The first time I tried using Uber in the Philippines, my driver drove to my destination without me. I simply wasn’t ready to go, having only woken up a few minutes before my “conyo” Uber driver turned up. Apologies were given of course and I said I’ll definitely pay for the ride, I didn’t have a choice anyway, but in order to do that, he had to go to my destination. Some GPS related stuff. Up to this day though I still don’t know if it was my fault or my toddler’s for messing with my phone when I wasn’t looking. My husband and I were staying at my sister’s place in Manila and we thought we would try Uber to get to SM South Mall which was only about 10 minutes or one hour away (depending on traffic).
Going back home from the mall that day though, we successfully rode our first (technically second) Uber and it was a breeze. Thanks to the star system, our experience was a textbook Uber one; i.e. polite driver, clean car, seamless payment. We did tip him on top of the payment that’s taken automatically from my card.
Since then, I’ve used Uber only maybe four times in the Philippines and each one proved to be a pleasant riding experience. We always talk to the driver to try and siphon stories from him (I still have yet to meet a female Uber driver). One was a former OFW who worked in Dubai for 15 years or so and is now driving with Uber full time. Another is not only driving for Uber full time, but also Grab Taxi and that other service that picks up and delivers packages. Yet another called Uber “You-ber.” I’ve always find their stories fascinating.
It was only a couple of days ago when I had my first Uber experience here in Australia. I had a pregnancy appointment that I was late for and a host of car and keys issues to deal with. So I left my son with my husband and went to the city by myself. My driver welcomed me in his car using my first name as listed on the app. “Personable,” I thought to myself. I decided to sit at the front next to him thinking it was the polite thing to do. I will later find out from my husband that this was not necessary but also not a bad thing either.
“I just didn’t want him to feel as though he’s my chauffeur, or something,” I explained.
The Uber driver-rider dynamic is unique. As a rider, you readily associate this driver to a real person who has back stories, to a former job other than being an uber driver, or to a product of modern technology. It’s one or the other, or a mixture of all those, but whatever it is, it’s definitely no taxi trip.
My uber driver and I talked about what we used to do in our past lives. I shared that I was a teacher for 10 years before coming to Australia and my plan when I’m ready to work again is to dabble again in graphic design or something totally different such as culinary arts.
“Oh I’m a qualified chef,” he humbly stated.
I was floored when I found out that he used to work at none of other than my favorite Indian restaurant here in Geelong.
“Wait, so are you saying that you have cooked my meal sometime ago?!” I mean of course I get it that there are people preparing food for me but how often do I get to meet in person and in a different capacity?
Having been in Geelong for 5 years, I feel it’s highly likely that he indeed has at least once or twice. Small world indeed. And an amazing one at that. I told him I imagine he still prepares those beautiful dishes at home at his convenience. But to my surprise, this is not the case. At home his wife runs their kitchen. He even claimed that he considers her to be a better cook. As he desribed this stuffed bread they had for lunch just before he picked me up, I was definitely looking forward to the weekend so I could order some Indian takeaway.
And there it was. Another uber nice uber pleasant Uber experience.
We meet new people even for a brief moment, or indirectly without ever meeting them in person (through food we order online hehe), and that may be enough to change our perspective even momentarily. And while I don’t enjoy public transportation, I wouldn’t mind Ubering my way to my destination even for just the chat.