24 March 2017

Uber and Me

I am a devout Uber user, have been using it for many years now. I always choose UberPool.

I have had many interesting conversations with both the drivers and the co-passengers. The co-passengers are unique. Not everyone likes to talk. Women hardly look, let alone talk. Men, if young, stay quiet. If older, engage in a conversation.

Since I stay at Sanjay Nagar and most airport taxis have to pass through Mekhri Circle, being clubbed with airport goers is a common scenario, if I take the cab from the southern part of the city. Many of these airport goers happen to be Ube Pool users too.

One encounter I remember quite vividly was when I was returning from HSR Layout after a training session. He looked young, out-of-college types. We started speaking. He was an entrepreneur from Mumbai and had come to the city to set up their local office in HSR Layout. Interestingly, they were in talks with a well known actor from the Kannada film industry who was keen on investing in their startup.
The other interaction I remember the most was when I was returning from a spa in Indiranagar. He hopped in a stop later at M.G.Road and was heading to the airport. The front seat was empty and yet he chose to sit at the back and almost immediately started talking. He worked for Reliance, he said and from the looks of it, at a very high position, I surmised.

We talked of different things – from our travelling stories, to the South-North divide in India, to typical behaviours of people from other countries especially U.S and U.K where he travelled extensively. Coincidentally, we had both visited the National Park in Borivli at the same time! He was a Mumbai resident and yet had never been there until then. It was his first time. I was born and raised in Mumbai, yet I had never been there either. It was my first time. We both had visited the place in August of 2016. He showed the pictures from his phone. I spoke of my trip to Chandigarh and Manali. He is from Chandigarh, but settled in Mumbai. That’s when he said South Indians are modest; North Indians show off too much. I observed that North Indians make great entrepreneurs. He said the banking sector had lots of South Indians dominating the field.

I never asked his name or designation. It didn’t matter. The unexpected conversation in an unlikely place with a total strange did. It was one sweet memory.

These two trips are etched in my mind. What struck me was their humility. It was almost tangible! Both of them were responding to the driver also very politely. Position and education had not sullied their minds – not the young one nor the old one. Quite contrary to the attitudes that I have seen some good-for-nothing losers throw. The absolute arrogance and disrespect in their voice when they talk to the driver is nauseating.

I have had drivers share incidents of how some passengers put their feet up on the seats, cross their legs and sit so comfortably that their knees press against the back of the driver’s seat and he has to lean forward and drive in that uncomfortable position for the rest of the trip, how some fight and demand that they be dropped almost a kilometre away from their actual drop-off location, how some bang the door shut so hard, not realizing that for the driver, the vehicle is his “lakshmi”, and he has paid through his nose to purchase the car through high down-payments and huge EMIs.

But then we all know there are always two sides to a story. I have had instances where the driver surely deserved a one on a one to five rating. Once, a driver said he would be there at the location in five minutes and kept me waiting for nearly twenty minutes. Reason?  He was having his breakfast. Another time, a driver drove to Forum Mall clocking an additional two kilometre distance saying the main road had traffic jam and this was short-cut. Uber reimbursed me the difference amount and debited the driver.

But such incidents have been rare. Very rare. The good experiences have far-outweighed the unpleasant ones. Or maybe I have been very lucky! So I continue to be a Uber loyalist.