Last night, I had my first legit request from a friend to do an Uber gig. Her car was not on the road for some reason or another, so her wheels weren’t accessible. Her mom was flying in to the BWI airport, and she didn’t want to put her in a cab. She called me to see if I could pick her up. Yes! Happy to. Then, as things worked out, she got one of her daughter’s friends, someone who lived closer to her, to pick her mom up; but I thought that was pretty neat. A nice opportunity to help a friend out and make some cash. The gig would have been worth the trip, plus I care deeply about this woman and I like her mom.
I met this afternoon with a Lyft mentor, the person who was checking me and my car out for a possible Lyft gig. We meet at a McDonald’s parking lot in Silver Spring, Md., about 30 minutes south of where I live. While I was going to sign up for Lyft under a friend’s referral code (earning each of us a $350 signing bonus), Lyft is now offering $600 to new drivers who qualify for the bonus. So I told my friend that I loved him dearly, but I need a new bike, and my bike is probably going to be in the $500-$700 range. He told me he understood and to go for it.
I’ll be two-timing on Uber if I get accepted.
The Uber driver application is forms, apps, inspections and admin. The Lyft process is more personal. My first-ever ride-share experience was with Lyft about three years ago when I was in SF and needed to get to the airport with too many bags to comfortably navigate on the MUNI. A taxi seemed intimidating, and potentially a rip-off. I’d seen these cars driving around with large, furry, pink mustaches covering their grills: they were Lyft drivers, I was told. My SF hosts explained how it worked, and I was intrigued, so I used their service. My driver was lovely. She was friendly, interesting and helpful.
My Lyft mentor was also friendly, interesting and helpful. About 33, Ethiopian heritage but clearly born in the US, or living here since he was really young; he was recently laid off from an IT job. He recognized me as an Uber driver by the first question I asked, and so we talked about the differences between Uber and Lyft. To him, Lyft drivers were nicer. And Lyft, per him, pays drivers more. Plus Lyft encourages tipping, and high-volume drivers can earn their commissions back.
He tells me he is starting a bumper-sticker business. I ask if I can share what I’m up to also, and I give him a Nerium brochure and CD. We’ll see how this goes with Lyft. I’m curious to do Lyft and compare the two services, companies and riders. I’m also pretty psyched to get a $600 new-driver bonus.
Key experience: It’s interesting to observe how people-/driver-focused Lyft is.
After my mentor meeting, I start to head home and turn on my Uber app. Beep. That near-panic-sheer-excitement-thrill-crack-addict Beep! Makes me want to just say Yes, I’ll take it! Me, Mine, Mine, Mine, Mine. I accept the ride, wondering if I made the right decision. It’s 2:13 p.m. and I’m on the D.C.-Maryland border. This ride could take me into D.C., which could have me hitting D.C. rush-hour traffic.
I pick her up. She’s white, my age-ish, blond, dressed professionally. I’m white, blond, her age-ish and, today, I’m dressed professionally, wearing a jacket and skirt, just as she is. It’s her first Uber ride. I’m chatty. I feel I should be almost collegial with her. I blather on about a lot of blather-y small-talk things. She does too. She’s a patent attorney and she’s been at an FDA conference. I’m taking her now to a friend’s memorial service, held deep in D.C. at a hospital. I’ll tell her I’m sorry to hear of her friend’s passing. She thanks me for that. She used to live in the area. In Georgetown, in a small and expensive apartment, then to Chevy Chase (a nearby and nice suburb of D.C.) then to Sterling, Va., a ways-away suburb in Virginia. Sterling, Va., was the only place she and her husband could afford when purchasing a home in the area, she says. She hated the commute. She’s in Boston now, likes the low humidity, misses the beautiful springs in D.C. She asks about the magnet on my car. I tell her about my anti-aging products and give her my card.
Key experience: I can be chatty and engaging, but I also don’t have to be. At least not for the whole ride.
My next rider is at the same hospital and is coming out of the emergency room. Two women get in my car: one in the back seat with a brace of some sort on one knee and crutches, and the other upfront with me. They’re both Black, female, professional, well-dressed, nice-looking. The one in the back seat is younger, maybe 30, a little more glamorous. The one in the front is a little more staid, maybe mid-40s. I ask what happened. The injured one tells me she pushed the toilet flusher with one foot and twisted her other knee. I almost blurt out that knee problems represent pride and ego, stubbornness and inflexibility, per Louise Hay’s work in You Can Heal Your Life, but I don’t.
My thought-to-blurt system seems to be slowing down when I’m Ubering. Well, most of the time. Instead I say that early spring (we’re now in the first week of March), per my memory of Chinese medicine, is an important time to care for one’s joints, ligaments and tendons, and that drinking and consuming sour and vinegar-y foods apparently helps with this: these foods help with the suppleness and flexibility of the body. So I recall. Something to consider.
We’re driving through Georgetown where the houses are small, historic, well-maintained and charming; the retail is boutique (except for the chains that moved in a decade or so ago); and this neighborhood is, to a home, upscale. The gal in the back talks of wanting to live here, how she likes the homes. They both lived in St. Louis prior to D.C. I tell them I’m going to a convention in St. Louis next month and ask for suggestions of where to stay afterward. I’d like to AirBnB for a couple/few days and feel around the city. They say the best thing to do in St. Louis is drive four hours to Chicago, but they do recommend two neighborhoods.
It’s a Friday. Rush hour is starting. People are doing crazy things in and with their cars. We all notice this. No near misses or hits for us. We’re simply observing others’ choices. Being in the flow.
I take them back to their office. They both work in management at the US Postal Service. The older woman, who turns out to be the new and beloved boss of the younger gal, goes into the building to get the injured gal’s laptop and some notes. We wait awhile. Ten minutes at least. She brings out the laptop, some snacks and a get-well card from her colleagues then heads back in to work. I take the other gal home. Yes, I’m going even deeper in … to Virginia. Rush hour is starting. I take her to her home in an apartment complex, which is a seven year-old building that she considers old. Old? Yes, she tells me she likes her houses old but her apartments new. I like this distinction and think it’s a good one to remember. I help her get out and get her crutches to her.
Key experience: I could have gotten fussy about sitting in the car for 10 minutes, but, really, so what. The gal had had a shock. She needed to get home safely. She’d already had enough stress for the day. No need for me to add any more.
I can’t bear the idea of driving in D.C. traffic during rush hour, by choice. If I got trips on smaller residential roads and backroads that wouldn’t be so bad. My two trips today have already had me in lovely places, down roads and in neighborhoods that I rarely see in D.C., but I don’t know where a rider is going until after I accept the call. What if I get caught on the Capital Beltway at rush hour? My earnings per mile are where the cash is, but per minute? It’s only 10 cents per minute, minus Uber’s 25 percent, minus my gas and other expenses, minus the taxable income. In other words, it’s about 2 to 3 cents per minute, the way I see it. Thankfully, Ubering is about much more, to me, than the money, but I can’t see myself willingly stepping into D.C. rush hour traffic. I Yelp my way to the nearest Noodles & Company, as I have a coupon for a free meal. It’s a mile away. I settle in, prepare for a scheduled call and eat my so-so meal.
I know my parking meter is running low and I don’t feel like strolling about in this new fairly new, chain-restaurant-heavy shopping plaza, so I head back to my car. It’s 5 pm and still too early to get on the road without encountering massive rush-hour traffic. Plus I want to go to a dance in the D.C. area in two hours, so I want to stay in this general area. I get into my car, check messages and emails, and decide to take a short nap. I put my gloves on as it’s getting cold, and I’m only wearing a blazer (does anyone call them blazers anymore?), vs a winter coat. I turn on my car’s heated seat, extend the car seat back, nap for 30 or so minutes and drain my car battery.
A week ago I was at a potluck dinner with 20 or so people when one young woman came bounding in talking about how she had just called an Uber driver to give her car a jump. I have visions of doing the same. The problem is that I’m head in to a parking space with a car parked on either side of me. The timing of what I’d need–for one car to leave, for an Uber to arrive at the perfect time, and for the rider to not only have jumper cables but to be willing to do this for me–well, it’s starting to feel like a fantasy and not a likelihood. My cell phone battery is at 40 percent, which means it could drop to zero in less than an hour.
I call for roadside assistance. My service rep on the phone is slow. Slow of hearing, slow of talking, slow of everything. Maybe his telephone equipment is bad. Maybe his hearing is bad. Maybe I talk too darn fast for his Texan ways. Maybe he is low intelligence. I don’t know. I know that I’m feeling a minor bit of panic to get this resolved before my cell phone battery dies, and he is taking forever to get the information he needs from me. I’m by the Rite Aid, I tell him. Is that W-r-i-g-h-t, ma’am? No, it’s R-i-t-e-a-i-d. OK, ma’am. And so on. I know none of this is his fault and he doesn’t know my concern about my cel phone battery. I do my best to be patient.
Fifty-seven dollars. It’s going to cost me $57 to get my car jumped. As the only reason I’m down in this area is because I accepted one Uber passenger and then another, I consider my income for the day. The straight-up Uber fare charged to my two passengers is $58, but then that’s minus the $.145 per ride, then minus Uber’s 25 percent, then minus my costs and minus the taxes I have to pay on this independent-contractor income. I feel about 47 seconds worth of self-pity. Thoughts of Why Me, Why did this happen, Why can’t my life be smoother?
But it’s hard to feel pitiful. I used to be able to feel pitiful when I was younger, when I had less experience in life and when my hormones raged more. It was much easier to feel pitiful, angry, depressed, raging at God, all that kind of stuff. I’m not saying I never feel those things now, only that they’re simply harder emotions to conjure now. My life–while it’s got a whole lot of areas that could use improvement–is for the most part, a pretty happy life, and while I can imagine many things that would make my life more convenient, luxurious or secure, for the most party, I’m in pretty good stead. No, I can’t find self-pity.
Though I do wonder. I always wonder. Why this? What’s the lesson? I mean, beyond the lesson about not turning on the seat heater and running the battery dry. What’s the lesson? How can I flip this? How can I take this situation and turn it around? I can’t see it. I don’t understand. I don’t see anything in my earlier day or thoughts that would have this situation come to be.
I wait the hour and ten minutes I need to wait for my service guy to come. He calls. I hear intelligence, care and capacity in his voice. I’m uplifted. I feel hope. I feel my savior will come. He finds me. He has a Toyota Camry and a charging box. I’m set in a matter of minutes. He’s about 30, half-Dominican, half-El Salvadorian. He’s studying cyber security. Has he read Ted Koppel’s Light Out, I ask. No. I’ll write the title down for you, you’ll appreciate it, I tell him. I decide to share my Nerium brochure with him. Why not? He tells me he has been looking for something just like this. We talk about leveraged income. He tells me he has four cars and that he has guys working for him. He works with apartment complexes and offers, through the property managers, a $5/month service that provides jumps, tire changes or $5 worth of gas delivered to anyone who pays his monthly fee and who is within 5 miles of their apartment when they have the need.
How can I not love this guy? He’s entrepreneurial, he’s smart, and he’s kind and caring. I feel simply meeting him has been my upliftment.
I head to my dance, 5 Rhythms, one of my favorite forms of therapy. Afterward, I zip over to Glen Echo Park for the last of a contra dance. I do not Uber on my way home.
Key experience: It’s ok. Things are ok. Life happens. Stuff happens.