Uber Tales – Origin Story

Created by my friend Deborah Ratliff

On March 31, 2017 I became an active Uber driver. At that time I was working a part-time gig as a contract delivery driver for Amazon and needed some more money. Then at the end of May that year that contract gig ended and I went full-time with Uber because I needed to keep earning money and no one was responding to my resumes being submitted. Then I discovered I liked being an Uber driver and managed by an algorithm with no human support available at that time.

It’s now been almost five years, over twelve-thousand rides, a lot of miles, my own vehicle followed by four rentals, and numerous app updates. I’ve also survived the business crashing in March 2020 when the covid-19 lockdown happened here in San Antonio and the usual ups and downs of the ridesharing business in general.

One question I’ve been asked a lot over the years with this job is, do I like it?

I find that question odd even after being asked it for five years because before I started doing this job, no one ever asked me that before. But then before I started doing gig/rideshare work, I worked in call-center Hell. When I told people about that job the number-one question was how I put up with people yelling at me over the phone all day. I’ve told people the worst thing about call-center work for me wasn’t the yelling over the phone, but the incompetent to downright-sadistic management in the call-centers I worked in. I told them the places I worked where were run by penny-ante, nitpicking, bullshit-loving assholes for the most part. So when people say that I’m managed by an algorithm and not a human I say in return, “And your point is?” After five years of being managed by an algorithm I’ll take the algorithm over the humans because I had only a small handful of human managers I actually liked and respected.

Now I will freely admit I have not taken my Uber job nowhere as seriously as I probably could have, or should have. I mean I’m not the most organized person in the world with it nor am I the most ‘rah-rah-rah, go team!’ person about it either. For me, it’s been something I can do with the least amount of fuss and muss and as long as I maintain my numbers I’m good to go. But I’m also good to make my own schedule and take it one ride at a time. Because there has only been a few times when I came off the road flaming-hot mad unlike call-center Hell where that was almost a daily thing.

As of right now, I don’t have any truly insane, off-the-wall bonkers story to tell but I’ve got a lot of other ones to tell. Also, I’ve got a good number of observations about human nature, the world we live in, and life before and after the covid-19 epidemic.

I’ve read a lot over the years from economists and other egg-head types about how gig work truly sucks and takes advantage of people. Some of what they say is true but as someone who also worked for wages for a lot of years, I can make a lot of comparisons and contrasts between hourly-salaried work and independent gig-work. I went into this job with my eyes wide-open and no expectation of a red-carpet roll-out experience. To me, it’s just about making money and leaving it behind at the end of the road for the day. No two days are the same with this job and I’ve always said that the only predictable thing about this job is its’ unpredictability. Sometimes you hit the financial jackpot and some days you can’t get any action going at all.

One time after I’d answered a rider’s questions about my job he said to me (this is an exact quote): “So basically, you drive around all day, meet new people, and listen to music.” I told him that was about right though in addition to that I dealt with traffic, bad drivers, weather, and on occasion delivered food (back then I was doing food delivery to offset the reduction in regular rides).

So each week here till the book is published, I’ll share stories and behind-the-scenes bits like with my other three books. Hopefully I’ll get something off-the-wall nuts before I go for publication.

Author: Michele

Writer by day, Uber driver by night. Single mom to two fur-kids (a dog and a cat).

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