I’m not a social media influencer.
But I can take credit for encouraging one stay-at-home mother to become an Uber driver after reading my recent blog post about signing up to drive. And after two weeks of hemming and hawing, I finally opened the Uber app and drove my first passenger, earning a whopping $4.
I’d probably still be on the fence had it not been for my new Uber comrade, who texted and called me after she signed up. She wanted to discuss her first two rides, and I had to confess I hadn’t opened the Uber app yet.
While I was sitting home mulling the whole thing over, she was hitting the road in her SUV, shepherding a high school student to his mom’s house in a neighboring town, and bringing a teen-ager to work at a nearby shopping center.
Listening to her talk, I found myself jealous about her spirit of adventure and willingness to try new things. And though she complained about the pay, I reminded her that she provided a service to two kids who really needed it.
I had to remind myself that this was my idea, and I needed to get with the program if I ever planned to drive with Uber. I went to Dino’s Car Wash and shelled out $29 for the MVP package, which included a wipe down of my dusty dashboard. I was just returning home in my immaculate car when my Uber app jingled.
The sound is something like a slot machine when you hit the jackpot. Hearing the sound makes you think you’ve won something, and you actually have: a chance to rake in a couple of dollars shuttling people around. It’s kind of the same feeling when you hear the CoinStar machine at the supermarket. The sound of coins in a machine is exciting and invigorating, even if it’s just someone’s jar of old pennies being counted.
Once you’re pinged, you have about a second to decide if you’ll take it. If you hesitate, you’re out of luck. But don’t worry. I was constantly reminded that I was in a “busy” area and ride requests would be flowing in at any minute.
My children tell me all the time that I’m “technology challenged” and I can’t argue with them. When the Uber app went off, I had no idea what I was looking at, but decided to accept the request from a rider named Cody. As I drove over to Cody’s house, I realized that I had no idea where he wanted to go and just hoped it wasn’t Bradley International Airport or New York City. I had no time for a long drive, so I hoped that Cody was staying local.
And he was: a recent high school graduate who hasn’t gotten his driver’s license yet, he needed a lift to his job at Shop Rite supermarket, where he works as a cashier. Cody doesn’t live on or near a bus line, and his parents encouraged him to use Uber so they don’t have to cart him around all the time. He said all of his experiences have been positive (at least up until our ride).
I told Cody that he was my first-ever Uber rider, and he seemed honored. I wished that I had flashing lights like they do on the show “Cash Cab”or a cupcake to mark the event, but alas I did not. What I did have was a captive audience in Cody. The kid is proof that today’s teen-agers can carry on a conversation if given a chance.
Cody is working at the supermarket to save money to attend school to learn how to be an auto mechanic. Though many of his high school classmates are now away at college, he said some of his friends work with him at the supermarket.
He said most of the customers he encounters are nice, but noted their moods tend to shift with the weather. Show him a stormy, grey day and customers are likely to be a foul mood, he said. But he said overall his expeience as a cashier has been positive. This was such a relief for me. I’d hate to have people being mean to Cody because he’s such a nice kid.
After I dropped off Cody at the store, I realized that I hadn’t swiped and officially launched my Uber route. I immediately texted my Uber guru Shali, noting “I just did my first ride, and I want to make sure I get the $4 I deserve coming to me.”
She told me not to worry, that it had been logged and I’d be paid. And then she reminded me that I still hadn’t entered my bank account information, which is needed if I expect to get paid.
Will I do it again? Sure, why not? I have the time, and I really like the concept of Uber, which is built on trust between driver and passenger. Besides, I’m not sure any other stay at home mothers have signed up, meaning my comrade and I now own this town.