I tried Uber for the first time yesterday. I had to go pick up a U-Haul truck in far east Hollywood and since Ray was out of town, I realized I had to figure out a way to get there. I hitched a ride with a friend with whom I was having coffee to Santa Monica Boulevard near La Brea, then whipped out my phone and hit the Uber app that I had downloaded earlier in the day. Less than 2 minutes later, a late-model Prius pulled up with a U displayed in its front window.
I asked the driver if I should sit in the front or back and he said it was my choice so I sat in the front. He offered me a bottle of water, which I took and we chatted as he navigated through 5:00 o’clock traffic. I learned that he was an Armenian man about my age who was driving to make a little extra money. He said his other job was construction; that he worked in the office of big construction projects. I mentioned that my husband was in the landscape design business and that his business had been hit hard by the recession. He nodded. “Oh yes, I understand too well.”
We covered many subjects over the 40-minute drive ranging from how great it was to have daughters to the current state of the United States. My driver had been in the US for thirteen years and said he loved America. Still, he was feeling that many American men were not willing to work as hard as they should and he found this distressing. “People are getting lazier and this makes the whole country go down.” He asked if I worked and when I said I did, he seemed to find this reassuring. Since he was working two jobs, he appeared to not have much respect for those who wouldn’t or couldn’t hold down even one.
He told me that he currently lived in Glendale, but he drove around Hollywood because business was better. We agreed that Uber was making taxi companies very angry. He said he thought they would all be going out of business soon, but that one big problem with Uber was that there were too many drivers so nobody was making too much money. “Still,” he said, “every little bit helps.”
I asked him if he liked his Prius. “I don’t like the body style, but I love the car,” he said. “The gas mileage is great and you can put the front seats all the way back and sleep.” His car was spotlessly clean.
We talked about where he came from in Armenia and how much he loved Los Angeles. We agreed that he had picked one of the best cities in the U.S. for weather. “Plus,” he said, “I am always meeting people from all over the world. I like that.” We agreed LA was an international city.
Just as we were nearing my destination I asked him if very many people sat in the front like I did. He smiled, “You’re the first one.”
“Well, this is my first Uber ride,” I said. “Next time I’ll know I’m supposed to sit in the back!”
He drove me right up to the U-Haul office and then jumped out and opened the door for me. Before I got out, he made sure that I knew exactly how much my credit card was going to be charged and assured me there was absolutely no tipping. “That’s the Uber way,” he said. The total was $10.64. Apparently, there is a 20% tip built into the price.
I turned just before I went inside and he was still sitting there, making sure I got inside safely. It was dark by this time. I waved and he waved back.
Somehow we had become friends by the end of the ride. We both had daughters and granddaughters, both had some tough recession stories, both loved Los Angeles, both hoped our country was back on the upswing.
I will definitely use Uber again. My first experience was a good one. A quick response, a good man, a nice car, and a reasonable price. Best of all: a human connection. Now that is definitely a winning combination.