“You Know Planes Go There, Too. Right?”

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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!

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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?

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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?

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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.

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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.

RIDESHARE TIP #13.5:  If you can take a plane, take a plane.  If you can’t take a plane, be fun and chatty with your driver.  He’s tired too.

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Precious Cargo

I spend a lot of unhappy hours in my car throughout the week.  People are annoying, traffic is terrible, and it’s tedious to always be worried if you’re going to make enough money to survive, without getting into an accident.

From time to time, I’ll get a request where the person wants me to deliver an item rather than give someone a ride somewhere.  They always frame it as “Hey!  This is a real treat!  You don’t have to deal with people!”  What they don’t realize is that I am aware of how much more expensive a messenger service is.

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But hey, a ride is a ride.  Knowing that it is against the terms of service, I’m willing to do their bidding under two conditions:  1) I get to act really dramatic like it’s really putting me out while they explain it, and 2) there absolutely has to be a person standing outside at the receiving address, because I’m not driving around looking for parking for a “Thanks so much!”.  It’s the one of the reasons why I don’t do Postmates or any food delivery.  It’s not that I’m above food service, it’s just that I am.

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So one day, I’m all the way on the West side of town on a Friday afternoon.  To get back East would take well over an hour, so I rolled the dice and hoped I would get something in that direction.  Miracle of miracles, I did!  Because everything is terrible, it was an UberPool trip, which means it’s going to take 17 hours instead of 1.  No worries, I’ve only been on the road for 10 hours already.

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When I showed up at this guy’s house, who we’ll call Glen, he took a while to come out.  As a driver, when someone orders a cheap pool trip, I pull no punches.  I won’t do a U-turn to get to them, I don’t answer when they call, and I definitely cancel after exactly two minutes.  Glen waves at me from his place and I pretend not to see him, and he comes over to the driver’s side window.  I motion for old Glen to sit in the back, but Glen comes over to the front passenger side window and motions for me to roll down the window.  I can see he’s got a huge ziplock bag with many smaller ziplock bags in it, and they’ve all got something in them.  Oh, Glen.

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I roll down the window and confirm his name, and he says, “Yeah, that’s me.  I’m not coming.  You’re gonna take these to a testing facility on the East side.”  Oh, am I, Glen?  Am I really?

I am always blown away at the inconsiderate and entitled nature of this abuse of service, but to do it in an UberPool, where this trip normally is an hour?  How fucking cheap can you be?  Also, what in the fuck am I transporting?  Is my life about to become a reboot of Orange Is The New Black?  I am way too fragile for prison, so if I’m going, it’s because I murdered my roommate.  Not because I was an inadvertent drug mule for a cheap Westsider named Glen.  GLEN, FOR FUCK’S SAKE!

I asked if there would be someone outside at the testing facility, considering that for starters, I don’t want to get out of the car and waste my own time, but when you do that in a pool, it inconveniences everyone else in the car who has also paid for a trip.

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Also, lest we forget, I don’t even get a percentage of what this guy pays.  I get a flat, shitty mileage rate.  $0.57 a mile on Pool trips.  Why the fuck am I bending over backwards for old Glen?

Nobody would be at the receiving end waiting.  Do you think he cared?  No.  Do you think I felt like risking my job if he wanted to complain to Uber?  No.  Do you think I was in a good mood for the next hour?

…Actually, yes.  

I realized I could just turn off the app and take the longest-mile route on the way home, maximizing what I get paid for the trip, and avoid the hassle of picking up more people.  This is actually kind of a nice ending to the week.  Winding down stress-free.  But it wasn’t smooth sailing just yet.  I put on my favorite podcast and rolled down the windows, hopped on the freeway and immediately sat in gridlock Friday afternoon traffic.

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As I’m sitting there, curiosity got the best of me. What was in that bag?  I grabbed the big ziplock bag as I sat in a sea of brake lights, and looked more closely at the little bags inside of it. I see that they all have little clear vials in them, with red liquid sloshing around.  They were all labelled with different peoples’ names on them, a few alphanumeric codes, and the words “BLOOD SAMPLE.”

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Too late to turn back now, I suppose.  What was I going to do, drive back to his place, throw a bunch of blood at him, and end the trip?  By this point he would’ve been charged something, which means he can rate me as a driver, and file a complaint.  And if you don’t know, Uber would do anything to not lose a customer.  Even a terribly cheap one like good ol’ Glen.

So what could I do but pull out my hand sanitizer, drive for what felt like months, and enjoy the most recent episode of Comedy Bang! Bang!  When I finally arrived at the facility, there was nobody outside.

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I parked the car and got out, huffing and puffing the whole way.  I almost wish I could’ve watched this on tv, because it surely must’ve been a fun sight if you had no emotional investment in it.

I went in and saw two receptionist desks, both with employees that had no sense of urgency to greet me.  In the most distant, irritated demeanor I could muster up, I said “Hi, I’m delivering these for Glen.”

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“Your guess is as good as mine.  I’m an Uber driver, and he was too cheap to order an actual delivery service.  But he insinuated that you guys would be expecting his delivery, sooo…. Here’s some blood from Glen.”

“Um, ok.  Thanks?”

I got back in the car and went home, took a few baths in bleach, cursed humanity and hit up a bar with some friends.  After so many unhappy hours… It was finally happy hour.

RIDESHARE TIP #0-NEGATIVE:  Your driver is not equipped with a HAZMAT suit, so obey the golden rule:  NO MEDICAL WASTE!