This story could have ended differently, thank god it didn’t.
It was 11 pm on a weeknight. I wanted to make sure I got home safely, so I decided against my usual choice of public transportation. I took out my phone. I activated the Uber app. Since I was in Russian Hill in a more affluent neighborhood having dinner at a friends home. So I decided I could wear some nice jewelry and expensive high heels- ( just to give you a visual, as I”m a visual learner, p.s heels are not the norm in SF and especially on the hills…lol…), I wanted to ensure my safety coming home so, I ordered an UBER X. As, I didn’t want to skimp on paying any extra money , in order to ensure my safety home.
As soon as I entered the dark navy blue older Toyota model I felt something was off, but I decided to not listen to my intuition and focus on getting home and going to sleep. The first signs of distressful behavior occurred immediately. The GPS kept saying to turn left and he was ignoring it. So I kindly said “ Can you please take Hyde street?” No reply- silence and no reaction. I then asked again “ Sir, can you please turn left.” Again no reaction verbal or otherwise. Finally the teacher in me came out and I more sternly stated now, “ Sir , please take the next left.” He could tell I meant business, so he erratically turned left. We were sitting at the light for a long period of time, and at this point he should be turning right. And he was not. So again since there was not a single car on the road the New Yorker in me came out and I said “ Sir you can turn right and then all the way straight home.” This was my last full sentence to the driver, that 10 minutes felt like a life time. His driving was erratic, serving a bit here, a bit there and I could tell he was not in familiar driving territory.
Finally, we came to my intersection at the light a block from my house- where he would need to turn right on a one way street. And instead, out of nowhere, he accelerated the gas pedal and spun the car around going the wrong way on my one way street. I then said “ Wait this is a one way street….” He had no response and was now acting like a zombie almost like, he turned the car sharp left up and over the curb into an empty parking lot of a gas station. Then we both quietly sat there, as the doors were locked. At this moment, I have to tell you , for some reason, a sudden calm came over me and all I could think of lately the world wide news is so upsetting and the feeling of anxiety is palpable on the streets of urban cities across the globe. Instinct took over and I calm reached my hand out and placed it heavy on his shoulder, to calm him and I turned to look him direct in the eyes and asked “ Are YOU okay?” I emphasized you. And he looked at me with disbelief. It was quick. Only a moment in time, but the glimmer of being taken off guard was there. I was thinking the whole time to myself “ Inhale peace, exhale love” we are all connected. I then slowly repeated “ I am worried about YOU, are YOU ok?’ The driver just sneered at me and then made a rude comment which I will not express in this article. Needless to say the doors magically unlocked and I ran out of the car in my glitter heels all the way home. For the first time in my life I realized I had taken my freedom in Uber for granted and assumed that I was safe. Really realizing for the first time in my life how vulnerable we all are . And now more than ever it is important to remember we are all connected in some way.
Oh and if you are asking yourself at this point in time, did I go to the police? Not at that point, I am like a preying mantis and I like to think before I take action. I wanted to be absolutely sure I was doing the right thing so that my message would be heard in the correct way and for someone to take action.
So, I filed a complaint with Uber and according to their website: “Uber enforces strict safety guidelines to keep your ride safe and comfortable. Drivers are expected to operate vehicles safely at all times. If you experienced anything during your trip that made you feel unsafe, please let us know here.”
The story doesn’t end there. And I wish I could tell you that I am making this story up, but I had dinner with a friend the following evening to get my mind off of things and a better perspective. So I intentionally did not bring up my uber experience. Until, my friend noticed my hand shaking. She said quietly over the table, “Is everything ok?” And I mentioned under my breath “ Well I experienced the oddest uber experience last night…….” I told her the name and the behavior of the uber driver and she dropped her fork and stated “ Oh my god , was he driving a dark blue Toyota blah blah blah…” And I said “ Yes of course- I stopped my sentence short and we both realized at the very moment that we had the same uber driver! And she had a similar experience with the driver. Erratic driving, not listening to the GPS or to her requests. His sense of non- direction by missing the correct exit and erratic behavior. And at the end of the day her intuition telling her that this driver did not have good intentions.
So today, I went down in my neighborhood direct to the source, to Uber worldwide headquarters. I was told by the receptionist “ No one here can help you. Here.” And she abruptly handed me a small piece of paper with an address somewhere in Daly City. I looked at her said “ I don’t want to use uber to get there, can someone please help me to make sure this driver gets reviewed as two people have had a frightening experience and this needs to be known.” My question is “ Why did I wait 4 hours with no response and now days without being contacted from Uber? Do they take their customers seriously and value their complaints?” Directly after being dismissed by Uber, I filed a report at the Mission police station which I did and at least I knew action would be taken there.
Three learning takeaways: 1- Uber and all car services should have their drivers fingerprinted. All city bus drivers, teachers, taxi drivers, and limo drivers are all required to be fingerprinted. Why then is Uber not adhere to this policy ? Number two- Uber needs to design their android app clearer to allow the customer to choose like on the iphone the pay/service level clearly. And lastly: We are all connected , we can choose to be a victim or stand and try to connect and have compassion for one another. Why has Uber not reached out to me and hear my grave concern and have customer service that shows that they care. What the driver did was illegal in my direct situation. We should all try to do our best to try to turn difficult situations into positive learning outcomes. If each of us did this in one small way each day, the world could and would be a better planet overall. Which is why I have written this essay. To get people to stand up for their own safety. Please spread the word, #UBERFINGERPRINT now, please for all of our peace of mind and safety. Please share-