I’m a baby boomer. I finally underwent an important a long-awaited and overdue rite of passage. I just took my first Uber ride. I did not undergo the experience lightly.
I am not one to quickly embrace new routines or practices. On the old school scale, I’m probably schoolhouse. I am especially uncomfortable with technology, being a die-hard technophobe Luddite. Unlike my kids I will not walk around with my cell phone glued to my palm, waiting enthusiastically for that next text message to come in.
My car was recently in the repair shop and I needed to get to the subway station. I was going to take a taxi but my son Daniel discretely and with subtlety, suggested I try Uber. He said, “Go Uber dad. Enter the 21st century”.
I had my concerns about using what I considered to be a non taxi taxi. To me if I was to pay for a ride in a car, for my peace of mind, the car had to have a beacon on the roof. As well there should be a meter inside. I was somewhat flexible in that I would not worry about the cab’s colour though it would add reassurance if it were yellow.
My son convinced me to give Uber a try. After some hemming and hawing, I asked him to order one for me. He told me I had to download an App on my mobile. Unlike a taxi, you cannot just call a simple number like 777-7777.
It did not take long for me to get stumped in the downloading process. Fortunately, my 10-year-old granddaughter Laya, came to the rescue.
I opened the App and tried to order the Uber ride. I keyed in my destination “Finch station”. I thought that would suffice. Those magic words after all work with a taxi. Then again, I also thought the Blue Jays would be playing baseball this season.
The screen gave me 3 price options: Uber X, pool or express pool.
Express pool was the cheapest. The catch however read, “Starts and ends with a short walk”. To me those words sounded a bit broad, arbitrary and uncertain. I live in Thornhill and to save $4.23 I did not want to risk having to hike to Mississauga.
I chose the Uber X, which was a solo ride. Why not go wild!
Once I confirmed the order some interesting activity took place on my cell phone. A map appeared and I saw what looked like a bug moving around, getting closer to my house. It was my Uber ride. Info appeared about the driver’s name, Henry, identifying his car, black Honda Accord, license plate number xxxx. etc. It said he would be arriving in 2 minutes, and the ETA to my destination was 10 minutes.
This was certainly in contrast to the last taxi ride I ordered in Manhattan, where the cab failed to show up altogether following which I telephoned the company and the dispatcher said to me irately, “Hey bud. It’s raining. What’s your problem?”
Uber car pulled up at my house and the driver and I looked at one another. I had mixed feelings about getting in. The situation was reminiscent of the train scene in the James Bond movie, “From Russia With Love”, where Mr. Bond meets up on the Orient Express, with a supposed colleague spy, one Nash, who actually turns out to be an imposter Spectre agent, having killed the real Nash.
I needed reassurance. I queried in a shaky voice, “Henry?” He nodded yes. That was the most reassurance I could expect. I entered the vehicle.
I looked around in the car expecting to see the driver’s mug shot. However, this was not a taxi. No usual mugshot. Then again some of those driver mugshots are a bit spooky and frightening, looking like the cabbie just made bail. Not surprisingly, there was no button inside for the passenger to press, triggering an exterior light with a message, “Help! Uber is kidnapping me!”
The driver was a bit of a chatty sports fan, raving about the Toronto teams. I did not want to risk disturbing my ambivalent mood by engaging him and telling him what I thought about this season’s Blue Jays.
The ride interestingly enough took about 11 minutes, being almost the amount of time noted in the ETA.
Upon arrival I reached for my wallet and Henry reminded me this was a cashless ride; Uber was debiting my Visa card. With one foot out the door, my mood started to elevate, and I was bursting with vim and vigour. I felt like Rocky Balboa standing on top of the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. I responded to Henry,” Of course, Henry. Isn’t today’s technology awesome!”.
My maiden voyage with Uber was a success. I almost felt like skipping that subway ride and taking another Uber back home. I pranced down the stairs to the subway station. Unlike Rocky, I did not run back up and raise my hands over my head triumphantly.
After the ride, Uber sent me an email whereby I could rate the driver, on a scale of 1 to 5.
All things considered I gave him a 4. It wasn’t perfect but certainly a lot more than most of us would give the Blue Jays.
I went the distance. Bring on the next challenge.