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Going my way?

Adventures of a ride-share driver

By Dee Rivers

Fort Wayne Reader


Remember when you were growing up and your parents told you to not get into cars with strangers? Well, itís 2016 and people all over the world are doing just that. Thanks to this strange economy and available technology, ride-sharing is allowing people to become cab drivers, with very minimal requirements.

Youíve heard of them: Uber, Lyft, Sidecar. Then, since Austin, Texas, voted Uber and Lyft out, Arcade City, a company in New Hampshire, is helping the city with a black-market version of ride sharing. A recent article in The Federalist detailed how city regulations caused the black market to thrive, and now the only legit ride-sharing company in Austin is something called Get Me, which held a job fair for out of work Uber/Lyft driversóand also encouraged them to get finger printed.

Ride-sharing doesnít seem much different from being a taxi driver, except your ride-sharing driver isnít regulated, the car can vary from a sub-compact to a luxury SUV, he or she doesnít necessarily need a commercial driverís license, and his or her fingerprints may or may not be on file.

Background checks are performed, but what happened in the past doesnít guarantee what may or may not happen in the future. That was shown when Kalamazoo-based Uber driver Jason Dalton claimed Uber and his iPhone (figures) told him where to go and who to shoot. I think this is a case of mental illness, and no, the ride-sharing apps donít make you go through a sanity test.

I decided to give it a go anyway. I enjoy driving and recently, I bought an almost affordable $800 car (Iím paying for it in installments, naturally) cleaned it up a bit, downloaded the app and had my first rider within a few minutes of logging in. It was a short trip, and the rider told me he used this particular ride-sharing app frequently.

Speaking of mental illness, one of my rides was a young kid who had never used a ride-sharing app before, and was terrified. He had contemplated getting pepper spray before I came and got him, and was thrilled to find out I ďwas cool.Ē He made the observation about how growing up, weíre always being told not to get into cars with strangers. ďBut thatís what we do now,Ē he said. The wisdom of youth.

I havenít driven very much, but so far, I have to say itís a lot of fun. My riders have been chatty and funny. Well, except for that one guy who was pre-gaming before going down town. He rode up front (I learned quickly how to keep THAT from happening again) and for some strange reason, he was spitting out the front passenger window. He was friendly, but borderline obnoxious, and I was glad to get rid of him. The next people I picked up were really cool. After that, I got a snack. I looked for my water bottle, and wondered if it got stolen. I finally found it in the back, on the floor. While searching for it, I realized the spit had dried on the back passenger window.

I took pictures and sent an email to the ride-sharing app. There was also another issue with the rider (we can rate you too; behave yourselvesóor else) and hopefully it got straightened out. But even though it was the end of the evening for me, I had to go wash my car. I couldnít bear to have the guyís saliva on my new (used) car. Hey, it may only be $800, but Boo (yes, I named my car) has pride and so do I. I couldnít bear to go home with a spit-on car. Based on where I picked the rider up, he has money, or comes from it. If he didnít lie, he works in the insurance industry. I knew right then and there, he has no soul. Those damn rich peopleóspitting all over everything and they still want a discount.

Iím familiar with the city, but driving other people around isnít as easy as I thought it would be. I never realized how many one-way streets exist here. And I donít entirely trust Google for navigation. It seems to get me in trouble. I look at the map and memorize the streets to get me in the vicinity, then right about when I get there, thatís when I turn to Google navigate.

So, how does it work, youíre wondering? You download the app on your phone. You have to hook up a debit/credit card. It relies on GPS, so you open up the app, tap the button to request a ride, then wait. You can see your car on the screen as it makes its way to you. You see what your driverís name is (thereís also a picture) and what kind of car youíll be riding in. Money isnít exchanged. Drivers are allowed to take tips if the riders insist.

The driverís app is slightly different. When you log in, you can check your earnings, see what you made on each day of the week, see how long youíve driven in order to make some money and review trips, among other things. When youíre ready to drive, you tap a button. When a ride becomes available, you can choose to accept it or not. As much as these ride-sharing apps make, youíd think they would have a 24/7 toll-free number to call if you have issues. Nope. You have to send emails. So far, itís been pretty smooth, but still.

Iím learning. Oddly, on the driving app, you canít see what other drivers are in the area. So, I turn on my riderís app to see what cars are where. Iím not savvy enough to figure out busy days or times. Maybe I will if I drive long enough.

But as for this being a new career, I donít think so. With the expenses figured in, some nights you may make really good money, or not. There were days where I waited an hour before my phone started to ping. Other days, I had a rider within five minutes. In bigger cities, thereís more of a chance to make money, because cars tend to be a hassle, especially in New York City. Sure, there are some drivers who make good coin ó $40K up to $100K a year, according to a November 2014 Buzzfeed article. But they may be working anywhere from 14 to 17 hours a day. Even commercial truck drivers arenít supposed to drive that much. And then thereís car payments, car rentals, insurance, bridge tolls and maintenance.

Iím having fun though. Iím meeting new people, and since they are cutting hours at my other job, if this ride-sharing thing helps me survive, well itís all good then.

Just remember, drivers can rate riders. So donít spit, and if youíre drunk, or almost, donít talk to me or vomit in my car.

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©2018 Fort Wayne Reader. All rights Reserved.