Words: Virginia Blackney
Freedom from Fear 2016: Part 1
I love UBER. I’m sorry Taxi drivers, I know you work hard and are the innocent casualties within this changing market however I would rather spend as little of my hard earned cash on ‘getting to and from’ places as possible. And let’s face it, a Mentos or three later, and bottle of water (friendly chat included) you arrive safely and cheaply at your destination. What more could you want?
Oh yeah, no ‘surges’ on Public Holidays – that’s where the price goes up, admittedly annoying as a rider. I read an article where someone was outraged as they had paid in excess of $700. What they failed to add was that they had accepted the amount?! Drunkies or not drunkies, read the amount. I usually just wait 10 minutes and it goes down, but to be honest, taxis are still more expensive. Plan, a bit.
Maybe a woman driver? There have been times I’ve needed to get home to the warmth of my cushy bed after a gig or whatever in Perth City – alone. Personally, I’ve never been worried about travelling alone with UBER as I know the drivers are tracked through the app and background checked prior to commencement. Naïve? I don’t think so, in saying that though I have had a couple of dodgy experiences using taxis in Melbourne (and they are checked too) and therefore I do understand some women’s concerns for safety when travelling solo. This had me a thinkin’…
What would it be like to be an UBER driver? What if I was an UBER driver? Why do it...er…why not?
So…I became an UBER driver or using the correct terminology an ‘UBER Partner’. Yes, I’m an UBER partner in all its crisp, Mentos gloriousness “evolving the way the world moves.”
The process of becoming an UBER driver was a slow and long procedure and I can say with confidence that all necessary personal and vehicle checks are conducted. But let’s get to the next part, what is it like? And what happened on those first trips?
I received an email from the UBER headquarters (making me feel a little like Batman) letting me know I’m ‘active’ meaning I can start. Okay, I thought I might just head out on a leisurely afternoon and have a practice when it’s quiet. I don’t even know, when is it quiet? I suddenly feel anxious.
Trip 1: UBER Cherry
I press ‘Go online’. Within 30 seconds I’m alerted to someone wanting a trip to the city. I think ‘great’, press accept and start driving towards their point of ‘pick up’. I’m driving quietly and confidently, oh my god, the app and maps drop out, suddenly – panic. So I pull over (safely – of course). My old Samsung isn’t liking this, I restart my phone. Luckily, it reloads and away I go – I pull up and a young couple jump in the back. Oh no! I’ve forgotten how to start the trip. The couple laugh as I explain they are literally the first people I’ve picked up and are patient as I fumble through. So we travel from South Fremantle into Perth City. Whilst I’m gripping the wheel nervous as hell they giggle that they’ve popped my UBER cherry. I wish them a good time at 399 Bar and as soon as they are out of the car I press ‘Go offline’. I need a moment.
Trip 2: Oooooooh shit
After a little internal pep talk, you guessed it, I press ‘Go online’. Again within 30 seconds I’m alerted to someone wanting a trip. I accept and oh hang on, where is he? Oh… did I?… oh no. I was closer than I realised and drove straight past him, and wait for it, oooooooooh shit, the maps drop out again in an unfamiliar part of Perth. I pull over and my little Samsung is REALLY not liking this. Reloads for five minutes and he’s gone. Sorry “Bob” or was it “Bill”? I only had a fleeting glimpse. Time to ‘Go offline’.
I decide to head back to familiar territory, and have a coffee break – a coffee break lasting a couple of hours.
Trip 3: ‘Bomboniere’ (Traditional way to thank guests for best wishes: the almonds remind us that life is both bitter and sweet)
Finally, I feel ready to have another go. Simple enough, a trip from Moore and Moore Gallery into the City. The merry group clamour into my little car somehow managing with sky-high heels.
“Wow a woman!” the gentleman smiles in the front.
“Awesome!” says one of the women
“Do you have any weed?” says another woman
“She doesn’t look like she smokes weed”
“Or do you know where we can get some on the way?”
The group have just left a wedding and pile alcohol and gifts they’ve received into my car.
I explain I don’t have any weed, waiting for my apps as the passengers get organised and the maps drop out AGAIN and unfortunately doesn’t kick back in. To their credit they waited five minutes but eventually it’s me who suggests they try another UBER.
“But we want you! We’ll slip you $100.” I explain I can’t accept cash, swearing and disgruntled they tumble out smashing the beautiful gifts they received onto the road and leaving their ‘bomboniere’ behind. It’s at this point of the night I’m kind of over my internet provider and realising this would all be fine if I had a reliable phone.
Trip 4: No Officer, I have not been drinking
I ‘accept’ to pick up some guys in South Fremantle. Two seconds later, going down South Terrace, I look in my rear vision mirror only to see flashing red and blue lights, I pull over slowly. Hmmm, what do the Police want? I’m doing the speed limit. They keep me waiting at least five minutes, to the point that I open my door to go to them because they are taking so long. At which point the Officer approaches and is quite rude, have I done something I don’t know about? He asks if I’ve been drinking, I say no. At which point I’m breathalysed, he goes back to the Police Car leaving me for a good ten minutes. Finally he comes back and explains he has good and bad news. Perplexed because I’m a renowned nanna driver and never get infringements I ask for the bad news first. He decides to start with the good news “You were telling the truth, you have not been drinking. The bad news is there is an outstanding fine on your car.” I’m a little annoyed as I know there are no outstanding fines, but he is towering over the window so I remain silent, he continued “But you’re lucky as we will not follow this up now, be on your way.”
Completely confused and flustered I drive off, realising those ‘guys’ are still waiting in South Fremantle. A bit shaken and apologetic I pick them up, a young Doctor and Engineer, I drive them home and we chat about my ‘brush with the law’ amongst a whole range of things – it was a long trip.
Finally, as I pull over with the orange of the indicator clicking in the background, I couldn’t help but wonder if Travis Kalanick the CEO of UBER had ever owned a dodgy phone, as he “believes that every problem has a solution." It was with this in mind I decided my temporary problems could be solved with my own trip to the shopping centre to update to an iPhone. And therefore I could continue my UBER adventures on Australia Day and share exactly how it feels to be a woman driver.
“See you on the road!”
...to be continued
Note: No fines or infringements were incurred before, during or after the making of ‘The Diary of a Female UBER Driver’