Uber Driver’s Blues

A parody inspired by the song ‘Smuggler’s Blues’ by Glen Frey (Songwriters: Frey Glenn Lewis / Tempchin Jack Smuggler’s Blues lyrics © Red Cloud Music, Night River Publishing)

Uber Driver’s Blues

There was no money coming in

No one was hiring, So I had an idea

I downloaded the Uber driver app

Put in all my information

But I didn’t think I’d get onboard so fast

The app went live and I hit the road

So baby I was on the road

I’m behind the wheel, learning how to navigate

Trying to figure out how to do this job

Even though I wasn’t given any info on how to do it

I’m sorry to my passengers whose navigation I screwed up

It was the nature of the business back then

It was the Uber Driver’s Blues

Uber Driver’s Blues

The drivers and the riders, the idiots and the jerks

Bad driving, bad behavior, the indecent proposals I had to turn down

No matter if it’s day or if it’s night

You got to keep driving to get the fare

There’s lots of interesting people, lots of good conversation

But there are a few loony conversations, too

Every rider’s name is forgotten because all you have is their first name

Perhaps you’d understand it better

Driving a car like I do, it’s all about the hustle

It’s the Uber Driver Blues

Uber Driver Blues

You read about it online, watch the YouTube videos

They say it’s not going to last, but we’re still on the road

Moving through the streets, up and down the highways

We drive day and night, we’re here to stay

It’s keeping people like me out of call-centers

You ask anyone else they’ll say I’d do it if I didn’t have to navigate

Or deal with drunks or potential puke

But that’s just between me and you

It’s a decent proposition, this driving around day and night

It’s the politics of the hustle

It’s the Uber Driver’s Blues

Uber Driver’s Blues

Uber Tales –  Married Conversations, Edition

In five years of doing this gig, I’ve had plenty of married couples in the car. And yes, I can gauge the temperature of the relationship by what is said, or not said, or how it’s said, or what they do (or don’t do).

Have I had any couples that were in, shall we say, a frosty mood?

One comes to mind: It was late one night and I pick up this couple (lady and dude) with their dog. They’re not going too far but they’ve been drinking so I’m keeping them out of the clink. She starts in on him about this friend of his who, according to her, is a jerk. She really didn’t like this guy and from what she was saying, I think she was right in feeling like she did. Hubby really wasn’t defending his choice of friend too well and when we got to their house she got out of the car and just walked up to the house without looking back or waiting him. All I could think of was that he was probably thinking about shacking up with the dog in the doghouse because that’s where it felt like she was putting him up for the night.

Have I had any drunk couples and if so, how did it go?

I’ve had a few and a couple come to mind:

One couple I picked up I watched them walk out of the house together and I thought they were just hanging off each other. No, he was practically carrying her down the driveway. Luckily, we weren’t going too far and both were in a good mood and laughing about their predicament. The couple that gets drunk together stays together.

Another couple I picked up one night late from a swanky hotel-resort wasn’t happy. Hubby was practically carrying wifey out of the place and when she got in she cracked the window, leaned up against the side, then moaned and groaned all the way to their place (and had me hoping she wasn’t going to puke in the car- luckily she didn’t). We get to their place and hubby got her out of the car and started walking with her up to their house. But when she reached the mailbox (a nice big stone one), she ducked behind it and proceeded to hurl really hard (only had audio and not visual, thank doG). Hubby just nodded his head and kept walking up to the house. I honestly wonder how much she was going to remember the next morning but was forever grateful she didn’t puke him my car.

Usually when I get a couple in my car, they either clam up and don’t say much or they talk about boring stuff that doesn’t merit an Uber Tale. But in the last week, I’ve had three conversations that were a mix of dumb, condescending, and possible gaslighting.

I pick up this couple early one morning and the hubby contradicts every single thing the wifey says, like dates and what happened and any other detail. I’m thinking one of two things: she’s a ding-bat with a faulty memory (slight possibility on that as she did admit she had their driveway paved with a slight bend instead of straight, which would have been more practical), or hubby was a dickhead who always had to be right. My take was that this was a dysfunctional marriage these two seem to be stuck in.

Then I pick up this other couple and hubby acts surprised by every single thing wifey says, like he’s hearing it for the first time. Wifey doesn’t sound stupid or anything but hubby sure acted like he was a dumb-ass. To me, it sort of felt like he was talking down to her.

Then I had another couple in which hubby was like trying to explain to wifey every single thing he was seeing from the back passenger seat (okay, I understand not a lot of people get to be a passenger in a car looking at stuff). Again, the slightly condescending tone rubbed me the wrong way because he was also contradicting her replies to him, too (attempted gaslighting, anyone?).

From these conversations I was beginning to ask myself: are there really marriages that are this messed up? And I’m wondering how many women think they’re ding-bat idiots when in reality they’re just married to condescending gaslighting assholes?

I’m just glad I’ve never been asked to be a marriage counselor with any of these couples because that’s something I wouldn’t do except for the promise of a record-breaking tip ($100+).

Uber Tales, Advice Given (and not given), Edition

Over my five years as an Uber driver, I have been asked for advice and have been careful in giving it. And in my five years as a driver, I’ve also kept my advice to myself even when I really wanted to give it.

This past Sunday evening, I picked up this young lady from the airport and when she got in the car she proceeded to call someone like a lot of people do (people call family to let them they’re on their way home a lot). I hear her tell someone she’s landed and on her way home then she goes, “I’m not being sassy.” Then she proceeded to argue that she was just calling to tell this person (sounded like an asshole-boyfriend) she was on her way home and no, she had things to do and was going to order in dinner. All I could think was that she didn’t sound ‘sassy’ at all on the phone and why did she have to put up with this shit? I really wanted to tell her to dumb this douche-bag and save herself the hassle of dealing with an idiot who seemed to want an argument. I think douche-bag boyfriends who do this kind of shit, accuse the girl they’re with of stuff she didn’t do are probably fucking around or just trying to be controlling douche-bags.

Another time I picked up this couple from a bar one night and on the radio the song, ‘Baby One More Time’ by Brittney Spears came on. Well the chick began singing along and she had a good voice and in the rearview mirror I could also see her getting down and wanting to do lap-dance on her boyfriend (or husband, I wasn’t exactly sure what his significant-other title was). He was totally ignoring her and making snide comments about my driving just loud enough to where I could hear them (I was taking it a bit easy since the road I was driving down was bumpy as hell). All I could think was his girlfriend-wife was horny and if he played his cards right he could have gotten laid as soon as they got to their place. But because he was mouthing off at me I wanted to tell her to dump this douche-bag’s ass, or at least make sure he didn’t get laid that night.

Then another time I picked up this guy one afternoon and he got on the phone with a friend of his and proceeded to talk some serious shit about this girl they both knew. My douche-bag passenger was saying how he’d lied to this girl and said she was pretty and stuff when in reality he was calling her fat and ugly and all kinds of nasty shit. All I could think was I hope this girl kicked this guy in the nuts the next time she saw him because I was hoping that my mental yelling to her would reach her in some way.

Then another time I went to a convenience store for an early-morning pickup and there is this couple there. Chick is laying into this guy accusing him of cheating and stuff and he’s trying to tell her he’s not. He’s the one that ordered the Uber so he put his stuff in and was trying to get this chick to calm down but she wasn’t having it. Then she grabbed his phone out of his hand and started scrolling through it. At that point, he’d had enough and got in and I let him use my phone to call a buddy of his (his buddy’s apartment was his destination) to let him know he was on his way and that his psycho girlfriend had his phone. I think the chick was pretty drunk but man, she was a crazy-ass drunk. I wanted to tell the dude to cut off his phone plan, report his phone as stolen, and dump this crazy bitch.

In the above three situations, I didn’t say anything because people have to figure things out for themselves. But one time, I was asked for some advice and I carefully weighed and measured it out.

I picked up this young lady one night and as we got going she goes, “Can I ask you a question?” I go, “Sure, what is it?” She asks me if I think long-distance relationships can work. I tell her I think they can if both partners are committed to one another and work at it. Then she asks me if that applies if both people live in the same city. I go, “Huh?” and she must have heard the puzzlement in my voice because she proceeds to lay out her situation. She tells me she and this guy in question had been together off-and-on for about three years or so and had just gotten married a couple of months back. But a few days before this ride, he’d moved out to a place across town but wasn’t telling her why. She then asked me if she should try talking to him. I told her if he was willing to sit down and talk with her to just listen to him without interruption and think through what he said. Then she told me she’d just gotten out of the hospital and found out she was pregnant. Then I told her my personal take was that he might want to have his cake and eat it, too and if so, she was going to have to make some hard decisions. I wished her well but in reality, I wanted to tell her to dump the asshole and that if she kept the baby to get as much child-support as she could from him.

I like to think most people are good people, and they are. But when I encounter a shit-head or someone dealing with one, it’s hard not to lose a little faith each time. My take is why be with someone if they’re just going to shit all over you? I know a lot of these shit-heads tell their victims they can’t make it on their own. I want to tell anyone, male or female, you can do just fine on your own. You’ll be a lot happier without dealing with this kind of hot-and-cold insensitive bullshit. Because the piece of advice I’d really like to give here is this: it’s not your purpose in life to pull someone’s head out of their ass. And as my late mother used to say, people like this very rarely, if ever change so to me, there’s no reason to stay with someone who makes you feel like shit more often than not.

But this is just my advice so you can take or leave it.

Uber Tales, Roll With the Flow, Edition

A couple of days ago, I had a passenger ask me what lessons I’ve learned from being an Uber driver. It was an interesting question and one I’d never been asked before so I gave it a go.

The first thing that came to me was that I’ve learned to just roll with the flow. I’ve said the only predictable thing about this gig is its’ unpredictability and because of that, you’ve got to learn to roll with that. A good example of this is what I call a ‘doldrum period’. On average this happens at least twice a year: right after New Year’s when everyone’s worn out and broke and after Memorial Day weekend when again, everyone’s worn out and broke. I have to remind myself these times will happen and to try and be better prepared.

Another roll-with-the-flow lesson can be applied to travel times. During morning or afternoon rush every so often I’ll get stuck in a traffic jam. Luckily I’ve never had a passenger complain about this. In fact I’ve had a few apologize though I tell them traffic jams aren’t their fault (and they’re not because the route we’re on sometimes the only way into their destination). I tell them traffic jams are a part of my job and besides, I’m on the clock so I’m still getting paid.

Another roll-with-the-flow lesson is in talking to people. The vast majority of my passengers are awesome and whether or not they want to talk is entirely up to them. Now in the past I used to hate having right-wing idiots in my car because they can be a bit forceful and I used to get nervous about them flying off the handle and doing something stupid. Now I’ve learned how to counter their dumb-ass arguments so well they’re agreeing with me. For example, the shitty one about immigrants overrunning the country is one I counter by saying immigrants are probably one of the most exploited groups of people in this country and they’re not coming for anyone’s fancy white-collar job, or even blue-collar job. Instead, immigrants usually work under-the-table and behind-the-scenes and are out of sight for most people. The other right-wing dumb-ass argument I like to counter is that we’ve been taxing the wrong people and that’s not the government’s fault but Congress handing down tax breaks to the wealthy for decades.

Then there is the drunk roll-with-the-flow. And how do you know someone is drunk? The number-one indicator to me is most drunks are really repetitive, and usually repeat the dumbest stuff over and over. But I don’t call them out on it. Instead, I just go mumble and keep driving. Most drunks are okay and pretty friendly and if I get a nasty one I just keep my mouth shut and tell myself at least I don’t have to live with them and listen to them puke.

Yet another roll-with-the-flow is what to do when you ask someone how they’re doing and you get a crazy story from way out of left field. Like last night when I picked up this young lady and I asked how she was doing and she said better now that she hadn’t been ‘jumped’ today. Then I got the story behind that: the night before she’d gone out drinking with some friends and they ended up at a party at an abandoned house out in the middle of nowhere with this crazy chick and her eight brothers who all claimed to be armed with guns. Crazy chick kept telling my passenger she wanted to kick her ass and that if my passenger fought back her brothers would shoot her dead. Luckily, my passenger got out alive and without getting shot or beaten. She also said she was cutting off the friend who took her to this little gathering to begin with. When you hear a story like that you just have to roll with it though I told her I’d stick to the city if I were her.

Finally, the best take on roll-with-the-flow is that it keeps you from driving like an asshole. I deal with idiot drivers all the time and the worst driving I see is the following:

Speeding

Tailgating

Texting and Driving

DON’T DO THOSE THINGS WHEN YOU’RE IN THE CAR!!!

Speeding in and out of traffic is dangerous because there are other cars and it doesn’t make you look cool. In fact, I say it makes you look like the pencil-dick and or dried-up coochie (for the ladies who do this) asshole that you are.

Tailgating is just dumb as hell because that’s an accident waiting to happen. And if someone is boxed in there’s nowhere to go riding their bumper isn’t going to magically clear the road in front of them. And if you’re too fucking stupid to go around if you’ve got the room, then you should get out and walk.

And NO ONE is capable of texting and driving so just stop doing that shit. Also, don’t hold your phone and drive with one hand. Get a freaking mount if you want to talk and drive or just put your damn phone down and concentrate on your driving.

I think the biggest lesson with roll-with-the-flow is that you learn how to think through things and also be considerate of others. Which is the most important lesson I think anyone can learn in life.

Uber Tales – Frequently Asked Questions, Edition

I’m going to list some of my most frequently asked questions (FAQ) here but if you have any questions for me that are not listed here, just let me know in the comments.

How long have I been driving for Uber?

  • Five years as of this year.

Do I like it?

  • Yes. (If I didn’t I don’t think I would have stayed with it as long as I have because of the freedom I have with this job).

Longest trip?

  • Current record holder is three hours (would have been three and a half if I hadn’t taken a couple of alternate routes around some high-traffic areas)

Biggest tip?

  • Current record is still $100 though if anyone wants to break that record they’re more than welcome to.

Any really strange or outrageous passengers?

  • Nothing totally bizarre or anyone I couldn’t handle.

How much time do I spend at the airport?

  • Enough to where I sometimes call it my home-away-from-home.

Are you from San Antonio?

  • Born and raised, and I’m old enough to remember when things were built, or something else.

When do you drive?

  • Anytime I want to though my bank account pretty much dictates when I work and for how long.

Has anyone ever puked in your car?

  • No, which I am forever grateful for. I’ve reduced that risk greatly by not 2 a.m. bar let-outs though I do get the occasional day-drunks.

Have I been like a bartender-therapist to people in the car?

  • Yes. I don’t mind because sometimes people just need to talk and I’m more than happy to listen.

How many ‘morning after’s’ (formerly known as the ‘walk of shame’) have I done?

  • Lots. And occasionally I get the story. And I call them ‘morning after’s’ because I had a family in the car one night (mom, dad, two young girls) and the mom was up front with me asking me questions. She was about to say ‘walk of shame’ but I stopped her with ‘morning after’ then angled my head towards her daughters in the backseat. I didn’t feel right saying ‘walk of shame’ in front of young kids and I think I also kept the mom from having to explain that term to her daughters.

Extras

  • I was offered pot in lieu of a tip twice in one week. First time was when I dropped this guy off and he said he didn’t have any cash on him for a tip so I told him he could tip me through the app. Then he offered me something to eat or drink (I politely declined) then he went, “Can I offer you a bag of weed?” I went, “Uh what?” because I wasn’t sure if I heard him correctly. He said yes rather enthusiastically but I declined and got out of there. Second time was a couple of days later when I was driving this lady home and she said she didn’t have cash for a tip so I told her she could tip in the app. Then she asked me if I wanted a joint but I declined smoothly by saying, “No, thank you, ma’am. I don’t smoke.”
  • I’ve been asked out several times (declined firmly but politely) though I got a rather indecent proposal from this guy one night. He was drunk and hitting on me then he offered me money for an indecent time and I went, “Excuse me?” in a tone of voice that made it very clear he crossed a line. He apologized all over himself and I let him flop around like a fish on a hook for a minute or so before I told him, “Apology accepted.” He tipped me well so I let it slide.

If you would like to ask me something that wasn’t addressed here, please ask in the comments here and I’ll do my best to answer it. Thanks!

Uber Tales – Where Things Are, San Antonio-Local Edition

In five years of being an Uber driver in San Antonio, I’ve probably been over every inch of this city (and county). As I tell a lot of my passengers, most people really don’t go too far outside their own little ‘pod’ as I call it. They go to work, school, and shopping. They may venture out to go somewhere different on occasion (though more often than not they’ll call an Uber, which is good for me). But in my job on the road, in addition to never taking the same route every day I also get to find out where a lot of places are, and I can tell people when some of these places were built and what they used to be (or might have been if I’m not entirely certain of a place’s origin story).

I was talking with a passenger just this past week and he told me this story of how his buddy forgot where he’d left his car one night after partying. I told him it sounded like the movie ‘Dude, Where’s My Car’. He didn’t know about that movie but I told him it was ridiculously funny (so stupid but so funny because it didn’t take itself seriously- I highly recommend it if you don’t want to expend any brainpower when watching a movie). I then told my passenger how I knew where all the impound lots were in the city because think about it: if your car has been impounded you’re going to need a ride to the impound lot. One is close to downtown and I tell people it just looks like crap during the day (it’s in an industrial area with a good amount of rust and dirt and pot-holed cratered streets) though I told him if you go down there after dark to watch your back. Then there was an impound lot on the northeast side off I-35 that looked like something out of a horror movie at five-thirty in the morning (I was taking a lady there whose car got towed from her apartment complex- she thought her neighbor ratted her out). I told her I wasn’t leaving her until she confirmed someone in the office to help her and to come out and give me a thumbs-up if so (which she did). Then there was the lot on the far west side off Highway 151 where UTSA (University of San Antonio) took their cars (and I haven’t been over there in a long time so I guess between the pandemic and improved parking these kids have learned not to park in ‘no parking’ areas).

Then there is Sugar’s. It’s a strip club right off Loop 410 not too far from the airport. On the front of the building there is a big shark (he’s white so I assume he’s a great white shark like Jaws). Now I can’t find anything online to figure out the story behind that shark but one passenger I had (a native San Antonian like me) thought that place started out as a seafood restaurant. Which sort of makes sense though I hoped they didn’t serve shark-fin soup. I wonder what they tell their patrons if they ask about the shark.

I’ve been asked by several passengers over the years why our airport in San Antonio is smack-dab in the middle of the city. I tell them the city came to the airport because when the airport was first built back in the late 1950’s there wasn’t a lot out there. The highway in front of the airport, Loop 410 was just being built and nearby North Star Mall was finished around the same time as the airport and looked a lot different (except for the giant cowboy boots out in front of the mall). I tell people I remember when our little airport had just one terminal and that before 9/11 you could go inside and have an ice-cream and watch the planes take off and land (though I will say the people watching coming and going from the security checkpoint was much more interesting). When I first started this gig the big parking garages in front of the terminals were just being finished up. And since I started this job, our waiting lot has changed four times (we share our waiting lot with the lot the cabbies had to themselves before we came along- they’re cool with us and we’re cool with them).

A few months ago, I had my first drop-off at the Bexar County Jail. All I had was the address so I didn’t know exactly where we were going until we pulled up and I read the lettering on the building. My passenger then asked where he was supposed to go and I found the Visitor’s Entrance for him (since he didn’t know where to go I think he might have been there to bail someone out, but I didn’t ask because in my line of work I don’t ask a lot of questions). Then my next ride after I dropped him was about two blocks away at the Bexar County Sheriff’s office. Again, I didn’t ask questions but I can say I know where the jail, Sherriff’s office, and I even know where the Parole/Probation office is (picked up a guy there one morning- he apologized for the pickup location but I told him people deserved a second chance, especially if they were complying with their parole/probation like he was).

So as you can see in my line of work, I can tell you where a lot of places are. And if you’re with me, I can guarantee you I won’t ask a lot of questions, especially about why you’re going to where you’re going. But if my passengers have questions for me about where they’re going (or coming from), I’m more than happy to answer them as best as I can. I’ll explain local jokes (such as Fred’s Fish Fry- little squat boxes that look like fronts for drug dealing though according to a SA Current news story no drug busts have ever been done there), why we call the Alamodome the White Elephant, and I might tell you what parts of town not to stick around for autographs, especially after dark.

Uber Tales – Dude-Bro’s and Predictability in an Unpredictable Job, Edition

In five years of being an Uber driver the only thing that’s predictable about this job is its’ unpredictability. The unpredictability is that every single day (or night) on the road is never the exact same as any other day. But after five years there are some things that have become a bit predictable, and one thing is the type of passengers I have.

Take the dude-bro I had yesterday. The dude-bro is all-male, straight, conservative even if they spout liberal talking points (which they only spout to liberal chicks if they think it will get them laid). They’re college-educated, probably belonged to a fraternity, and probably destroyed a fair number of brain cells in college. They listen to podcasts and worship at the altar of Elon Musk and Joe Rogan. They act like they have their shit together and have all the answers in the world. In reality, they slide through life on being white, male, and having money at their disposal. To me, they’re mostly harmless because they’re afraid of ugly middle-aged women like me because they know we can see right through them.

I’m sure you think I should be kinder in thinking about my passengers. No, that’s not a requirement of my job or of any job for that matter. The customer is not always right and nor should anyone be treated like that. And if I chose to push back at someone’s bullshit in my vehicle in a polite way with no profanity (that’s a line I still won’t cross in the car), then I can and usually will… unless I’m in very heavy traffic and need to concentrate of my driving.

Getting back to yesterday’s dude-bro… he says he’s from California but wants to move to Texas. Okay, I’ve heard that plenty of times before because these dude-bro’s think Texas is a conservative Utopia since it’s the home of their false-messiahs Elon and Joe (they’re not Messiahs and they’re not even very naughty boys, just dumber than a pile of cow shit and they smell just as bad). Then this dude-bro tossed an interesting curveball in the vehicle: he thinks wind and solar power are on their way out and nuclear power will come back. He claims there is a form of nuclear power that isn’t radioactive.

My first thought was: what in the hell has he been smoking? And second, how can something be nuclear and not radioactive? Instead, I asked why and he said something about nuclear being longer-lasting or some word-shit salad. Then I asked about radioactive waste and what to do about that. No real solution there other than burying it (which we’re already doing). Then he said if solar panels break down then what? I told him they can be recycled and not be radioactive for twenty-thousand years like nuclear waste. Then I told him the city of San Antonio has a plan to try and go all-solar and other renewable energy sources. That really shut him up and God I was grateful for that.

It’s this kind of stupidity I have to deal with from time to time and I used to not say anything in reply to it. Now I just do my best to bury their arguments in their own bullshit and keep driving at the same time, something they would never be able to do even if they got lessons from me (which I would never give because they would flunk my tests even if they tried to cheat).

Then in the silence I decided not to point out to dude-bro if he moves to Texas he’ll find the real-estate is cheaper than California but he’ll get whacked with rude jacked-up property taxes, homeowners insurance out the ass, and sky-high utility prices. Then he talked about going down to Boca Chica (in the Rio Grande Valley) where Elon-the-False-Prophet has a Space-X launch site. I didn’t tell him he’d probably be outnumbered a hundred-to-one by wild boars, lizards, snakes, coyotes, and eating sand.

The predictable part of yesterday was the dude-bro vibe I got from this guy immediately and that I was right on the mark. The unpredictability was the pro-nuke line of reasoning. T me, going against things that will help the planet and its’ people simply because it’s a liberal thing is so fucking stupid it defies any attempt to understand it. Of course, this is probably a guy who would tell other guys they’re ‘gay’ if they say or do certain things that aren’t ‘manly’ and conservative and traditional (because heterosexual dude bro’s are homophobic even if they try to hide it). But like I’ve said before, they’re mostly harmless unless they’re lawmakers or run a company and have people on their payroll (then they need to be voted out of office and not be allowed to make any decision more complex than what kind of pencils to buy).

In the end, most of the passengers that annoy me are mostly harmless. And after five years on the road, I’ve learned how to deal with them.

But I do like a good line drive out of left field, even if the person tossing it is in right field and not able to field anything to begin with.

Uber Tales – Housing As Seen From the Road, Edition

As you can imagine, I see a lot of things from the road. And yesterday I was thinking about housing. I know that might sound boring but I don’t think it is. I just think tract housing with lookalike houses is boring.

Yesterday I was all over the place as I drove through three counties way out in the sticks and then into the city. I know people need housing and places to live but these suburban developments with all these houses, a lot of crammed in together don’t hold any appeal for me. Why?

The houses are for the most part thrown up pretty quickly so in about ten years the foundations will shift and crack (they’re mostly slab foundations and since the soil here in South Texas is really loamy and goopy, they will shift eventually). Also, most of these developments are governed by HOA’s (Homeowners Associations) and these organizations can be flat-out nuts at times. Ostensibly they’re to maintain the community amenities like playgrounds and pools along with the streets and stuff. In reality a lot of them turn into nit-picky heaven and enforce all kinds of bullshit deed restrictions (no pink houses or pink flamingo in the yard for example).

I had a passenger who I picked up a few times on my early morning runs who managed a nightclub for two guys who according to him were morons and he also had staffing issues that would give anyone a lot of gray hair. But what he bitched to me about the most was having to go home to a tract-housing development and get dirty looks from his old-fart neighbors for not mowing the grass every week like these heart-attacks-just-waiting-to-happen did. He told me his wife wanted to live in this suburban nightmare but I don’t think he did.

The conformity of cookie-cutter subdivisions amuses me because I still can’t figure out the appeal of living in something so conformist. I grew up in subdivisions as a kid but that was back in the 80’s when you could ride your bike around the place and go outside and listen to music. When I drive through these cookie-cutterville’s I don’t see kids out and about very much. It’s rare for me to see kids on bicycles or hanging out on front driveways or anything like that. I know it’s a different time and all that but I also have to wonder: are a good number of parents class-A ninnies who don’t want their little darlings to scrape a knee and get bitten by a bug? Granted, my generation, Generation X, could walk out injuries that would send anyone else to the hospital but I just don’t see a lot of kids out and about these days.

I still look for them when I’m driving and yes in some neighborhoods I see kids out and about. In 2020, I saw a lot of families out walking in the afternoons during lockdown and I thought that was great. I know it was probably just a case of cabin-fever for a lot of people but jeez, the great outdoors aren’t so bad.

Another thing I’ve thought about is how my job enables me to see so much. Most people just go to work, run errands, and maybe venture out of their little bubbles from time to time to go to an event or something. I love the fact my job has taken me over every inch of San Antonio, Bexar County (the county San Antonio is in that is pronounced by us locals as ‘Bear’ county and not its’ proper Spanish pronunciation of ‘bey har’) and the surrounding counties.

For example, yesterday was one of those days where I was all over the place. I was in three counties, drove by the state jail on the far west side of Bexar County, and got to take a passenger on the scenic route through some pretty undeveloped land north of the city. As I drove by all that undeveloped land all I could think of was that I kind of hoped they put the tract-housing crap-villes somewhere else. I like driving by farms and seeing cows, horses, goats, and two young burros like I did yesterday. I like driving on two-lane country roads through a canopy of big green trees and houses tucked back from the road. I know that kind of life in the sticks isn’t for everyone but the tract-housing ideal sold to Americans since the end of World War II can’t be the ideal either.

Old neighborhoods built before suburbia are colorful because no two houses are exactly alike. Before zoning laws and crap like that people just bought a piece of land and built what they wanted. Now I know old houses are money pits but newer ones are, too. I like old neighborhoods that are a mix of huge mansions then the cottage next door where the poorer folk lived. And I like seeing houses painted blue, purple, or pink. In the past, some uptight-asshole types used to freak out over those colors and I wondered why. I mean, those aren’t ugly colors and here in South Texas the sun will bleach them out in about five years or so.

In the end, I’m not one for settling down as I don’t think it would have worked out for me. I like being on the road too much and I like the thought of living in a house-on-wheels and seeing the world. And also not having to pay HOA dues and dealing with dirty looks from the neighbors about lawn-mowing.

Uber Tales: Do You Like It, Five Years Later Edition

Today is the fifth anniversary of my sign-on date with Uber (the date I went live on the app and could start doing rides). As of today (before I start my run this afternoon), I’ve done approximately 12,900 rides and I probably have driven around the planet a few times (lost some milage counts a while back). When I tell people how long I’ve been doing this I get asked this question, one I’ve been asked a lot in the last five years:

Do you like it?

I’ve always wanted to ask what prompted this question but I don’t want to come off as rude or presumptuous or some crap like that. So instead, I’ll do my best to answer it here.

First, the answer is yes even after five years. And there are several reasons for that.

One, the unpredictability. As a driver, you never go the same route day in and day out though there are some constants in the job like going to and from the airport or downtown in a major tourist city like my hometown here of San Antonio. But there are days when I am literally all over the city, and on a few occasions I’ve gone from one end of the county to the other and into the surrounding counties.

Two, meeting new people. I’m shy and introverted by nature so this has really helped me learn how to gauge whether or not people want to talk and what to talk about. I’ve had a lot of conversations about a lot of different things and some have made me laugh, and a few had me fighting not cry behind the wheel.

Three, being managed by an algorithm. I’ve heard people say if you do gig work you’re managed by a computer algorithm and I will always say in reply, “And your point is?” Having been managed by both humans and algorithm I’ll take the algorithm because although I had some good human managers, most of them I wouldn’t give you a dime for because of their sheer incompetence and a few I wouldn’t piss on if they were on fire because of their sadistic cruelty. The algorithm doesn’t micromanage you as long as you keep your stats up and stay out of trouble, which I find very easy to do. Also, the algorithm I work for doesn’t say jack-squat to me if I go offline to use the bathroom or for any other reason. I’ve been micromanaged more than I ever want to remember and I sure as hell don’t miss it.

Four, I get to see my city and everything in it. I’ve been in some of the wealthiest enclaves with multi-million-dollar mansions, and parts of the city with houses worth a fraction of that. And yes, I’ve been a few parts of the city that are more than a little rough around the edges but I didn’t stick around for autographs as I’m fond of saying. But I’ve never had any trouble in any area and people are really good wherever you go.

Also, this gig has kept me from sinking into a depressive hell because as my full-time job, if I don’t drive I don’t eat. So no matter how awful I have felt mentally and emotionally, once I get on the road I leave that behind and focus on the ride. And I’m forever grateful for that and also even if something has gone wrong on a run I’ve been able to leave it behind once I park the car at the end of my run.

Is gig work perfect? Heck no. I’ve had more than my share of ups and downs with it, days where I couldn’t get any action going, and crap to deal with like any other job I’ve had. But I didn’t get into this job (or any job I’ve ever had for that matter) expecting things to always be sunshine and rainbows.

Is gig work for everyone? No. With this job I always say you have to be able to roll with things as they come and be able to think on your feet, or behind the wheel. Like yesterday for example, a passenger left a phone in the car and that’s hard to get back to someone (though I was able to, thank goodness). Also, on Tuesday this past week the app glitched just as I started my afternoon run at the airport so I lost some time there till they got it fixed. But as I like to say, things work out eventually.

I think a part of me will miss this gig once I’m able to move on to something else but one big thing I’ve learned is how much I like being on the road seeing the world and being my own boss. I’m far from perfect but I know I can function best when I’m on my own having the freedom to do my job without anyone micromanaging me.

And if you’ve ever asked an Uber driver if they like their job, can you tell me why? I’m just curious as to what prompts that question because my thoughts on it are pure speculation and I’d like to know from people who’ve asked the question instead. Thanks and here’s to more days on the road.

Uber Tales – Do I Like It, Edition

In the almost five years I’ve been driving for Uber there is one question I still get asked a lot, and that still baffles me though I’m not quite sure why.

Do I like being an Uber driver?

I always say yes of course but I wonder why I get asked the question in the first place (I haven’t asked that of my questioning-passengers because I don’t want to come off as rude or ungrateful, or something like that). I think for me the big reason I’m baffled by this question is that in all the other jobs I’ve had, I never got asked this question. In fact, when I worked in call-center Hell most people asked how I could stand dealing with people yelling at me all day over the phone. I told them it wasn’t the people yelling at me on the phone that made that job a crap-fest but the management I worked under (for every good manager I had, I had at least five I wouldn’t piss on if they were on fire).

I wonder if being a gig-worker as Uber drivers are sometimes referred to is still very alien and dare I say, unique to a lot of people. Like some people see us as free-spirits, or losers they secretly admire for not being a part of the corporate rat-race so they have to wonder if we really like it or we do it because we can’t hack it elsewhere.

So in reply to the question of do I like being an Uber driver, I’ll list some of the things I really like about the job.

First thing I like: no set schedule. Uber will post about potentially busy times and also any incentives during certain times (incentives are extra money given in addition to fares and tips- and all tips go directly to drivers). So if I take an evening off the road I can do a morning run (five a.m. to about nine a.m.). My preferred time is currently three-thirty p.m. to about midnight, especially with airport runs because those are usually pretty good money fare-and-tip wise. But if you’re feeling like crap, or if you want to cut out and you’ve got the money to do it, you can and no one says anything.

Because yes, as a driver you are managed by an algorithm. And when asked how that’s going I always say, “I’ll take the algorithm over the human.” Uber’s algorithm has always been good to me as long as I maintain my numbers (customer rating/acceptance/cancellation) which is easy to do with this gig. In call-center Hell, I was micromanaged by people who had no business managing anything other than a stapler. It was so bad I used to get dirty looks from managers when I stood up to stretch or go to the bathroom. With the algorithm, I don’t get any dirty looks for either stretching or bathroom breaks.

Another thing I like is tenure and top status has its’ perks. There is a four-level tier system for drivers and I’ve been in the top tier since the system was implemented. And they don’t keep adjusting the goalposts for this tiered system to make it damn near impossible for anyone to get into the top tier and stay there. It’s like having an ongoing performance review without having to sit down and go through one of those every year and be grateful for whatever pitiful raise you get.

And yet another thing I like- no yelling or screaming people. I’ve had a few people mutter shit about me or just treat me like something they scrapped off the bottom of their shoe at the dog park. And I’ve had a few indecent proposals. But the good thing is I haven’t had to deal with anyone like that in a long time, and if I really had someone go off on me and not back off and apologize I could report them and not be matched with them again.

One of the things I really like about this job is the diversity of the people I meet every day. I’ve met people from all over the world and from all walks of life. I’ve had a ton of conversations about everything under the sun and then some. I’ve laughed my ass off behind the wheel, and I’ve fought like hell not to lose it at some things I’ve heard, too. And yes, what’s said in my Uber stays in there because I don’t have any details about the people I shuttle around and I don’t ask a lot of questions in my line of work. So in response to my top FAQ: yes, I like being an Uber driver. And I’ll keep doing it as long as it works for me, and as long as they’ll have me. Thanks for riding with me today.

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