those drivers, but in Los Angeles, you can really get yourself fucked over if you get stuck somewhere far away from the city.
After a particularly busy weekday morning rush hour, I was dropping off at LAX. Now, let me start by saying that I *DO NOT* pick up at LAX because of a real rolling of the dice. These people can be going hours away, or they can be going five minutes away. Both are equally annoying, as with one you can spend the rest of your day trying to get back to civilization, and with the other you can sit in the airport traffic loop for 40 minutes at a time, only to make $3 if they’re going close by.
Now that being said, I get a request coming from the airport loop. I was prepared to ignore it, but I saw that it was surging. In a split-second decision, I figured it could be worth it. If the passenger is going to the middle of nowhere, at least I’ll make better money doing it. Sure, it sucks that I’d have to drive back to civilization with nobody in the car, but whatever. I said it was a split-second decision! I didn’t have time to rationalize my thoughts on a blog at the moment.
So I go to pick the girl up, and she’s this teeny little frail Asian woman. Probably early 30s. She comes barreling into the car and yells that me she just got off of a long flight from China and has to teach a class and that I need to hurry.
While I definitely don’t care, my real thought is more along the lines of, “Hello! How are you? Please remember that your driver is a human being. I mean, we don’t have to be best friends or anything, but a little ‘Hello, how are you?’ goes a long way. Also you are clearly human garbage.”
I was way more polite than that, cheerfully starting the trip and saying, “Let’s see where we’re going today.” This is the point where I, as the driver, get to see the destination.
Her destination? SANTA BARBARA. As in 2.5 hours away with no traffic. And 3 hours back, minimum. Yeah. That Santa Barbara.
Hey lady… Santa Barbara in an Uber? You know planes go to Santa Barbara right? And you’re in an EXCELLENT place to catch a plane!
Keep in mind a few things. I am required by Uber’s Terms of Service to take her wherever she needs to go, be in downtown or Santa Barbara. Beverly Hills or Rhode Island. If I refuse the ride, she can complain to Uber and I can be deactivated permanently.
Also, keep in mind that when I drop her off, I have to drive back by myself. So by agreeing to take her, I’m locking myself into a 6 hour commitment, minimum. Is this worth it?
Uber’s navigation system is telling me to take the 101, which is a straight shot. But I remember that NPR said the 101 was shut down near Santa Barbara because of the mudslides. This was in January 2018, when the mudslides following the devastating wildfires killed over 20 people in the Santa Barbara / Montecito areas. They 101 and surrounding area surface level streets were shut down because they were still doing search and rescue missions. I told her this trip likely can’t be completed by car.
She insisted that she needed to teach and that she really needs me to take her there, and I explained myself a little better. “Perhaps I haven’t been clear. I’m not doubting your need to be there. I’m saying that this is not a helicopter.” But she keeps begging, so I pull over and work some cross-platform GPS magic. “I’m gonna check out some GPS info here, in the meantime you can research some flights out of Burbank.” Here we go.
Uber navigation: Take the 101. …This system is fucking useless.
Waze: No route available. Things aren’t looking good, lady.
Apple Maps: Hahaha, I’m totally joking. Apple Maps is as useful as an asshole on my elbow.
Google Maps: WE HAVE A WINNER!
Google Maps found a route, but instead of the straight shot up the 101, it was all the way up the 405 to the 5, all the way up until you meet the 166, take that for another 90 miles until you hit the 101, then go South to Santa Barbara. In Layman’s terms, that is almost 300 miles, quoted as just over 6 hours at that time of day.
What is worse than that? Is that I’ll be driving the same route on the way back, and it will definitely take longer. So if I take her, I’m committing to at least 13 hours in the car after an already busy rush hour morning. Do I do it?
I hate myself, of course I did it. I did the math and realized that while the hours would be insane and so would my exhaustion and my fuel costs, I would still make over $400 on the ride. So I took it. Did I hate myself every single step of the way?
I was hoping she’d at least be chatty, because otherwise that’s 13 hours of me not talking or interacting at all, just driving. So of course, she lies down in the back seat immediately and goes to sleep. 13 hours of me, just… gettin’ to know my brain. Yawn.
I definitely cried on the way home, but whatever. I think the best part of it all was that as I’m leaving her behind in Santa Barbara, literally three minutes away, I see a sign for the Santa Barbara airport. Whatever. I hope she got fired for being late to her class. Idiot.