I hopped into an Uber. One of my first. Would the driver be ‘black cab’ chatty, or would the whole process of booking a car through a phone app remove that human element?
I sat back appreciating clear blue skies after another frosty London night. Glorious sunshine encouraged conversation and I couldn’t resist on reverting to that classic opening line.
“Oh yes, it’s beautiful alright. How long will it last though?” said Afonso.
“Well, I guess we get the good and the bad, the latter makes you appreciate the first – right?” I commented.
“Oh yeah, that was brought home to me very recently by my son.” I caught his eye in the mirror.
I’ve had a notion to ask an Uber driver his story for a while now and this was my chance. How had he come about this work I wondered and had he always been a cab driver?
The car crossed over Lord’s Bridge, orange clad Crossrail workers beneath us, cars zooming overhead on the Westway as he started to relate his tale.
“I was made redundant a year ago from a car break-down service company. I’d never driven for a taxi company before but I started working for Uber and here I am – it’s been three months now. The thing I love about it is I get to spend more time with my family. The last job I had, I earned more but I hardly saw my son. The other day he looked up at me and said: ‘Dad we get to have a lot more fun these days don’t we?’ with a grin.”
He paused, the car slowing down as we reached our destination. “It hit me hard, I had to walk away, it was like a knife in my heart. I never saw him before, I was out early in the morning, back when he was in bed. I missed his first eight years. Of course his mother would tell me things but it wasn’t the same. Now I take him to school in the mornings. The other day he fell on his head, I finished the job I was on, clocked off and went to get him. I could never have done that before.”
Having a job fit how you want to live your life never seems like a bad idea to me. Aside from the obvious customer benefits, no wonder Uber gets such bad press – it definitely bucks the trend for the employee.
The car stopped. I gathered my things to get out as Afonso turned to me: “The day he spoke in fluent Spanish and English in one conversation though… I was there for that. I’ll never forget it – it was priceless.”