Tales of Uber

I do a fair amount of driving for Uber and Lyft: I have always enjoyed driving, both city and rural driving, and doing so allows me to think on shit – and right now, I’ve got some shit on which to think.

And as I do the job, more and more I keep on meeting people who I think are interesting in and of themselves, get into situations beyond the normal, and more, so I wanted to create a thread where I could come in here and say “OK, this guy yesterday was insane…”

And also, feel free to post your stories – either as a driver or a passenger – as I’m sure I’m not the only person here who has had some tales.

However… and I know I can’t control these things no matter what… this isn’t the “debate Uber” thread. :slight_smile: Want to talk about whether ride sharing makes sense, want to talk about the gig economy in general, want to complain on behalf of taxis – that’s great. Just go start another thread. :slight_smile:

This thread is about the interesting… or insane… people we meet when doing ride sharing. Or, at the very least, the interesting ones I meet.

A couple of weeks ago, I gave a ride to a Time Traveler.

Now, you scoff. “There’s no such thing as a time traveler, JohnT. This is the SDMB and you should know better than to pass off that crap as real.” And you are quite right – by the typical “science fiction definition” of the term, I did not meet a time traveler. Sorry – no stock tips. Don’t know when Trump will leave office. Have no idea when any of us are going to die.

But I still gave a ride to a Time Traveler.

Got a call from Mary, (names changed, of course) in downtown San Antonio on the riverwalk, requesting a drive to somewhere near US 90 and 1604, about 10-15 minutes west of the city. On my way, Mary calls and let’s me know I’m picking up her brother, Lance. So I get there and a man… Lance… gets in the car and, I gotta tell you, for a time traveler, Lance looked a little rough. Not drunk, just… let’s just say that Lance has lived the sort of life which wore heavily on his face, you know what I mean?

So I get to driving, head east on Commerce street in downtown SA, going to connect to 35 south, then US 90 West. And Lance, like a lot of men who have had maybe 1 – 3 too many, is in a mood to talk. So we do so, the usual stuff – what’s it like driving for Uber, his lack of success at the women in this bar, etc. Then, approaching his exit ramp, Lance begins the part of the conversation which leads to my realization that Lance… as rough as he looked… was a man who traveled through time, thrown from the past into a future both unknown and uncertain to him.

“This is my first time using Uber.” (Not unusual.)
“Yeah. This is my sisters… account. I didn’t even know this existed until an hour ago.” (That’s… unusual.)
“Oh, that’s cool. That happens all the time – people calling rides for other people.”
“Yeah, true. The guy at the bar was irritated for me using his phone, though.”
“Sorry to hear that. Your phone broken?”
“No, I don’t have one. I just got out of prison two weeks ago and the last cell phone I had was in 2002, when I was imprisoned.” (This, too, is not typical conversational patter.)
“Oh, yeah, they’re a little different from then, that’s for sure. I’m not too sure I even had a phone back in 2002 – probably.”

We ride on a few more seconds… he’s probably waiting to see how I respond to his revelation. And I did respond… Straight Dope style!

“Mind if I ask you a question?”
Here it comes… he’s probably thinking. “Sure.”
“So… you said you went into prison in 2002, and just got out last week. Same sentence?”

In my typically nerdy way, I’m rather excited about this! Wow! Here’s a guy who… well, let me continue:

“In some regards, it’s like you time traveled, right? You went in during 2002, and come out in 2019… it’s still America, but things have changed, right?”
Chuckles… “Oh, yeah.”

… and we’re pulling in to his street, but I’m not going fast and we still have 1.5 miles to go. Time for a question or two.

“So… what’s the biggest difference? What change in the world have you noticed most?”

And it’s here that my Time Traveler – for a man who enters a parcel of land, never to leave for 17 years, in my mind, can be considered as such – began to sound frustrated as we pulled up in front of his destination.

“You people don’t talk to each other!”
“Really! How do you mean?”
“All you do is look at your little TV sets, and when you’re not looking at those, you’re looking at your big TV sets! I go see my friends, and it’s difficult to get a conversation going, you know? They get interrupted, they try to talk to you and their phone at the same time, and they end up talking to their phone, mostly. Even now, I’m going here to say goodbye to my niece, and I know that for the most of the time we’ll have together, she’ll spend looking at her TV. Her phone, dammit, I gotta stop saying ‘TV’.”
“Wow. It’s that different?”
“Yes. And there’s TV’s everywhere! On the bus, in restaurants, embedded in cars, on your phones. I was told about this, too, but didn’t really believe it. But, goddamn, there are a lot of TV’s around.”

“Fascinating.” Turning around to offer my hand, “Lance, I appreciate you answering my questions and I believe we are here.”

Shaking it, “Yes this is my sister’s place, and no, don’t worry about it. You at least didn’t ask the ones everyone asks, about what it’s like in prison. Appreciate it.”

Lance exited the car, I collected my $18.43, and we made our ways, likely never to meet again. And I learned that, according to my time traveler from the year of 2002, the year after my daughter was born, that we live in a world with too many TV’s and not enough conversation.

Looking forward to this thread. I’ll be using Uber for the first time this week when my son and I visit Seattle. He’s convinced we’re going to get murdered. I’m convinced I’ll max out my credit card. I’m sure we’re both mistaken.

Get the Lyft app, too. Both Uber and Lyft usually have sign-up specials, so you can take advantage of both offers. Both have a huge presence here in Seattle.

Check the fare on both services when you’re ready for a ride. Their prices can vary, and usually one will be a couple bucks less than the other. Many, if not most, drivers seem to drive for both services, and they seem equally good out here. Uber has more drivers, still, and may have a quicker response time at odd times, but either should be fine.

I had an Uber driver a couple months ago who picks up only 2 fares a day. He lives outside of the city, and works near downtown. He picks up one ride on his way in to work, and another ride when he leaves work. He says it pretty much just pays his gas bill every month. I thought that was quite clever of him.

I thought about this idea. John T, I’m sorry if this is a hijack, but if someone tried this, they may have to reject several rides that are headed “the wrong way,” and wouldn’t that be a “no-no?”

No. There is a “destination mode” for both apps which allow you to do this.

As a driver, you do not know where you are going until you pick up the passenger, so you don’t know if any ride is going the “right way”… unless you use the destination mode.

It may shock the more gentle of us, but people actually do use Uber and Lyft in the commission of crimes… prostitution, drug dealing, I have probably transported a stolen item or two… stuff like that.

Drug deals are most common. The typical one goes like this:

Pick up Randy @ 2:34am, Saturday morning. Randy’s been waiting a few minutes for his Uber and he apparently realized he smoked all his shit up and has nothing left at home to cap the night off. See Randy sweat…

Randy gets into the car. “Uh…” (it always begins with “uh…”) “Uh… I need to stop at my landlord’s house to pay the rent.”

Fact check: Third week of December. 2:34am. Needs rent paid or faces imminent eviction. Got it!

Take Randy to his “landlord”, who oddly enough, lives in an apartment. Randy disappears for 5 minutes, comes back out in a much better mood, I take Randy home.

That’s typical. Then there are the special cases…

Rhonda called. Needs to be picked up from work at her call center job @ De Zavala/I-10. Got it.

Rhonda comes out, gets in the car. A woman in her mid-30s, Rhonda says that she programmed two stops as we need to pick up her baby… and, yes, there are two stops in the app. (Which, btw, means it’s a Lyft because Uber users cannot figure out how to program multiple stops. It’s the damndest thing. But I digress.)

We go to stop 1, a home. Rhonda goes inside, comes out about 15 minutes later with a really cute 4yo boy in tow, car seat in her other hand. Rhonda expertly installs the car seat, the kid in the car seat, comes around to the other side of the car and gets inside, shutting her door.


I roll down my window like having a skunk explode in my car is the most natural thing in the world, and take Rhonda (and son) home.

But it gets me to thinking:

For Rhonda, it’s a helluva setup, right? Her weed dealer and her day care provider are the same person. Talk about convenience and value - I wonder if she earns points, or qualifies for a discount somehow?

For the dealer, that’s some smart thinking: You need a way to launder your drug money, so why not open a day care, take a client or two, then fake the rest of your books?

Then I’m wondering… did the dealer decide she needed extra money and decided to open up a day care center, or did a struggling day care center take to dealing weed on the side?

This job leaves one with a lot of unanswered questions.

Then there is Maurice, my favorite drug dealer of all. I pick up Maurice around 7am, being told by Lyft that it’s a “Long ride”. Yay!

Maurice comes out, carrying a backpack. A thin man in his 20s, there’s little to note about Maurice - just a normal dude.

I start the drive and am immediately informed that there are six stops on this ride. Holy hell!

So I take Maurice to stop 1. He gets out, takes his backpack with him, goes inside (we hit both apts and houses on this one), comes out in 5 minutes whereupon he rumbles “I’m ready.” Rinse, lather, and repeat. 6 times.

(Maurice is not a talker, so there’s not a lot of idle chat going on in this one.)

We drive all over San Antonio, and Maurice did a good job with his route selection - not a lot of wasted driving time going back and forth. It’s like he’s done this before…

The last stop was back at his place. Maurice gets out of the car, hands me a $20, and leaves. Then he tips me another $20 on the app. I look at the fare when done and see that he paid $69 (I got $48, not including tips), so Maurice effectively paid $109 to insure that it’s not his car that’s impounded when/if he gets pulled over.

Now, technically, I am uncertain that Maurice was dealing. Rhonda had obviously purchased a Nice, Fat Sack, but Maurice… if he was selling, he wasn’t selling weed. But all other signs were consistent with drug deals, so I’m pretty certain my guess is correct.

Neither of these is my greatest drug dealing story, but the Tale of Uber, White Privilege, and the Crackhead will have to wait another day, sorry.

I’ve never used Uber or Lyft. How does this work? If the customer is paying by the mile, how do you get paid for delays like this?

I’d like to know that too, for the more innocuous case of just a quick legal retail stop. I’d think it would be more convenient for the driver and the customer to have a way to do stop n shops because the driver and the customer won’t have to look for another hookup, but then what happens if the driver has to wait longer than expected and they spend a lot more time hanging around than they would have if they’d looked for another trip.

You get paid for time + mileage, with the time being calculated as (hourly local minimum wage/60). So if you have a minimum wage of 12/hour, your driver makes .20/minute for waiting (to pick you up, etc.). Also earns $.20/minute while driving as well.

Also, many times when I’m asked “can you stop by Whataburger?” I negotiate something for me - “if you don’t mind buying me a large drink”, something like that.

JohnT, if I may humbly hijack your thread, what makes a good passenger? I assume the usual things: not reeking of BO, weed, or various bodily fluids, not being drunk or argumentative, etc. What do I need to know so I don’t end up on some Seattle Uber driver’s “Tales of bad Uber fares” blog?

And do you prefer cash tips or tips through the app, which I didn’t know was a thing?

Cash is better as Uber/Lyft logs tips for tax purposes.

99.9% of my riders are “good riders”. I very rarely give lower than a 5 star rating - you have to have vomited or been a serious pain in the ass for me to worry about rating you lower than 5 stars. (I only had 1 vomit and the guy hit my tire. Got $40 to hose down my car, no questions asked.)

Seriously, the only constant about my bad riders is the need to argue. I love to argue, but not when working.

Other irritating habits, (none of these earn a passenger a lower rating. Arguing gets you a low rating.):

  1. Giving me directions, other than local tips 'n tricks (“there’s a quicker way out of this complex” is a good tip. “Turn left onto I-35” is a bad tip.).
  2. No open drinks. Gotta dump that thing before you get in my car.
  3. Don’t take your last drag on your cig, only to exhale when you get in my car.
  4. Control your friends.
  5. No dipping, vaping, etc.

Yeah… sneaking a vape gets you 1 star. Ask first.

I’d never thought of this before—(yes, I’m a naive old man)…but what’s the legal situation here for you as the driver?

You are totally innocent,but a cop isn’t going to know that when he stops you and smells weed, or finds heroin in the passenger’s backpack.

Of course you have the Uber history files to prove that you just happened to be nearby and picked them up…but what would happen if you have multiple trips with these passengers over the past month, following the same route each time? Does that make you look like an accomplice?

Very true, and I can be prosecuted if they desire.

However… and I have done this quite a bit, so you can take my word for it, in a city as large as San Antonio it has been very uncommon for me to have the same person twice (at least it isn’t common that we remember riding together). It has happened about 3, 4 times (probably more), but if I were to become this guys “official” car, it would have to be an arrangement made outside the Uber system.

Maurice, for example, probably is still making his rounds, but I have never seen him since. Same thing with Rhonda, and she works within 2 miles of my home.

Also, here in SA, police love Uber. That will be the topic of future posts, however…

(Btw, I just remembered: marijuana has been decriminalized here in Bexar County and only rates a ticket. Of course, DUI laws also apply, but since I’m not the one smoking…)

Before Tumblr removed adult content in December 2018, I used to read the blog of a female Uber driver in Seattle who would frequently hook up with passengers, as she and her husband were in a very open relationship. I think she has a self published book on amazon about her adventures.

As for my personal experience, the only thing I have noticed is the younger the driver, the chattier they seem to be.

I was in San Francisco for work in 2014. Grabbed an Uber from the office to the hotel.

The driver was certifiably insane. Allow me to repeat… certifiably insane.

The traffic was brutal, so I was stuck in his car for ~10 minutes. Aside from calling random pedestrians over to his car so he could insult them, the most astonishing thing he did was drive a whole block on the sidewalk… between cars parked along the curb and the buildings/store fronts. A couple pedestrians literally had to scurry out of the way.

Driver was laughing. Bat shit f’ing crazy he was. I’ve never been so tempted to jump out of a moving car.