Do it for Uber

Uber has an ad out that hits a scolding, folksy tone, prodding us to get out and drive, “Just a few hours a day,” since we all need perfect strangers in our cars to help pay for the cars we’ll need after driving all those perfect strangers around. A millennial smiles and nods (our just-a-few-hours-a-day driver, we assume) as scold-y voice cajoles, “Do it for you.” Cutting next to a couple of toddlers (Our driver’s kids?), the scold cranks up the concern, “Do it for them.” Because, every child appreciates the things only an absent parent can buy.

About a year ago, I drove for Uber (and Lyft — almost all drivers do), lured by the promise of $1500/week which, it turned out, was what brought in almost everyone else. Like everyone else, I never made that kind of money; $1500 might have been possible if everyone else wasn’t also out there driving for it, and I was driving around 90 hours that week. Eh, it was enough money to keep me driving. And so, like everyone else, I learned to stay the hell off Mill Avenue.

IMHO, the ASU area was not worth the aggravation: short trips where more than half the fare’s eaten by fees, a car full of screaming entitled ninnies, pax (driver argot for “passenger”) puking over everything. The orderly grid of Phoenix streets gets warped in Tempe, as if ASU dosed the hood with some acid, such that everything seems to double back on itself. If I dropped there (a pax, not acid), I immediately turned off my app and got the hell out, hightailed it north, Arcadia or Melrose or Cave Creek, places where pax wanted to go a few miles rather than just a few blocks.

Aggravation aside, my driver rating always took a pummeling in Tempe. Other drivers told me the same thing (while reporting inane comments like, “The car smelled like vanilla,” or, “Driver made me late.”), that even with 3x or 4x surge rates, the inevitable ratings hit wasn’t worth the money made from driving drunk twerps to Taco Bell.

It wasn’t Mr. Giggles and his Uproarious Joy Ride when I rolled up, either. I offered no cookies or gum, water or condoms, backrubs or dime-bags, none of the freebies drivers sometimes give to compensate for bad driving or an annoying propensity to talk. No, mine was a bullshit-free car and I kept my overhead bare bones. Your drunk ass got home in better shape than you’d be in the morning, got to the third-world hellhole of Sky Harbor, Terminal 2 (United really needs to demand better digs), all without things turning into some sort of Michael Bay production. What I provided precisely honored the TOS everyone ignored when they signed onto the app; I know for a fact that goody bags and complimentary drinks aren’t promised in the agreement.

While my driver ratings were less than stellar — a lot of pax ding you because only God gets five stars — I was never even close to being deactivated. Ride share companies will deactivate drivers for a variety of reasons, some serious (that Michigan driver, who committed mass murder during downtime between pax, was deactivated due to Uber’s strict “no guns” policy), others ludicrous and Kafkaesque, most due to unacceptable rider ratings. Pissing off enough riders to get canned takes real determination, some serious drinking, a checked “Yes” when asked about the imminent threat to self or others. Pax were often relieved to get in my car and see it was Gen-X Suburban Dad driving and not some huge guy wearing a hockey mask. By the time I retired (right before the holidays), my driver rating was middling but far from disgraceful.

“Do it for you,” the ad says, to which I would add, “Only if putting 30,000 miles of city driving on your vehicle is worth the quick money.” Include into those miles, the hundreds of strangers who will be getting in and out, pissing on your seats, gnawing on your seat belts like rabid squirrels, potentially grabbing you by the hair and pounding your face with a fist (a good $300 dash cam will catch that). Consider how much time you want to give it and calculate what kind of money justifies all of that; a shift averaging $20+/hour is the exception, not the rule.

And, if you’re going to do it for you, stay as far as you can from Mill Ave (or out of the nightly Scottsdale street riot). For your sake, don’t do it for them.

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