The (slightly) Defiant Reason I Drive an Uber

Image created by Deborah Ratliff

Whenever I’m asked why I started driving an Uber I always say it’s because I needed a job and I wasn’t able to get anything else going at the time. And that is true as it was a financial need that drove me to sign up for Uber.

When I first signed up for Uber, there were no tutorials or instructions on how to use the app or any instruction on what to do if there was a problem other than solve it on your own (no live support back then). But I’m a problem solver and I’m pretty good at figuring out stuff so these weren’t problems for me. What I quickly discovered was how I liked not dealing with asshole-human managers and being able to set my own hours. Now the money does fluctuate, and sometimes it really fluctuates hard. Not long after I first started driving, Uber got kicked out of Austin (they got into it with the city of Austin over the issue of background checks though after a couple of months the state legislature stepped in and got the city of Austin and Uber to kiss and make up). But that influx of drivers drove demand pretty low and I seriously questioned my choice of gig-company yet I stayed with it. That was my first lesson in how to ride out a downturn (which happens quite often as this business is highly-subject to supply and demand).

Where the act of defiance comes into play is this: if my father was alive he would have told me ‘no, no, and no’ in taking on this job. My late father was terribly over-protective of me and thought I should work a nice office job or hopefully make it as a writer so I could live and work in a nice little house somewhere. He would have told me it was too dangerous unless I carried a gun (which is prohibited under Uber driver rules) or if I did defy him he would tell me to only work during daylight hours or something like that.

Yes, I’ve driven in parts of town that a lot of people wouldn’t consider ‘nice’ or ‘safe’ though I’ve never, ever had any trouble. I’ve just dropped people off then went into ‘unavailable’ status and headed out, or as I like to say, I don’t stick around for autographs. Also, I don’t work past midnight unless I’ve picked up someone from the airport and nine times out of ten these people nap in the backseat on their way home because they’ve been traveling all day. I have done late-night 2am bar pickups but drunks haven’t been fun since covid so I’ve taken myself out of at the risk-factor of mean-ass behavior and the potential for puke (luckily, no one has ever puked in my car).

All my life, or at least until the last few years since my dad died, I did think I was fragile and not able to go anywhere near a potentially ‘rough’ place. But I’m going to talk about something here I’ve never really talked about before because there are potential ‘risky’ places and situations everywhere.

I worked in call-centers for the better part of seventeen years and those places could be soul-sucking pressure cookers. In one of them, rumors began to go around that security was going to start searching cars and bags at the entrance and desks for weapons. We began to talk about what to do if someone walked in the place and started shooting, always making a note of exits and where to hide. Another place I worked we used to talk about how security was a useless joke and how easy it would be for someone to walk in and start shooting and how the escape routes and hiding places sucked. So, there were times when I feared for my safety in these places.

The closest I ever came to getting really nervous about my safety in my Uber was in the summer of 2020 one weekend when these right-wing gun-toting bozos paraded around Alamo Plaza with guns and got a fucking police escort instead of being hauled off. I was boxed in by traffic and I just prayed these assholes wouldn’t lock and load and start shooting. I saw a phalanx of riot police that day and yes, I was scared fucking shitless something terrible was going to happen. The left-wing counter protestors were unarmed and peaceful and I’m glad I got to pick them up instead of the right-wing nuts.

But other than that day, I’ve never truly feared for my safety. And I can deflect and defuse people who start to act like assholes muttering shit to me or hitting on me though I can count the number of assholes who have done that and still have fingers and toes left over. The incredibly-vast majority of my passengers are awesome, and I think they make the Uber gig truly worthwhile. But even after close to six years on the road, sometimes I still feel like I’m defying my late father’s over-protectiveness and other people who have tried to follow his lead.

When I’m on the road, I lock in and drive and though my mind can wander sometimes, I’ve got the thousands of hours and miles of driving experience where I can successfully do that. And I do maintain what I call ‘situational awareness’ on the road and where I’m at all times, but then I do that no matter where I’m at.

So, my take on this: be defiant in doing what you want to do but be smart about it and don’t take risks you don’t have to while you keep your shit together at all times.

Author: Michele

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

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