Hundreds of people have been in my car. I’ve driven drunk college kids back to their dorms, picked up CEOs from the airport and taken exotic dancers to work. I’m your friendly neighborhood Uber driver, and I’ve met all kinds of different people with different lifestyles and interests, which is what makes the job so unique.
There is not a single person that is the same as any other, and that means that oftentimes, I have to alter both my driving style and my social skills depending on the passenger.
Alice, the quiet morning person, might just want to listen to some soft folk music during her early work commute. On the other hand, Chad, the cross-faded frat guy, wants to philosophize about social order and extraterrestrial life on the way to the next house party while the heavy bass of Post Malone rattles the plastic interior of my Honda Civic.
And then there’s you. Who are you, anyway? What kind of music do you listen to? Why do you have a picture of Bart Simpson as your profile picture, are you the real Bart Simpson?
You see, I’m not just mindlessly driving around the city (although sometimes I am). I am actually at least a little curious about the person that’s in my car.
Here are just a few of the thoughts that typically run through my head while I’m giving rides:
1. “What do you do for work?”
Like I said, I’ve met a lot of different people who, of course, have many different jobs and interests.
Just this past week, I picked up a woman from her Airbnb on the east side of Portland and brought her to her rental car so she could drive out to the Oregon coast. It turns out she’s actually a teacher, and she was spending some of her summer vacation traveling from Florida to Oregon just because she had the time to do so.
I will always remember her because as a tip, she gave me a jelly-filled donut from Portland’s famous Voodoo Donut.
Last Friday night, I drove an exotic dancer from her apartment to the club where she worked about a half hour away so that she could open the place for the night. She was super nice, and I even got to act like a bouncer for a second because a couple of underaged kids were trying to weasel their way in as she was opening up.
It sort of made me feel like a badass for a minute.
2. “Do you like the music I’m playing?”
Believe it or not, one of the biggest things I’m nervous about is whether or not my passengers like the music I play. Most people don’t outwardly seem to mind when I play some alt rock or folk playlists on Spotify, but one time I did get roasted for playing variety radio.
Tough crowd, Portland, take it easy. My aux cord was broken.
I honestly love it when a passenger asks to DJ. I think it’s fun and it takes the responsibility of guessing the right music away from me. I’m sure a lot of passengers want to take control of the aux cord but are too afraid to ask. I say go for it. You’re basically paying me to listen to music in my own car, so I’m down to hear something new.
One person complimented me for playing Ben Howard on Spotify, and she even tipped me five bucks afterward, which made me feel awesome. Getting praise and cash just for listening to music I like? Hell yes. So, if you like the music your Uber driver chooses, make sure to show your appreciation. You don’t have to tip every time the music is good, but it sure doesn’t hurt every once and a while.
3. “Wow, how many have you had to drink?”
It’s no secret that Uber pretty much turns into a designated driver app on the weekends. In fact, I always just assume that anyone I pick up after five on a Friday afternoon will have a few drinks in them. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate that people use Uber instead of getting behind the wheel themselves, but you have to understand that a completely wasted passenger can be a little nerve-wracking for drivers.
Most of the time, driving on party nights is actually kind of fun. The majority of the drunk crowd just wants to safely get from the bar to where they need to go while bumping music and talking much more loudly than they need to.
There have been a few exceptions, however. The number one thing I don’t want to be thinking while driving is “Please don’t puke in my car, please don’t puke in my car.” Luckily, I haven’t had the privilege of cleaning up someone else’s boozy vomit from my back seat, but I know a couple of drivers who have, and it sucks.
I recently had a passenger who passed out in the back seat of my car half way into the trip. I should have thought something was up when he got weirdly quiet, but I was just enjoying the music. I looked in the rear view mirror, saw him bent over and thought he was throwing up, but it turns out he was just snoring.
When I pulled up to his destination, he was still conked out, so I yelled his name, but he didn’t wake up. I kept yelling his name louder and louder each time, but he was out cold. I was getting pretty freaked out while shaking him awake, and as I was pulling out my phone to dial 911, he finally stirred and slowly regained consciousness.
I guess the actual number one thing I don’t want to think while driving for Uber is “I hope this guy’s not dead.”