An UberPOOL Love Story

One of the things that annoys me most about driving for a rideshare company is their pool features.  If you’re not in a major metro area, it may not be available to you, so I’ll briefly explain:  for a little less money, you can share your Uber or Lyft potentially with other people who are headed generally in the same direction.  It takes longer, but if you’re all about the bottom line and don’t mind fraternizing with the freakshow general public, this is your deal.  For Uber it’s called UberPOOL, for Lyft it’s call LyftLine.  Most of the time, people don’t want to talk to each other, so it’s twice the social awkwardness for half the price.

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But every now and then, you get someone who wants to talk.  I once had a great conversation with a guy and a girl and they ended up exchanging numbers.  That was maybe the only time it was a good trip.

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One of the things that makes it awkward, is that people often don’t realize that there is already someone in the car, so they don’t know where to sit.  Sane people tend to sit in the rear passenger side seat, which is perfect.  But sometimes they’ll sit up with me, which I hate.  I can not stress it enough:  your driver wants you to sit in the back seat, no matter how cool of a passenger you are.  Trust me on this.  Without realizing, you may start to forget that you’re not in your friend’s car.

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Sometimes people open the door without looking and see that someone’s in that seat, then walk all the way around the car.  It’s weird, uncomfortable and awkward.

One morning I’m in a Northwest suburb in the valley and a girl orders an UberPOOL, and naturally, I’m immediately in a bad mood.  I make a lot less money on these trips, and I’m already in a zone that has probably never surged, ever.  How much fucking cheaper do you need the ride to be?

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So I ask her if she meant to do a Pool trip, because sometimes they do it accidentally.  She says it’s fine.  And I can’t help but think, “Is it?  You cheap prick?”

They add another passenger and when I go to pick him up, he of course tries to enter the wrong side, and the girl is still in that seat, buckled in.  He opens the door and shouts “WHAT THE FUCK MAN???” and slams the door shut.  Oh, hell no.

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So he comes around to the rear driver’s side and gets in.  “This never happened to me before,” he says angrily.  And I’m like, dude?  Get real.  You’re probably paying $2.00 for this ride and I’m making far less than that.  You ordered a Pool, get over it.  Sometimes you get lucky and have it to yourself, but the price is lower because sometimes you do have to share it.

The car is now completely silent as the two, in classic UberPOOL style, completely try to ignore each other.  That’s when the guy speaks up.

“Sooooo, um……. How have you been?”

O.

M.

G.

These two have a past.

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She responds in a sullen, depressed tone, “I’ve… I’ve been good.  How about you?”  You can almost hear the acoustic rom-com magical moment music playing as you read this, can’t you?  I’m thinking something from Sheryl Crow.

They start to talk a little, and they’re only together in the car for a few minutes.  Long enough for him to invite her to a party that weekend, which she tentatively agrees to.

I have to drop off the guy first, so we get to his address and he tells her it was good seeing her, and that he’s looking forward to this weekend, and she says the same.  He exits, and she rolls up her window and just about explodes, almost crying.

“That guy is such a fucking asshole!”  I agree, lady.  But what is YOUR reasoning?

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“That was my ex boyfriend.  He dumped me after he hooked up with my best friend.  Then to get out of it, he told everyone in my sorority that we broke up because I was pregnant to his best friend.  He’s such a lying dickhead!  He fucking ruined my life!”

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RIDESHARE TIP #21418:  If you’re looking to dodge an ex, don’t use UberPOOL a block away from him in your teeny tiny suburb.

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One morning I drove an Uberpool trip from Venice to Beverly Hills.   Let me start with a few judgmental statements:

  1. I have never had a positive interaction with a customer going to or from Beverly Hills.
  2. UberPOOL customers largely are absolute garbage.

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I may be biased because of how Uber financially rapes their drivers with pool trips (speaking to Los Angeles, specifically.  I don’t know the rates for all cities).  In LA, if you take a Pool trip, you get a  completely made up “upfront price” that in no way reflects what the driver is making.  He or she is paid $0.57 a mile and $0.08 a minute from the start to the end of your trip, no matter how many people are in the car.  They recently upgraded that, so that for each additional pickup during a pool trip, the driver gets $0.95.  95 whole cents, you guys.  Have you ever noticed that if you do a pool, your driver is kind of angry as fuck?

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Annnnnywayyyyy, so I pick up the Beverly Hills d-bag and I’m praying that we get another customer joining the trip before I hop on the freeway, because after that it becomes increasingly more annoying.  I have to stay in the slow lane during pool trips, because Uber can add another passenger at any time and I often have to exit at the drop of a hat.

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I sat waiting for a solid 3 minutes at a light to turn onto the 405, and my customer, Johnny Confidence, is huffing and puffing in the back seat.  I’m praying that someone will join before I get on that freeway.  The light turns green, I make the irreversible turn, and as soon as I’m almost fully merged onto the 405, I get my next passenger joining the pool.  Her location?  At that intersection where I just sat for 3 or 4 minutes.  So this will now take another 10 minutes to get to the next exit to go back (it’s rush hour in the morning, mind you.)

I’m at the next off ramp trying to turn right but I’ve got a red light.  Good news is that there is virtually nobody on the road.  I turn right and immediately hear a siren and see the red and blue lights in my rear view.  A motorcycle cop is waving me to pull over.

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Did I have a tail light out?  Did I speed at some point?  Does he just hate gay people?  I’ve never been pulled over before so I  have literally no idea what I’m in for, and I am about to throw up in the car.

I pull over in traffic and he waves me on to go into a parking lot.  I oblige, and he keeps waving me to go further and further forward.  I’m starting to think he’s going to gay bash me once he gets me into a remote area.  He motions for me to stop the car and he takes his grand old time making his way over, and thats’ when I see the sign “NO TURN ON RED, 6AM-9AM.”  It was 8:58.

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I’m sweating bullets, I know these guys don’t like minorities.  But the news has shown that the shootings tend to happen to brown and black people.  Was I safe?  Police always made me nervous anyway.

He asks me if I know why he pulled me over, and I say, “Well, yeah.  I know now that I see that sign.”  He asked if I was around here and I wanted to say something proverbial and thought-provoking and sarcastic like “The road is my home” but I’m sure he wouldn’t appreciate my sense of humor (I’m an acquired taste).

So I told him I’ve never been pulled over and I don’t know which is a registration and which is an insurance document.  I hand him the loan details of my car and the receipt for my last oil change, because I’m really that stupid under pressure.

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He appreciates that I’mt trying to do the right thing, and ultimately after several minutes of deliberation, lets me go with his “final” verbal warning of the day.  THANK GOD.  I drive away with the biggest sigh of relief and maybe just a drop or two of pee in my pants, and I remember I have a customer in the car.

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“So sorry about that, we’re on our way now.”  I look at the Uber app and see THAT GIRL HAS STILL NOT CANCELLED FROM THAT OLD INTERSECTION.  I go to pick her up, and it’s now been nearly 20 minutes.  She gets in, a small Asian college student, and is upset, but not overly upset.

“You took so long!” she says to me.

“Yeah, I’m sorry.  It sent me the request as soon as I pulled away from you onto the freeway.”

“Yeah but you stop for really long time.”

“About that…”

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The best part of her trip is that she was literally only going a few blocks away.  She was in the car for less than two minutes.

Rideshare Tip #999: Use UberPOOL if you want to save 50 cents and get to your destination within three to four hours!

That Escalated Quickly

So in a city as busy and traffic-plagued as Los Angeles, people don’t always think ahead of time about how easy or difficult a time their driver might have picking them up on a busy street.  They’re not always ready and waiting, and we’re not always able to stop.  This problem is made worse when they have luggage.  People get a little testy in LA traffic when you stop in the middle of the street and put your hazards on and wait.

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As has been established in previous posts, I am a kind person.  I will help with luggage if I can safely get out of the car to do so.  But also as has been established, it is not a requirement of my job; just a suggestion of my pseudo-midwestern upbringing.

So this morning I get a request on Franklin Avenue in Hollywood, right by Cahuenga, which is a very busy street that runs right off of the 101 Freeway.  I look at my map and see that I’ll be picking up my customer just after Cahuenga, but I see that the address is actually blocked off.  There’s a huge sinkhole on that street, and it’s been blocked off for more than a week.  Let’s see if ladyfriend has the good sense to contact me or be at a convenient spot.  If history has taught me anything, she’s an idiot and will not be partaking in either of those.

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Traffic is almost at a standstill, and that’s when I see her.  Squinting at her phone and then at me.  Standing in the middle of the goddamn street.  With two huge suitcases.  This gargantuan Australian woman, she looks like that cartoon with from the old 60s cartoons, Broom Hilda.  The lady who sips on sludge.  And she’s waving me down.

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Even though my car is slowing down to a stop (again, because of traffic), I can’t stop everything and go through the production of getting her and her belongings into the car. I’m frantically motioning for her to walk to the nearest curb, about 60 feet away.  I could pull over there.  Hell, I could even get out of the car to help with her luggage!  She opens the car door and gets in and says “That’s my luggage,” insinuating that I needed to get out of the car and get it.  I told her I could get a ticket for stopping in the middle of traffic and getting out (Not sure if that’s true, but it seems legit?  A risk I don’t feel like taking for a number of reasons.).  “Jesus Christ, you’re not gonna help with my fucking luggage?”  She slams the door and takes care of it.  Meanwhile people behind me are losing their minds, swearing and honking and giving death stares.

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She finally gets in (In the front seat, mind you.  THAT IS WEIRD, GUYS!  DON’T DO IT!!), and I apologize but explain how dangerous and possibly illegal that was, and that under normal circumstances, I would’ve helped.  She tuts for a minute or two but eventually decides that is was a misunderstanding and that we’ll move forward in a positive-ish way.

That’s when she starts humming.  Loudly.  And then singing some song I don’t know.

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Thankfully, she’s just going downtown.  This is maybe a 15 minute ride.  I can handle 15 minutes of this, I think.  I think.

We have polite small talk about Los Angeles and Australia and the weather and I point out local landmarks that she asks about.  It was the annotated tour of the 101 and the 110 South.

As we approach her block, I see it’s directing me to the alley.  I ask if that’s correct, because about 1% of the time, it is.  She shrugged her broad shoulders and said, “I don’t know.  You’re the one who lives here.”

That’s right.  And when you live in a city, you know the ins and outs of literally every single building in the entire fucking county.

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I figured it’s probably the front of the building, so I drive down the actual block.  I’m not sure which side of the street it’s on, so I’m looking back and forth to see if I can spot a number telling me which side is odds and which side is evens.  I find one, and learn that she needs to be on the opposite side of this very very skinny street.  I could go around the block, but in DTLA, that could mean another 15 minutes.  She tells me to do a U-turn, despite a sign right in front of me prohibiting it, a police car several cars in front of me, probably ready to enforce it, and the fact that it is a tight little street.

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I tell her I can’t do that, and she starts bitching and moaning to me about how I’m an idiot and how I just need to do it.  The thought of another minute in the car with this woman is enough to make me risk it.  I pull a way-too-fast, super unsafe U-turn and it becomes apparent that she’s going to the Ace Hotel on Broadway.  It’s a single lane at this point, and I’m waiting for a taxi to leave so that I can pull into his spot but he’s really taking his time.

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I’ve got my turn signal on, and people are beeping at me to just keep moving.  That’s when she just gets out of the car, right in the middle of traffic.  Again.

She stands up, with the car door open, and says “Ya gonna fucking help with my luggage this time?”  And I half laughed because it really felt like she was being funny.  She wasn’t serious, right?

“I can’t get out of the car here, I’m really sorry.  I was trying to pull into the hotel curbside!”

“You really are a fucking prick,” she says as she slams the car door.

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She opens up the hatchback and just as she gets the last of her stuff, I hear between honks from angry drivers behind me, she has some parting words for me, with a big fake smile on her goony cartoon-witch face.

“Goodbye, faggot!”

Ummmm…. Excuse me?

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“Goodbye, faggot!  I hope you die of AIDS!”  She smiles, slams the hatchback shut and waves as she wheels her luggage away.

I contacted Uber about it, and they insisted that this is a very serious incident, they’re “sorry that it happened” and that someone from their team would be reaching out to talk to me about it.  I wanted her to be deactivated from the platform, but the best they could offer is that they would “do their best to see that she is not matched with me again.”

Big shoutout to Uber for caring about their drivers.  The number of people who reached out to me personally from their team?  ZERO.

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RIDESHARE LESSON #26:  SOME SERVICES UNAVAILABLE IN THE MIDDLE OF THE GODDAMN STREET.