- May 10, 2015
A Tale in Capitalism.
It was two weeks ago. I was involved in a pretty bad accident with the business end of a HVAC truck. While stopped at a light I see quite possibly the worst advertisement for Comfort Cooling... why was the advertisement so terrible? Well the company’s logo was about to come through the back windshield of my pristine BMW 335i... along with the rest of the truck. Not able to move forward, I simply braced myself for impact.
The accident happened and I was okay with a minor concussion, but my car was another story.
“Hi my name is James, I’m from Progressive’s Total Loss department.”
So while waiting for my new car, for a few weeks I got to experience the finest the private transportation had to offer first hand. Taxis. Uber’s. And within this experience is one of the greatest entrepreneurial lessons one can ever get. One that I will share now.
I flick on the news. They’re covering a story about Taxi drivers in France who feel that Uber drivers are taking their jobs. The protest is violent. There are fires, they’re flipping cars upside down, destroying property. It’s bad. A driver gets on camera yelling that the government needs to step in. Uber is taking jobs from hard working taxi drivers and the government is doing NOTHING about it. I’ve always hated the argument “we should stop ___ industry because it’s taking jobs.” I roll my eyes and think “yes maybe they should also outlaw the gasoline internal combustion since it took jobs away from coal workers” sarcastically and go to bed.
I’ve taken Uber’s a handful of times. I usually drive, but I’ve been happy the times I’ve had to use Ubers.
Well, I better be happy with it because it looks like I’m going to have to get used to it for the next few weeks. But still, without a car I feel like my wings have been clipped. If that’s not bad enough, I was staying with family until I got my new car because where I live it’s way too hard to get around. At least I can get a cab from my parent’s house. My house? Good luck.
Anyway, fast forward. I had to go to an appointment early in the morning so I go in Google and type in “taxi service near me.” 5 or so pop up. I can’t really tell which one is good and which one is bad, so I just pick one and call.
God how I hate talking in the phone
A man finally picks up.
“How much to [town name here]”
He says in a heavy Hispanic accent “which Exí”
Ugh... “Exit 8”
“Near the Targé”
“No, not near the TARGET, the other way... passed the Sunoco”
“Ohhhh Sun-Nico... ehhhh Forty dolla”
I say “ugh.. whatever. Just send the guy. How long”
He quickly say “10 minutes” without thinking, in a way that I know he says to every customer, regardless of actual travel time.
Emotional state: F*ck my life.
I called a little early to be safe but the entire time I’m a wreck. I think back to Uber’s nice little map that shows you exactly what GPS location the driver is at and the security it provides. Oh how I would love that right now.
I’m watching meticulously out the driveway of my family’s house. 13 minutes. Since I know he’s gonna be late, I went to go to the bathroom and the SECOND I close the door, my heart stops, THE HOUSE PHONE IS RINGING. It’s FOUR IN THE MORNING. Everyone else is asleep. I JUMP and pull cord out of the phone. I was only in the F*cking bathroom for half a minute! Yet another lesson in “Hindsight is 20/20 101”... I should have used my F*cking cell, but who the hell calls at 4 in the morning. Pissed off I go outside.
Not gonna pick a fight with the driver over the phone call. He’s just doing his job. Whatever.
As I open the door of his old minivan and get into the car it smells like incense. The leather in the car has that old oily look like it hasn’t been cleaned in a while. I’ve been around leather my whole life. Leather is never supposed to look shiney. If it’s shiney, it’s almost definitely not clean. It’s supposed to look somewhere between satin and matte naturally.
This leather didn’t look like that.
I’m sitting in the back of his old minivan and the speakers are blasting a song in Hindu singing their praises to the holy Krishna over and over again to the tune of a loud Indian Sitar. The song repetititively drones on and the words “Holy Krishnaaaa (Holy Krishnaaaa)” echos the speakers as if it were trying to charm a snake. I put my head in my hands at what my life had become.
“Everything was all good just a week ago.” - Jay-z
But after I settle in and get used to the Holy Krishna music, it’s not so bad. Read a couple articles on my iPhone and check to see what money I have. I pull out my money clip and realize I don’t have anything smaller than a 100. I ask the driver “hey man, you have change of 100?” He says “CHANNEL 100?! And looks angry that I want to change his radio station.” I say “NO, CHANGE OF A HUNDRED” and hold up the money. He says “Oh no change!” I’m like “ugh.” I tell him “Stop at a Gas station” and he does. I didn’t really want a pack of Juicy Fruit today, but I guess I have no choice. I get back in his prayer den and we leave.
We got there. I gave him a tip, as is customary. I went to my appointment and everything went well.
And now I’m at least in an area where I can get Ubers. So when it’s time to get home, I open the app and type in my destination. It says “connecting with drivers” and quickly finds the nearest one. Sweet. Fernando will arrive in 6 minutes in a black Toyota Highlander. I think back to my helish 13 minutes wondering where the driver was. I see the little icon coming close and I walk outside. What a nice feature. And Turns out that Fernando is a perfect gentleman. I suspect that a decent amount of his politeness comes from the fact that the app makes you rate drivers based on their performance, but I’m okay with that. I don’t expect Fernando to be my best friend, just polite.
His car is clean. And we chat a bit. Pretty cool guy. He came to America because he heard you can make a lot of money as an Uber driver. I always love talking to people from other countries. He gets me home pretty fast and I say “thanks Fernando, I’ll leave you a positive review.” He appreciatively says “thanks! I’ll do the same.”... “alright, take care buddy.”
As I’m walking up The app says “do you have any complaints” and lists possible complaints.
I look at them
“Rude driver” .. nope.
“Unprofessional” nope, definitely not
“Bad or loud music?” ‘nope... not in the Uber at least,’ I laugh.
“Car dirty... car smells” I laugh again and rated the driver 5 stars. Cheers Fernando.
A little later I went to relax and put the news on. I see the same Taxi drivers are still protesting. Another car flipped over. Another fire. Another taxi driver that simply doesn’t get it.
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