Uber has been on my radar for at least a year – probably longer. The first time I used this crowd-sourcing, ride-sharing service was last spring, on the way to the airport with a colleague. While it was convenient and easy, I still harbored suspicions about regulations, safety and whatever other excuses cropped up. Fast forward to a girl’s night out a few months ago. We were going to a nearby “Paint and Sip,” with particular interest in the sipping. Neither of us were enthusiastic about driving – and then I remembered Uber! It was a great choice – everyone got home safe and sound.
Then there was the time I was meeting John in the city and I did not want to be in two cars at the end of the night. Uber! And the time I needed a one-way trip to the airport. And my destination at the other end. Before I knew it, I was an “uberer.”
Uber was great in each instance. But why not a cab, you ask? Well, for one, Uber is generally less expensive. Bypassing the politics of how and why, I will tell you that Uber screens AND riders rate the drivers, so I think it’s a safe as anything else.
But where Uber really shined was on my trip to Lisbon. There for a conference, and thanks to a treatment side effect, have was largely unable to walk. (Doing better be – no worrying required.) Since I was staying at an Airbnb apartment rather than a hotel, I didn’t have a front desk to help me. I couldn’t get to a market or restaurant, or walk ot the meetings a few blocks away.
I ubered to urgent care, spent a number of hours there, and was eventually released. I needed to fill three prescriptions, purchase bandaging and get food. I was advised to get the things I needed at the mall “just a few blocks up the road.” (AND I DON’T SPEAK PORTUGUEGE!)
A year ago I think I would have found it daunting. Traveling for cancer conferences is emotionally challenging sometimes – I just never know what will come up. Being a woman and unable to walk and more layers of vunerability, as does being alone, and being exhausted, and hungry. But my new friend in Lisbon was like having my own guardian angel.
What’s different about Uber, when compared to traditional taxis, is the social contract. Before the driver arrives, you know his name, his “rating” by other customers, and the car he drives. Almost every Uber driver I have met is uber friendly (see what I did there?) and eager to share their city and their story. Many are ubering for extra income, paying for college, etc. While I talk to taxi drivers, too, I find I learn more about the lives of my Uber drivers, and vice versa. You’re also on the map with Uber. Each driver is connected by GPS and you can see exactly where you are, and when you share your ride, your friends can follow you too!
But back to my Uber friend Emanuel. He noticed I was going just a couple of blocks away and asked why. I explained the many, many blisters on the soles of my feet and he told me I didn’t want to go to the mall. He offered, instead, to take me to an open pharmacy and then to dinner. “You have to eat, Lori!” At the pharmacy, he came in to help translate. He insisted the pharmacist write the dosing schedule “…on the box, no, no, right here, on the box, where she can see it.”
Then dinner. The neighborhood was way through the “back door,” as Rick Steves would say. Emanuel had a friend with a restaurant 3 blocks away. I agreed, and again he walked me in, made sure the owner knew what I needed. I had the most delicious salmon I can remember – a full meal plus chocolate mousse for dessert. “All this for €12, Lori, where can you get this?” He was right. No chance I would have found this gem on my own!
When I was done with dinner, I requested an Uber home, and he was still in the area! He checked on me when his shift started the next day, too, to make sure I took my meds on time and had food!
Could that happen in a taxi? Of course, but the next night I had a similar experience. I needed to get back to an open pharmacy for more bandages. My driver checked to find the nearest open pharmacy, took me, waited, then delivered me to dinner. The following night – essentially the same thing.
In each instance drivers spoke serviceable to excellent English (not expected, of course, but a bonus). They were all warm, friendly, and eager to help. I can’t imagine getting back in a taxi when my new friend Emanuel is out there!
Intrigued about Uber? Check it out. I can send you a code for a free ride, and I’ll get one too!!
First, you download the Uber app. You’ll have to set up an account and enter a credit card number. (Unfortunately you won’t get a sense of how it works until you do…so if you’re playing along at home, go ahead and do it).
Next, you’ll get a map with a blue pin on it – that’s you. You’ll also see little black cars – those are uber drivers in your area. Enter where you want to be picked up and where you’re going. At the bottom of the screen you’ll have a selection of services. Choose the one you want (uberX is standard), then click the arrow on “set pickup location.” It’s ok – try it even if you aren’t going anywhere!
On the next screen you’ll see your credit card number, and some choices. You can get a fare estimate (you’re still not asking for a ride). This will tell you your approximate fare, plus any extenuating circumstances, like being extra busy, that will impact your fare. Now, go back to the last screen, and you can click “request uberX” which will put your request in the system. You can STILL cancel at this point, but your request will be sent to drivers in whatever order their system assigns them and you’ll soon be told when to expect your driver and the only car now on the screen is yours. You can watch it arrive, and at the bottom of the screen you will see your driver’s name, his (so far I’ve only had hims) customer rating, car make and model, and license plate number.
When you reach your destination say “obrigada” and you’re on your way. Your fare is charged to your card, no tipping expected.
Before you use the service again, you’ll be asked to rate your driver. (And he’ll be asked to rate you too!).
P.S. Lyft is a similar service, and in cooperation with Ford’s Warriors in Pink, offers free rides to and from my cancer center!