There’s normally a brief period of time between when you order your Uber and when it actually arrives. It sneaks up on you. Your half-finished beer sits on your coffee table and becomes an insurmountable obstacle that you don’t want to entertain throwing away, but you also don’t want to put to waste. After all, if money wasn’t an option, you wouldn’t be mentally tallying how much each beer equates to in a six-pack while waiting for your UberPOOL to arrive.
Upon the car’s actual arrival, there’s another brief period that plagues both the rider and the driver. Human interaction is up to the driver considering most people would just as soon tune the world out and sit on their phones until the notification pops up that they’re arriving at their final destination. But once the driver takes the dreaded step of calling to let the patron know that they have in fact arrived, well, that bridge has officially been crossed.
“I’ll be right out,” the rider claims despite having two sips of beer left and a missing wallet.
“No problem,” he tells him as he hears a click noise signaling the end of the call.
The car sits one address off in front of the wrong apartment – a common occurrence considering the app’s GPS location isn’t as accurate as one would hope in a city so dependent on exact locations. Once the driver squints his eyes and looks towards the gentleman exiting, he hesitantly pulls forward hoping that he won’t have to do another loop around the block should this not be his customer.
“Drew?” he yells through his cracked window.
“Yeah, sorry about that,” Drew responds. “Couldn’t see you out here.”
Drew’s lie falls flat on his ears as he knows Drew hadn’t so much as put on his jacket when he originally called let alone attempted to be on the street for a prompt and swift pickup.
“Doesn’t look like you’ve put in a location,” he adds.
“Oh, sorry,” Drew apologizes. “I’ll put it in now.”
His finger hovers over his phone that’s mounted to the air-conditioning vent. “Thanks,” he tells him. “I think I know where this is.”
Through his past eight months of driving, he’s learned that the first few minutes of any ride dictate exactly what the rest of the ride will be like. A simple “how’s your night going?” will snowball into a free-flowing conversation whereas one’s head cocked down scrolling Instagram will ruin any chances of a connection being made.
“You look dressed up – headed somewhere nice?”
Without looking up from his phone, he simply responds, “Yeah, a gala for work.”
With the nose of the car jutting out into the street at a red light in an attempt to turn right, his brain registers a sarcastic “Alright, then,” before accelerating onto a one-way. “Looks like we’re stopping to pick up someone else on 34th before I can drop you off.”
“Cool,” he muttered from the back seat, still not picking his head up from his phone.
The benefits of driving an UberPOOL versus an UberX are few and far between in the eyes of a driver. The pay diminishes and the risk of running into issues escalates. Much like the flow traffic itself, any slight hiccup or delay will only cause further issues that end up ruining the experience for everyone involved. One person’s “I’ll be right down!” is another person’s “I’m going to be late” text. Once that text is sent, reservations are pushed backed and restaurant bars become more crowded with patrons wondering why the fuck they bother making reservations in the first place. As the bar becomes increasingly busy, walk-ins become more discouraged and seek rides to other establishments – rides they can’t get because they’re filled with those same people who weren’t ready for their ride in the first place. Each driver acts as a gateway to the night despite their dependence on someone who will “be right down.”
“Hope I don’t get in trouble for double-parking while she makes her way down.”
Again, silence from the backseat with nothing more than a smirk.
Two girls emerge from a revolving door covered in black coats with water bottles in tow. Their heels act as ice picks in the snow caked on the curb while they approach the car.
“Sarah?” he asks through his cracked window.
“Yep!” she calls back opening the door for her friend. Noticing that there’s already another passenger in the car, Sarah’s friend scoots to the back seat while she sits down next to a nameless man who she’ll never know as “Drew.”
“I put in a location but I’m not sure if it worked,” she clarified.
“Uhhhhh,” he hesitated, again hovering his hand above his phone with his glasses slouched on his nose. “Nope, looks like it worked.”
An uncomfortable silence falls over a rideshare when not only two parties are unfamiliar with one another, but three. Without music playing, any movement or rustle of a coat against a seat becomes amplified. Phones simultaneously light up, presumably with texts to and from one another discussing the smell of the car or the time of the ride. “What’s taking so long?” the driver imagines one of the girls sending while he pulls up to the first destination.
Drew interrupts the silence with, “Here’s fine,” as he hops out of the car. “Thanks for the ride, have a great night!”
While manners go out the window in the beginning of a ride, they’re resurrected at the end when the idea of “stars” floats around a passenger’s head. Often times, rides consist of a rider saying only two sentences – “I’m doing well, how about you?” and the trademark, “Thanks for the ride, have a great night!” Something this “Drew” was all too familiar with.
As he illegally crossed the street diagonally through the intersection, the driver’s eyes looked into the rearview mirror where he noticed the two girls sitting in two different seats – one in the back and one in the way back.
“You know, you don’t have to sit all the way back there,” he remarked, startling her despite his calm tone.
It was as though she barely noticed that the original passenger had even exited the vehicle. Disheveled, she awkwardly responded, “Oh! No, thanks! I’m good!”
His eyes peered over into his side mirror noticing that no other cars were coming. Easing back into the one-way, he again thought to himself, “Alright, then.” .