One week on

One week on

“Ask me in a week’s time,” I told one journalist at last week’s launch of Uber in Canberra, “and I might not be so full of the company line.”
Here it is, seven full days later. I’ve driven (almost) every day. I’ve kept records of fares and kilometres, fuel, expenses, times, everything I think is relevant and plugged all the numbers into a spreadsheet which crunches the numbers.
The time and money are important, but you know, the real payoff came about five this morning, when two of my passengers knelt down in front of my cab, their hands clasped as if in prayer and their eyes full of happiness.
Yesterday was rainy. Heavy rain. Mud and rubbish, leaves and tree branches on the road. My poor little Golf was looking pretty seedy on the outside, and definitely needed a vacuum inside. Today I decided to start the day around 0430, when nobody would be around, run the car through the wash, clean it up, maybe get a couple of airport jobs later.
I’d barely left home when I got a job. Turned out to be the Maccas in Braddon, a few blocks away, and four very merry young men climbed in after a night on the town.
They directed me towards Gungahlin, a nice long fare. One of them had a free ride credit and asked if it would be honoured. Those things are run by the app, and I have nothing to do with it, but so long as the passenger enters the code correctly, Uber will pay for the ride.
“Hey, it says we can play music!” the chap riding shotgun said. By tradition, the front seat passenger is the captain, but pays the fare.
“Sure,” I said, “I just set it up. It works through Spotify and goes through my phone into the aux socket.”
I indicated the cable running from my phone on the dash to the auxiliary sound input, which for some odd reason is located in the centre armrest console.
I love it when passengers choose the music. I was pretty sure my Mozart piano concertos weren’t going to cut it with this bunch, and much as I love them, I was getting a leeetle weary of the tinkling ivories.
My passenger selected some songs and bands I’d never heard of, but they sang along happily as we headed north up Northbourne Avenue, and they were jaunty tunes, to be sure.
And I smiled along. I love having happy people in my cab.
I’m sorry to say that Canberra Cabs, my former outfit, copped a lot of rude comments from my passengers. I suspect that their current drivers do not appreciate jaunty cheerful music as much as they could.
We all smiled and laughed and it was the best ride of my Uber career. What a buzz!
At the end of the trip, high fives and fist bumps all round. These guys had partied all night and were aiming for more.
And then I noticed two of my back seat passengers kneeling down before the headlights, in attitudes of worship. I killed the lights before I blinded them entirely, but bless their joyous hearts, they made my day.
That was the high point, but it didn’t cool down much after that. For nearly five hours, I was in constant motion. I actually pulled up beside the vacuum cleaner, but got a new job before I could put my coins in.
Some wonderful passengers. Some were content to listen to Mozart, some wanted to chat – and we had some wonderful conversations – two needed to get to the chemist for painkillers, one chap rang me to see if I could accept his bike in the Golf. Tight squeeze, but once we took the front wheel off, we squeezed it in.
A repeat customer, by the way.
I love my job.
I actually had a few minutes to rest, and I chose the lakefront area where Uber had launched in Canberra exactly a week earlier. The clouds hung low over the capital, joggers and cyclists and rowers radiated energy, Mozart soothed my restless mind, and I wondered if the weeks ahead would be as busy as this first one.
I have no doubt, to be honest. About half my passengers have used Uber elsewhere and couldn’t wait for Uber to hit Canberra.
And the other half were first-timers, hesitantly trying it out. I’m confident they’ll be back.

Lake run
Lake run
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