Becoming An Uber Driver Has Been a Better Education Than Any Sociology Class

September 30, 2015

A few weeks ago, for the first time in several years, I took a new job.images

No, I didn’t quit teaching. It’s just on the side. Moonlighting, if you will.

I became an Uber driver, and it’s been a pretty fun way to spend a night or two each week and make a little extra money.

I have to say that driving has put me in greater touch with my community and exposed me to a wider variety of people than anything else I can remember doing. It’s been fascinating, fulfilling, and sometimes a little annoying as strangers pile into my car for a few minutes while I drive them around town. You meet a whole lot more people driving for Uber than pastoring a church or teaching at a school, that’s for sure.

And so, after a few weeks of cruising with strangers, here is what I think I’ve learned from my fresh exposure to the theater of humanity.

Everyone Has a Story, and Many of Them Are Good

Most people who call an Uber car are pretty good people. A couple of them were in town from Chicago for our art festival. Most are just locals with jobs and families.

I had one of my deepest conversations, about how human beings have been created to share beauty, with a high school dropout, while I drove him to the hookah shop.

One of my best riders was a woman who was getting out of her apartment for the first time in six months. No, she wasn’t a lonely shut-in. She was a new mom with a six-month-old. We spent twenty minutes talking about parenting. Before she got out of the car, I made her show me a picture of her little girl. She was happy to oblige.

Becoming a driver has given me the chance, for just a few minutes, to connect with people and share in their stories.

Other People Have a Story, but They are Rather Bad

It is fascinating to see the different kinds of people that will be calling for rides, depending on the day of the week.

If you are a fan of Parks and Recreation, you know the episode where Pawnee and Eagleton merge and April gets paired with her counterpart, Tynnyfer, right?

Well, last Friday, I had about eight Tynnyfers in a row. They were all the worst.

One Tynnyfer was a young lawyer who was out with her family. She talked loudly about how she used to be a waitress, so now she’s a “service snob” (in other words, she is impossible to please.) She ended the ride by talking her mother out of giving me a tip. Tipping is definitely not required, but if you used to be a waitress, the last thing you should do is talk people out of tipping.

There are vast numbers of people in our communities whose worlds are very small. Their worlds never really grew outside the walls of their old high schools; they just moved to the nightclubs. Their conversations resemble the same gossiping and silly dramas that you had when you were seventeen.

It is these kinds of riders that make you kind of despair for humanity. They are the people who can’t answer basic questions about U.S. history when Jimmy Kimmel confronts them on the street. They are the kind of people who never really take off their blinders and see just how big the world really is.

A Few Other People Have a Story, But It’s an Ugly One

My worst ride so far came in the form of four friends. They came to my car reeking of garlicky Italian food. They were extremely intoxicated. And they spent the next 30 minutes yelling.

At some point, between all of the obscenities, some racial epithets worked their way in too.

And I got the sense that this was their routine. At least two of them were married. But if you can get into a stranger’s car and act like that, I’m not really thinking you have a lot going on in your life as far as a higher purpose. The routine is:

Work

Drink

Yell

Sleep

And these are the people who are still affluent enough to have the necessary tools to call an Uber ride.

What is humanity, from the perspective of one stranger stepping into your car at a time?

It is beautiful. It is ugly. It is pleasant. It is selfish. It is loving. It is messy.

It’s too bad that so much of our lives are sanitized and protected from all of this. I didn’t have to go to seminary or lead a church to get an education on human nature.

All I had to do was answer a ping on my phone and wave a stranger into my car.

One response to Becoming An Uber Driver Has Been a Better Education Than Any Sociology Class

  1. “It is these kinds of riders that make you kind of despair for humanity. They are the people who can’t answer basic questions about U.S. history when Jimmy Kimmel confronts them on the street. They are the kind of people who never really take off their blinders and see just how big the world really is.”

    Literally, LOL’ed…