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!

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You Seem Fun.

Monday holidays in LA are always a reminder of why I don’t work driving at night.  My main problem is that I don’t deal well with drunk people when I’m sober.  No poker face whatsoever.

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So I stick to my morning routine to avoid the drunk bar crowd.  I wake up early and I get lots of airport runs and people in a hurry to go to class or to work or wherever people go during the day.  (Let’s not kid ourselves:  it’s LA.  They’re all going to brunch.)

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So on President’s Day, which is on a Monday, I wake up early, completely forgetting that to some freelancers, today is more like Sunday morning.  And their Sunday mornings typically tend to be a very late Saturday night.  I immediately see that there is no surge pricing and realize that my day is going to be a lot slower and longer than a typical Monday morning.

My first call is a guy named Steven.  I show up at his address and he comes mozying down the hill slower than a turtle on Nyqil.

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He gets in, and between the smell and the incoherent, delayed nature of his speech pattern, I can tell he hasn’t gone to sleep.  Also, it’s 6am and he asked how my night was going.  This guy has been partying all night long and is using UberPOOL to get to the next stop on this bender.

He tells me in microbursts (between very pregnant pauses) how his night has gone until now.  Opens up about his ex-girlfriend, who’s going to be at the address where he’s going.  (His initial mention insinuated that there was a party happening there, but then he admits that he’s going there to see her alone.  Gross.)  A few minutes later, he thanks me for the ride, even though we’ve got a solid 12-15  minutes ahead of us.  At least he’s trying to be polite.  I’ll take it.

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He then starts giving me directions that are completely incoherent.  “Turn left on 6th,” even though 6th Street is parallel to us, so that is literally never going to be possible.  I follow a few directions here and there until he asks what street we are even on.

“We’re on Fountain,” I tell him.

“Shit, I literally don’t even fucking know where we are.”

Then stop fucking giving directions to the guy who is sober, has the address, and is running two GPS’s, trying to get you out of his fucking car.  I politely request that he let me do my fucking job.

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That’s when he backpedals (of course with another pregnant pause).  “Hey man.  Thank you for this.  You don’t gotta take me all the way there.  I know you probably got shit to do.”  Wait, can I really kick this drunk idiot out of my car?  I’ve been literally counting the seconds until the ride ends!  

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I’m a little put off, and I ask if he wants a different address or something, and he says, “No, I just really appreciate this.  You’re too nice.  What’s your name again?”  I tell him my first name and he asks for my last.  Then he repeats my full name back to me and tells me that he loves me.  Not awkward at all!

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I ask his name, because we’ve still got 6 or so minutes and I’m like “Do I say I love him back?”  In a split second, I let it roll around in my head and settled on “It’s nice to meet you, Steven.”  Which felt a little like a burn, whether or not I meant it to be.

He’s quiet for a minute or two and then talks about the punk band he’s in, tells me he’s surprised that the shitty music I’m playing sounds good (#tactful) and after a second of realization, asks if I know Elena (?).  I do not.  He’s a little puzzled.  “Did I meet you last night?  Or are you friends with Chris?”  

Oh God, he doesn’t fucking know that I’m an Uber driver. 

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I tell him, “I don’t know you.  You ordered an Uber, and I’m your driver.”

“Oh.  That makes way more sense.  But I think you’re really nice anyway.”

I dropped him off and wished him good luck with whatever the hell he was doing with his ex.  Just hoping they use a condom, because if she’s dumb enough to have sex with that idiot, I can’t imagine how few functional brain cells their offspring would have.  I realize fully that this could’ve gone much worse, however I would’ve much rather taken a sober person to the airport.

RIDESHARE TIP #1745: While ordering a car seems safer than driving when you’re wasted, you’re still at risk from making your driver wreck the car on purpose.  For best results, keep the conversation to a minimum.

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.

UberPoor

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!