When I had to stop driving, I thought it was the worst possible thing that could happen. I hadn’t given much thought to how I would get around without my car, which turned my daughter into an instant chauffeur and delivery service. She wasn’t thrilled with her new roles.
At first, it didn’t really matter, because we were all ordered to stay at home to avoid spreading Covid. That lasted about two years in the middle of which we moved into our new house in Saint Augustine Florida. Covid slowed down, and people began to venture out. I wanted to spring free at last, except I really didn’t have anywhere to go or any way to get there, wherever there might be.
I joined an organization called the Council on Aging (COA) because they had a free bus—or practically free anyway. The bus would pick me up and take me where I needed to go and then come back for the return trip—all for a dollar a ride. It seemed too good to be true, and, actually, it was too good to be true. I live on an island—Anastasia Island—and my schedule and the buses’ schedules didn’t seem to mesh. I tried other methods of transportation—a cab company that was supposed to be fabulous but left me stranded a few times in the hot sun; my daughter and son-in-law, who were unpredictable since they both have demanding jobs; and finally, Uber.
I signed up for an art class, which was in downtown Saint Augustine, and it was the best thing I ever did. Occasionally a classmate would offer to drive me home, but more and more I depended on Uber.
I really didn’t know anything about Uber. In St. Louis, where I had lived before. When necessary, I had taken Lyft, but somehow, here I was taking Uber. First, let me say I have never had a bad Uber driver. I give them five stars every time because they really are quite amazing, as well as varied in every possible way. I always ask questions, and they are more than willing to answer. I pull out my old interviewing skills and find that they are very effective in a car with a stranger. Their stories are delightful. “What did you do before you drove for Uber?” I ask. “What do you do when you’re not doing this? Why did you decide to take this job? What do you like best about it?” And I get fascinating answers.
The cars they drive are interesting, too. They’re always clean and tidy and made by every car company in this country and abroad. If I can’t tell what it is, I always ask. I am becoming quite an expert on cars. Uber drivers generally have pretty up-to-date cars—two-door, sporty-looking coups; four-door sedans; minivans; and even a truck or two. The most beautiful cars I’ve been in were brand-new, right-off-the-assembly-line Teslas. I felt like I was riding in a cloud. I didn’t want to get out of the car.
I’ve met some drivers I would have loved to have coffee with, and more than one has turned off the meter and sat in my driveway to finish our conversation. This told me something about the caliber of people who drive for Uber. In my experience, they are terrific—friendly, talkative, and professional. They drive for many reasons—to make a little extra money, to be productive in their retirement years, and just to meet nice people
Their backgrounds are quite diverse. I have met former teachers, radio broadcasters, and long-haul truck drivers; artists, occupational therapists, aspiring writers, and mothers of young children. Some are reserved, others, gregarious. We never run out of things to talk about. Since Uber is my principal source of transportation, it’s a guaranteed way to meet new people almost daily. It has only one downside: it’s an expensive way to travel. I haven’t figured out yet if it’s as much as owning and maintaining a car, but I’m betting it’s close.
What I’ve learned from this experience is that giving up my car was not the worst possible thing that could happen. In fact, it opened up new doors, introduced me to new people, and eliminated the stress of constantly getting lost when I was driving. Having a GPS helped, of course, but now, I don’t even have to depend on that to get me where I’m going. I just click on the Uber app, wait for the car, and ride to my destination relaxed and comfortable.