Tuesday, June 20, 2017

My Week As An Uber Driver

A couple months ago when I was trying to decide where to work for the summer, I came up with the brilliant plan of driving for Uber. I hate driving, I have no patience for traffic, and I'm directionally impaired so naturally it's a perfect fit for me. When I told my family and friends, they all said the same thing.

"Dawn! You can't find your way out of a paper bag! You get lost backing down the driveway!"

To which I replied, "I have my GPS."

"You get lost going around the block WITH your GPS! Mom, you think the roads change like the staircases in Harry Potter!"

"I'm still pretty certain that happens. How else can you explain roads suddenly disappearing and reappearing nowhere near where they should be, hmmm? It's witchcraft."

And then there were the people (Mom) who were concerned for my safety because of course, you only hear about the bad stuff on the news. It's true that only about 14% of Uber drivers are women, and I have to think that's in large part because husbands and boyfriends don't want their wives and girlfriends driving for this very reason. I, on the other hand, have no one to tell me what to do. I also have an ex-husband who isn't so great with the child support. Sooo . . .

Aside from my directional "issues", I thought this might be a good fit simply because I can work when I want to; I'm not at the mercy of someone else's schedule. I can take an afternoon off to take my kids to the pool or a doctor's appointment, or I can take a whole day off to do something fun with them. I mean, as a single mom, you do what you gotta do, but I cringed at the idea of leaving them home alone every day this summer. Not they're not old enough to stay by themselves and entertain themselves, and help out around the apartment, but you know what I mean. It's the mom guilt thing, and the fact that I really like spending time with my kiddos. Plus, I'd heard from some people who drive and they'd asserted that they made some decent money doing it.

So I signed up. And started driving. And this is what my first week looked like:

TUESDAY:  I was crazy nervous about starting so I put it off for a couple weeks. Then, one day, I realized I wasn't going to make any money by having the app on my phone and never turning it on so I sucked it up and slid the little switch from offline to online. I wasn't sure how it worked. Would there be a bunch of blinking lights representing people needing rides? Could I choose who I wanted to drive and to where I was willing to drive them? Maybe I should've read up a little beforehand, I thought while admonishing myself for automatically deleting all the emails Uber had sent me since I'd signed up. Within a few minutes, my phone pinged. Someone was waiting for a ride. Their location was 6 minutes away from me. All I could see was a name. It didn't give me any information about where this passenger was going. I took a deep breath and tapped my phone to confirm the pickup and followed the directions to the location.

When I arrived, I realized the location was in a gated community. I didn't have the gate code. Crap. I searched the Uber app, found a little telephone icon, and clicked it. Yes! It connected with the passenger who provided me with the gate code. Unfortunately, the code didn't work. I tried several times, but the gates wouldn't open. Great, the passenger will think I'm an idiot. She may be right. Over the phone, she said it was no big deal and she'd walk to the front of the neighborhood. (In my defense, there was a guy working on the gates. I think that's why they weren't cooperating.) (Another side note - Uber uses technology that hides your phone number when you need to call passengers so you don't have to worry about your phone number being out there if that concerns you.)

A young girl covered in tattoos hopped in the back of my van. She was nice, smelled like Victoria's Secret perfume, and we chatted as I drove her to a local restaurant where she's a waitress. I dropped her off, told her to have a good night and make lots of tips, and pulled out of the parking lot. I started driving home when my phone pinged again. I tapped to confirm the pick-up, then made a u-turn and headed toward the location where I picked up a man from his place of employment and drove him home. Feeling successful that I'd managed two trips, I turned off the app and headed home. That was all I could handle my first day - these 2 short trips.

WEDNESDAY:  I had plans with my kids so I didn't Uber at all. (Yes, I'm using Uber as a verb. I've declared it a word. Go with it.)

THURSDAY:  I turned on the Uber app, got pinged right away to pick up a passenger down the street from me. When I pulled up to the house, a teacher I recognized from Brooklyn's school hopped in the car with a suitcase. That was kind of fun - driving someone I knew. We chatted and she left me a tip. I don't mind airport runs at all. I freaked out a little about picking someone up near the airport because I don't know the area so I turned off the app as I headed back toward home. When I got closer to my apartment, I flipped it back on and got pinged to pick up a woman in the next town over. She had been in a hit-and-run accident earlier that week and her car was undriveable. She was taking Ubers to her job and to a local college where she was also taking classes. It took me an hour to get her to school which was in the Winter Park area because of the rain and rush hour traffic, but we had a nice conversation during the ride. After I dropped her off, I was afraid of getting another request that would take me an hour further away from home, so I configured the settings on the app, asking for rides in the direction of home. I got one for a very big girl wearing a crop top and tight short-shorts. She just let it all hang out. She spent the whole time on her phone and I only had to drop her about 10 minutes away. After that, I didn't get any more requests between there and my home.

FRIDAY:  I turned on the app and was immediately notified of someone down the street wanting a ride. I picked up a young Brazilian girl who is here on vacation visiting her brother, and took her to a shopping center. After I dropped her off, I got pinged to pick up a woman in a nice, gated neighborhood down the street a little ways from me. She hadn't texted me the gate code, but as I pulled up, I was able to sneak in behind the car in front of me. I pulled up to a gorgeous house and waited. A minute passed with no sight of the passenger so I gave her a call to let her know I was there. The call didn't go through, but a woman walked out of the garage, a phone to her ear and motioned that she saw me and would be out in a second. Minutes passed. I ranted in my head. Privileged woman, rant rant, what does she care that she's making me wait, rant rant, she's probably on the phone with her manicurist demanding to be fit in this afternoon, rant rant. She continued to pace around her garage, still on the phone, seemingly oblivious to the waiting Uber in her driveway. Finally, she closed the garage door and got in my car. In tears. I mean, she was bawling. "I'm so sorry to make you wait. I have breast cancer. I was supposed to go to my first appointment to learn about chemotherapy and the port they're putting in, but my car wouldn't start this morning. I just took it to the shop and had them check over it and do some maintenance this week! I also drive for Uber so that car is my business. I'm sorry."

Okay kids, here is where we learn a lesson about judging others. You do not know another person's story just from looking at them. You do NOT know another person's story. Instead of ranting (even in your head) like an immature, judgmental fool (raising my hand sheepishly), take a breath, shake off the insignificant aggravation you're feeling, and be patient. Listen. You just never know what another person is going through. Remind yourself of this every day because sometimes we forget.

So, I listened to this woman and we talked a little bit, but she had phone calls to make and I could tell she just needed some time to pull herself together. It took a good half an hour to get to the hospital so she had time to do just that. When we got there, I asked her how she was doing, we talked a little bit, I told her that things were going to be okay, and I prayed for her. She left me a nice tip, and more importantly, reminded me to stop making snap judgments about people.

From the cancer center, I drove around the corner to the children's hospital, picked up a Brazilian family and took them home to Kissimmee. I wish I spoke Portuguese because it sounded to me like the mom spent the half hour trip berating her husband. But maybe that's just the nature of the language. After dropping them off, I got a request for a British couple who needed a ride from the shopping center to their hotel because although they had walked to the shopping area, the afternoon rains had come, making it an uncomfortable walk back to the hotel. They were from Bristol, she wanted to swim with manatees, he was very quiet, but she asked a lot of questions and said things like brilliant. After that, I headed home.

SATURDAY:  I picked up a man from my apartment complex who was wearing sagging pants and a dago tee. Yep, I did it again and made a little judgment in my head. I drove him to the shopping center and on the ride we chatted. He was pleasant and articulate and talked about an article he'd recently read on bee propolis as a cancer cure.

From there, I picked up a girl and took her to work at Best Buy, I picked up a family of 3 and took them to a grocery store, I picked up a woman from McDonald's and took her to her apartment. After that, I picked up a Spanish-speaking woman and her daughter from a store and took them home to Apopka. I picked up a woman in Apopka and took her to work at Taco Bell.

SUNDAY:  I turned on the app and was immediately notified of someone needing to be picked up from a church a little ways from my place. I got the passenger and took him to visit with some of his family friends. I had a nice conversation with the young man who shared some of his faith journey with me. Although he looked very young (I may have insulted him when I asked if he was still in high school. He was 24), he seemed mature and wise for his age.

From there, I picked up a woman from Turkey who told me her siblings had all passed on and her two sons lived out of state, and took her to a nursing home/rehab place so she could visit her husband. 

So, my verdict about driving for Uber?

*  You can make your own hours and work as much or as little as you want.
*  It's so easy a caveman can do it.
*  If you like adventure, every trip is a surprise - you don't know who you'll get or where you'll go.
*  If you like meeting people, and you're socially adept enough to know when a passenger doesn't want to talk and when they do, you have the chance to chat with different people every day. That's probably the best part.
*  You can make a little more money by referring other people to drive.

*  You don't know the final destination until you pick up your passenger. If you don't like that lack of control, you may not like this job.
*  You don't make much money. I made 18 trips and was online for a total of 12.5 hours. I made $152.77 (including tips.) (Most people around here don't tip.) Which works out to $12.22/hour. But that does not take into account the cost of gas and other maintenance/supplies. So all in all, I didn't make much. Although I admittedly wasn't online much, was just learning how it works, and didn't fully work the system with back-to-back trips. There was a lot of down time just driving back toward home for me. 
*  You need to fill up with gas, get your car washed, and have more frequent maintenance (ie oil changes) as the mileage adds up.
*  The app may use up a lot of your data which could get pricey depending on your cellular plan.

If you want to give it a try, go for it. It doesn't hurt to try, right? And if you do, let me know; I'll give you a code because for every person you refer, you get a little kick back.


Korinthia Klein said...

That's fascinating, Dawn! Thanks for sharing.

Crickett Hutchinson said...

You should join Lyft also. One of my Uber drivers talked to me about it. Lyft has slightly better pay, but jobs are a little more sparse. He said that he switched back and forth if there was no job available for Uber, he'd switch to Lyft and looked to see if they had something.

Katy Riker said...

A lot of the drivers in my area (Portland Oregon) also drive for Lyft. They all tell me that Lyft is a better deal for the driver, plus the app makes it easier to tip. In fact, in the time I've been using Lyft (I started with Uber though), most of the drivers have shifted entirely to Lyft. So if you have Lyft in your area, you might give it a try as well.

Good luck!

Anonymous said...

Look to see if you have Uber Eats in your area. My friend tried that at liked it much better. It's picking up food from any restaurant that participates and delivering it to the customer. Keeps it more local. My friend made $50 in two hours.

Shellie said...

That sounded so fascinating I almost wanted to join till I remembered that I'm not only as directionally challenged as you, but also driving has been known to induce little panic attacks in my life. I guess I think it would just be fun to hang out in an uber car meeting different people and having interesting conversations while someone else drives (;

KarenOjai said...

Hi Dawn, Loved this article. Yes, I'd like the code. I recently quit my job at a local school district, and this might be a good fit for me.

Janice said...

Here is an article for tax time https://ttlc.intuit.com/questions/2722277-what-can-an-uber-driver-deduct

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