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.

The Written Road – An Origin Story

I started toying with the idea of doing a how-to writing book around the same time as “Breaking Radio Silence” and “Stand or Fall” with some personal experiences mixed in. But then I had a thought one day:

My relationship with writing is complicated.

And as I asked myself why that was, I fell down another rabbit hole like with the other two books and had to take a whirl around the demented Wonderland of my past to answer that question. One answer that jumped out at me and knocked me back hard was this:

Did my father try to use writing to deal with his untreated mental illness?

All my life my father told me he had been diagnosed as manic-depressive, now referred to as bi-polar depression but had refused treatment. I can’t independently verify that diagnosis (as my father is dead and he had no proof to show me when he was alive). But after reading about bi-polar depression… let’s just say he would have checked pretty much all of the boxes for symptoms and behavior.

I was about eight years old when my dad blew an ulcer and in recuperation started writing. He wrote at first on yellow legal pads then hammered away on a typewriter in the bedroom next to mine late into the night. He was obsessive and a major pain the ass about his writing at times especially to my mother (who he raged at in incredibly-horrible ways). And when I began writing when I was about ten years old, I put myself in a precarious position of not wanting to be an asshole about my writing like he was but wanting to pursue it with the same passion like he had.

I’m sure people who knew my father, and even others who didn’t, won’t be comfortable with me referring to him in the ways that I will. But my father, and my mother (both of my parents are dead, by the way), would be the first ones to tell you they weren’t perfect. One thing I’ve read about bi-polar illness is the extreme mood swings people with that illness have and my father had those in full-blown stereo. But my writing journey is about me but he will be along for the ride just like my mother is along for the ride with my ‘Breaking Radio Silence’ project.

I was around twelve years old when I decided I wanted to be a full-time working writer. In junior-high I wanted to be a songwriter/lyricist but I couldn’t find an Elton John to my wannabe Bernie Taupin. Then I wanted to be a journalist, then a screenwriter, a filmmaker-director, then a novelist. When I graduated high school I just wanted to write and my dad went to bat for me with my mom (though my mom only agreed to let me live at home and write if I did chores and errands, which I did without a second’s hesitation). Then my dad had his first heart attack when I was nineteen and my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer when I was twenty-one. But all throughout my twenties when I was living at home and taking care of them (and later working part-time then full-time), they supported my writing. They paid my writers’ group dues, conference fees, and made sure I had time to write. This wasn’t a popular decision of theirs with other people in my life at that time but my parents asked me not to say anything and I stayed silent to keep the peace. But the damage was done (and a lot of it you can also read about in my book ‘Breaking Radio Silence’).

In the years since my parents died, I didn’t fully pursue my writing and creative endeavors due to the extreme bullshit of my twenties that twisted me into a huge knot of fear. Luckily I’ve worked through that shit and un-knotted that fear and am now pursuing my writing with a passion and determination like never before.

Most of all, I have never taken writing for granted and it’s never felt like a grind to me. And I will never let anyone try to make it a grind for me, or shit all over me for writing. Despite all the bullshit I’ve been through and the time away from it, writing has always been there for me. And yes, it’s been a form of therapy for me, too. My father kept journals that he destroyed shortly before he died so I have a feeling that writing was his therapy, too. Mine is just more public than his, and I’m also not prone to huge mood swings and raging paranoia like him (just anxiety I’ve learned to gain a significant measure of control over).

So I would say ‘The Written Road’ is a memoire of my own writing journey, a conversation with my late father, and any writing how-to I can work in.

Breaking Radio Silence – An Origin Story

In the Fall of 2016, I set out on what I thought would be a straightforward journey: to use writing to try and figure out why I thought and felt the way I did. At that time, I knew there were things I needed to deal with and I thought writing them out would help me see exactly what they were and what I could do about them. I titled this project, “Untitled Self-Help/Memoire Hybrid” as I felt this project would be a combination of self-help and memoire used to illustrate the things I was working through. But in the Spring of 2018, that began to change when the title, “Breaking Radio Silence” came to me.

In the Summer of 2018, I felt like I was going through a Category Five hurricane of emotional storms every single day. I was physically exhausted by this and just barely holding on. In time I realized I was breaking the silence I had imprisoned so many thoughts, feelings, and memories not just to try and get away from the pain, but to keep them from coming out of me and being used against me as a weapon. I felt like I was having a conversation with myself like I never had before, felt like I was allowed to.

In the last months of 2018, I reached what I call the ‘storage unit’ of my mind. This is where I put my most-painful thoughts, feelings, and memories. In those last months of 2018, I went through that storage unit and opened some very painful boxes and sorted the contents out. Most of all, I put those contents into words in my mind and by doing that, I lifted weights of shame and guilt I never should have carried around in the first place.

But I still had a very long way to go to get to the point I’m at now. From 2019 till now, 2022, I had to keep asking questions to figure out why I couldn’t write this book. The big question that got answered over the last six months was this: why have I never followed through on anything I ever wanted to do? The answer to this one was one of the most painful realizations about myself because it was full of regrets and anger, a very volatile mix I had to work through.

The emotional storms are nowhere near as intense as they have been in the past. There is a calm and focus inside me because I’ve come to the most important conclusion about myself and the answer I didn’t know I was looking for. And that answer is at the end of the day, I am worthy and capable of love, and being loved in return. I have also realized that I can try my best to truly connect with people in any way I can, including through writing.

I will tell you right here and now that “Breaking Radio Silence” will not be an easy read, but it will be a hopeful one. And I hope that readers will get something out of it that will help them deal with their own thoughts, feelings, and memories.

The ultimate purpose of writing this book is to help other people, people like myself who have been through things like I have and are trying to deal with the wounds and find healing, and for people who are going through things like I have and need something to hold on to.  

In the end, healing can be had. It’s a long, hard road that never really ends. But it begins with one thing: breaking radio silence. And it continues with a conversation that wasn’t had before.

In the coming weeks, I’ll be posting excerpts from the book in progress along with related pieces to the theme of breaking radio silence. I feel this is going to be an ongoing project for me even after the book is finished and published.

Breaking My Silence – A Manifesto and a Conversation

I call this blog ‘Conversations from the Road’ because I view my writing as a conversation between me and the world, and from the road because I feel life is a road we’re all on. This will be a daily blog and this week I’ll be showcasing what each day will be dedicated to for the foreseeable future (or until some book projects are finished).

Today I’m starting with a manifesto and a brief explanation behind it. This has been very hard for me to post because I’ve never really said anything like this out loud. But I know I have every right to say what I want to say, and respond in the way I want to even if someone doesn’t agree with it. The piece below is razor-sharp and is about as plain and straightforward as I can make it. But it’s all about me and no one else.

My Personal and Writing Manifesto

  • My writing and how I live my life are not an act of defiance, or an act of revenge. My writing and my life are not about getting even, settling scores, winning an argument, making a point, or any bullshit like that.
  • I will not apologize for anything I don’t have to apologize for, or just for being myself. I will not defend myself or my words and actions when I don’t have to.
  • I will not bend or break for anyone, and I will not go silent for anyone.
  • I will always have hope for a better future and I will always work towards that.
  • I will always believe in myself and my abilities, and that I am so much stronger than I will ever know.
  • I will always remember that everyone is just as full of shit as I am somethings but that doesn’t make me a bad person. No one has all the answers or knows what the future will be even if they say they do.
  • Most of all, I will always believe in love, and that I am worthy and capable of love and being loved in return.

I wrote this on January 9, 2022 by hand and told myself I could not throw it out under any circumstances and that I had to publish it. Why? Because these are my core beliefs that I live and work by, and I know I’m going to piss someone off with what I say or do so I might as well go all-in. That fear of pissing someone off and having to deal with their bullshit has held me back more than anything in my life. I’ve always backed down and gone silent even though the people who have mouthed off at me or bullied me forgot what they said ten minutes after they walked away from me. People have the right to say whatever they want to me, and I have just as much right to respond to them in whatever way I choose, even if it’s in a way they don’t like. People say they can agree to disagree but that’s not the case most of the time. They can agree to disagree if the other person shuts up and runs and hides like I always did but will not do anymore.

The story behind all this is very long and complicated and will be told over time here through blog entries and my non-fiction triumvirate of books as I call them (Breaking Radio Silence, Stand or Fall, and The Written Road). But I’m not all doom-and-gloom and writing-therapy here. I’m also about having fun, finding joy and peace in this world, and sharing knowledge. So let me give you the low-down on the tag line under my headline banner: Writer, Creator, Explorer.

Writer

I have wanted to be a full-time working writer since I was twelve years old. I’ll be forty-eight this May so you can see how long that’s been in the making. A lot has happened and the world has changed a lot, too. But the dream has always been there and has refused to die. And my goal in life is to live simply out of an old shuttle-bus I want to convert into a house-on-wheels so I can live and work on the road and see as much of the world as I can. To get that started will be this blog, my three non-fiction books, my Uber book (Uber Tales), my fiction-writing (novels and short stories), and extra writing features like Deep Dive Friday. This week I’ll go into more detail on each one.

Creator

Since I need to earn money I need to create stuff to sell or monetize. I will be putting out fun merchandise to help me develop graphic design, branding, and marketing skills. I’m also going to be putting out YouTube videos and working on developing a podcast.

Explorer

I’ll be starting out locally here in San Antonio, Texas (my hometown) but I will venture out into the world using writing and photography to show everyone here how lovely our planet was before it’s nuked or poisoned to death (hopefully I’m wrong on that but I’m a Generation X pessimist sometimes).

Now, a bit about me.

I’m single, never married or had kids. I’ll be forty-eight in May of this year (2022). I have a dog and a cat. My dog is Darcy, a ten-year old rescue mix who I think look like the result of a blind date between a border collie and a golden retriever. She loves people, cats, but hates other dogs (long story there). My cat is Ronan, an eleven-year old black-and-white chonky boy who isn’t the sharpest claw in the paw sometimes but very sweet.

I’m a flaming-liberal progressive Democrat and have been all my life and always will be.

My tastes in entertainment and culture are all over the place though I do have a very special love for 80’s music and the bygone era that was MTV and cable television. I love all kinds of music in addition to rock ‘n’ roll: jazz, soul, r&b, rap/hip hop, country, blues.

My favorite foods are tacos (I’m from San Antonio so tacos are life down here) though I will try anything new. I drink my two cups of coffee a day and the world should be forever grateful for that. I am trying to eat healthier and exercise more for a woman entering middle-age that’s a good thing (it could keep me from becoming a hunchbacked old crone).

I currently work full-time as an Uber driver because I fell in love with the freedom to make my own schedule and not have a human boss to deal with. Prior to driving, I worked in call centers for seventeen years, also known as call-center Hell. I don’t miss my former life and have decided of all the bosses I’ve ever had I’m my absolute favorite.

I hope you enjoy what you see here and will come along with me on this conversation from the road of my life going forward now.

%d bloggers like this: