I remember my first ride like it was yesterday. It was a 2-minute pick-up from my house, and as I left the house in a dizzying rush of excitement and nervousness I haphazardly called out to my mom, “See you later!” The very prospect of sitting around and driving people for decent money was alluring to say the least. I would be my own boss and pick up my own hours. I wouldn’t be another cog in the system. I could stick it to the man. Little did I know, the man was about to stick it to me.
Don’t get me wrong; it started out fine enough. It was late July, and I enjoyed driving in my air-conditioned Corolla. The first few rides were nerve-racking and scary, but soon enough, I had let my guard down enough to allow any stranger into my car. All I had to rely on was a face and a name. My next passenger could have very well been a serial killer or rapist, but they paid for me to drive them from point A to point B, so I didn’t really let that slightly troubling potential prospect bother me. I’m in college. I don’t have an extravagant amount of money. I need to be able to eat Chick-fil-A on a somewhat regular basis. If I can get paid to drive and I can get the occasional tip? Perfect. Where my passengers are going to or what their purposes are for going there should be irrelevant to me. Three-hundred rides in and this mindset worked well enough for me.
My last ride, however; was one I will never forget and one that will be charred into the depths of my imagination forever. It all started on New Year’s Eve. It was in downtown Raleigh. The pedestrian foot traffic was through the roof. Sensing a prime money-making opportunity, I excitedly entered my mobile office with dreams of a big payday, and all of the potential things that money could buy me. Little did I know my dreams would turn into heartbreak and that night would be one of the scariest of my life. This is a true story and is a small glimmer of what a lot of Uber drivers have to deal with on a daily basis! So unless you’re driver smells or is rude to you, please do tip your driver!
The notification popped up on my phone screen. “Mike” was in need of pickup and I was only five minutes away. I was excited. This was going to be the first ride in a long-line of rides to come. I quickly navigated downtown Raleigh’s streets and ended up at a bar. I parked outside and indicated in the app that I arrived. Soon, I see a man come stumbling out of the bar and towards my car. I internally start to panic inside. He comes up and opens the passenger side door. He states his name in the unmistakable manner of intoxication. I smell the alcohol coming from his breath. I confirm his destination. It’s in Durham. Shi*, I think to myself. I have twenty minutes at least with this guy merely a couple of inches away from me. It starts out fine enough. I make my way towards the interstate with this man in a drunken stupor. He is somewhat asleep, somewhat babbling incoherently. I’m speeding to try to get there. The sooner I can get him out of my car, the better. Then, chaos erupts.
He starts to unbuckle his seatbelt. “What the fu** are you doing?” I exclaim. I don’t normally curse, especially at passengers, but my insides were panicking. I was in full fight or flight mode. “Unbuckle your seatbelt; we are going to get craaazy!” He retorts. “No the hell we’re not!” I desperately replied. I’ve watched Dateline NBC. I know how this could end. Thankfully, he puts his seatbelt back on, and I try to use the pseudo-psychology skills that I’ve learned from Dr. Phil to the test. I start to ask him questions and try to keep him talking and focused on himself. Keep in mind this is happening on the interstate, so I have no margin for error. I am going 60+mph. If I screw up or lose control of the car, we both die. I didn’t want to be on the local news forever to be known as the Uber driver who crashed into a guardrail. Calm and steady, I think to myself. We are almost there. I arrive at the drop-off location, and he doesn’t know where the house is. He tells me to stop the car so he can search for his phone. He’s having trouble finding it. He gets out of the car and starts to go towards the back of the vehicle. I put the pedal to the metal and book it out of there. The door is still fully ajar. It closes itself thanks to me putting my full foot on the accelerator. But wait, there’s more. I look over at his seat, and it’s damp. It has the faint but unmistakable scent of human urine. I call Uber and inform them of the pissy events that just transpired. I was awarded a $150 cleaning fee. Thank you, Uber support, for that very generous gift.
I nearly lost my life that night and had my seat urinated in, but hey, I was $150 richer.
$150 can buy a lot of chicken nuggets.