Confessions of a “New-ber” in Suburbia
I am having a love affair with Uber.
I have known about Uber, the car service that professes to be “your own private driver” for a while now, but hadn’t really seen the need for a new transportation option, especially when carting teenage kids around town is almost a badge of honor here in the suburbs. As a single mom I was used to shouldering a lot of the driving if a carpool was not to be found, although I somewhat resented this because so much of my time was taken up behind the wheel. As my kids grew older, however, summers became challenging as I juggled a full-time job with pick-ups or drop-offs during my lunch hour, practically throwing the kids out of the car as I sped back to work. Not only was this stressful, but I also felt the constricting arms of guilt squeezing me from both directions: fear that my projects at work would suffer, and angst that my kids were stuck at home, bored during their summer vacation.
When school finally started again, I exhaled deeply, knowing that my routine would once again find some degree of normalcy. But the same dilemma reared up again when, in December, I had knee surgery that restricted my driving for five weeks. Friends and family jumped in to help, but relying on them for last-minute trips seemed like testing the limits of their kindness.
Enter Uber. Since its launch in the U.S. five years ago, Uber has grown to a global worth of $50 billion dollars, over 160,000 drivers —2,000 drivers now in Connecticut––and a quick, easy way to grab a ride. So on New Year’s Eve when I was desperate to find a way to get my daughter and her friend to a party, I got an “ok” from the other parents, downloaded the Uber app, linked my credit card to the site and requested a driver.
While waiting, I mentally reviewed my research on Uber safety: background checks that included driving and criminal- history records across federal and multi-state databases, a trackable route through GPS, and license-plate number. There was enough evidence to make a mother feel at ease.
Uber Steve (as we later called him) rolled up ten minutes later and we headed out to greet him. He leaned toward the passenger window with a smile that brought me back to my college days, and said, “Hey!” As the girls loaded into his car, he looked at them and commented, “Headed to a party? Cool.” They loved him (I wanted to tell the girls to slide over and make room for me). Uber Steve and the girls waved goodbye and off they went. I watched his car from the app on my iPhone, taking the designated route to the party.
Moments after the car arrived, I received a text from Steve that said, “They are at the party, safe.” And almost simultaneously, I received the same message from my daughter. No cash exchanged, the transaction was all done via the web, and tipping was not expected. I was hooked.
There is more than one reason why I found myself “Uberized” that night. First, I felt pretty hip having placed myself on this new, early-adopter fast track with trends and technology, and “hip” doesn’t always come easily to those of us who are 50-something with a knee replacement. Second, Uber took the financial worry out of my hands: the app did all the work and I received a receipt by email.
This is saying a lot, given the fact that I’m someone who obsesses about how much of a tip I should give a taxi driver when I’m in New York City. Every two blocks I find myself recalculating so that I can make a quick escape when the driver pulls over. Frankly, I find it exhausting. Most important, Uber gave me back some precious time, which is too often lost in the midst of laundry, dishes, and homework. Responsibility and the desire to make my kids happy often trump the smallest hope of personal time.
So for now, Uber, you’ve got me. You have given me a small gift of freedom and have helped me exorcise my guilt. I can happily face the summer now, app in hand. Cool, trendy, liberated me.
Download the App / Sign Up
You’ll be asked for your name, mobile number, email address, and credit- card information.
Choose Your Car
Options range from small sedans to town cars and SUVs.
Set Your Locations
Type in pick-up and drop-off addresses.
Accept the assigned Driver
Within seconds, Uber will send you the details of an available driver in the area, including name, type of car, license number, and estimated arrival time.
You can track the route of the Uber driver as s/he heads to pick you up. Make sure to be outside at the appropriate time.
The cost of the ride is automatically applied to your credit card.
Rate Your Driver
A driver must maintain a strong rating to continue to be an Uber driver. Drivers with poor ratings consistently below four stars will be dropped.
Other Information You Need to Know:
Uber maintains liability insurance for passengers in the event of an accident.
Rates can vary based on demand. For instance, on New Year’s Eve the rate was 1.4x normal. You have the option to accept this before the driver is confirmed. A surcharge of $15 is applied if your ride begins in Connecticut and ends in New York.
There is a $5 to $10 fee if the driver is already on his way and you cancel the ride.