I’ll say this much about Uber – it not only saves you money but it can give you some crazy stories to tell. I recently took a two week trip to Los Angeles where I found myself using the popular ride-sharing service for the first time. Usually renting cars or driving cross-country, I haven’t had much opportunity to use the service before and considering that a taxi ride to my first destination from LAX was an estimated $101.27 vs. Uber’s $35, the choice wasn’t a real head-scratcher.
Having arrived at the airport, I opened the app and ordered my first ride. Pretty straightforward other than the fact that for some insane reason LAX has their ride-share pickups at Departures rather than Arrivals. Within 10 minutes, I saw my Uber arriving – a bright, beacon blue Prius driven by, what else, an aspiring actress – a tidbit I may never have found out because before I could reach the car, a man suddenly burst out of the crowd, opened the back door, and got in before me. “Are you, um, Zemos?” the driver asked (making what I would come to find out a rookie mistake by stating my name out loud, albeit mispronounced, rather than requesting it). “Yes,” the man replied, “Let’s go!” Thankfully, I had gotten to car in time to tell the driver, “The name’s actually Demos with a “D” and I ordered this ride.” Before any reprimand could be given, the man had disappeared.
“Thank goodness you have a weird name,” the driver said as I got in. “He looked nothing like a Zemos.” “I can’t even imagine what a Zemos looks like,” I said, adding, “How often do people try and steal Ubers anyway? What are the chances that he’d randomly steal one that’s going where he wants to go?” She answered, “I don’t know. That’s the first time as far as I know. What are you doing in L.A. by the way?” Now it was my turn for a rookie mistake. “I’m shooting a video commercial.” Her eyes lit up. “No way! I happen to be an actress!”
For the next twenty minutes, I was forced to sit through an audition with no escape feeling like Malcolm McDowell with his eyes strapped open in A Clockwork Orange. As she went through her “filmography” of low budget, um, “spectacles” (I hadn’t known they had made an adaptation of Romeo and Juliet featuring dinosaurs and mutant plant-life – ignorance may be blissful after all), it began to dawn on me. This was unlike any taxi ride I had ever been on. Certainly more entertaining.
Unlike most taxi drivers I had ridden with who either remained silent or hardly spoke English, I found Uber drivers to be quite extroverted by comparison. For the most part, this was an added bonus to most rides, especially when caught in L.A. traffic. On the other hand, this was a quality that could backfire in unexpected ways as I discovered during a ride I took a few days later – the tale of the Uber driver who foretold the apocalypse…
Tune in tomorrow for Part II!