Friday’s launch was a busy day. I could have stayed out that evening and raked in the money. More so on Saturday night. But I had family things to do, and I only went online for an hour on Sunday. One job, but a good one.
Monday I had the car all day, so I experimented with a seven o’clock start. Rush hour in Canberra, one job, and I picked her up outside her block of flats. Destination two and a half kilometres away. “Do you have a preferred way of getting there?” I asked, contemplating in my mind the busy traffic, the slow intersections, the restricted turns and the low speed limits I knew were between A and B.
The idea is that the passenger generally knows the exact best way to their regular destination. Even if they don’t, they might know the routes to avoid.
I love it when they direct me a certain way. For one thing, it lets them know they are in control, it gives them a sense of comfort and security to drive a familiar way, and from this old cabbie’s perspective, it’s often longer and more expensive than the way I would have chosen.
I once picked up an elderly gent, and he directed me to his home, going this way and that, past the shops, the school, a whole series of ridiculous turns. I thought he might have been playing with me, but hey, it was his money.
When we got to his house, I clicked the meter off and asked, “Um, why did we go that way?”
“It’s the way the bus goes,” he said.
Every once in a while a passenger will teach me a little shortcut, a little trick to avoid a busy intersection. Some back laneway, a quirk of the traffic lights. I love these.
I once took a cab from Ataturk Airport to the centre of Istanbul. The roads were crowded and the going was slow. Some bigwig must have arrived on the same flight, because there was a limousine with police escort. Flashing lights and motorcycle outriders.
I looked at my cabbie as we watched the big black Mercedes move ahead along the motorway, while we crawled along. I expected a shrug, but instead he pulled off and took a side road. For the next half hour we went along back streets, through hotel carparks, under the motorway, along the waterfront…
Do you know, we kept pace with that limousine all the way into the city. We were actually ahead of him going under the aqueduct on Ataturk Boulevard, but lost him when we turned off towards my hotel in Sultanahmet.
Nobody beats a wily old cabbie for getting around a city. In Canberra, I’ve got my own little stock of shortcuts.
My major problem here was that there was an arterial road I had to get across, and I couldn’t go directly across or make a right turn without going a kilometre out of my way. I could make a slight dog-leg, but I was pretty sure that that route would be filled by three lanes of slow-moving traffic. Trying to lane-change my way across in fifty metres was not worth the risk.
“No,” she said, “any way you want.”
I played it safe, taking a route that would lead me through two busy intersections controlled by traffic lights. Several minutes of waiting, but I got to the destination. In my old taxidriving days, I would simply have paused the meter at a red light if I thought the passenger was blaming me for it. Not possible with Uber. The virtual meter keeps ticking on.
I dropped her off at exactly the right spot, gave her a five star rating, but I noticed shortly after that my own overall rating had dropped from a perfect 5.0 to 4.8.
I’ve only been on the job a couple of days. I check my rating obsessively, trying to work out how to lift my game.
I didn’t think it was the Mozart I was playing, I’d taken a shower before starting work, the car was clean…
I’ve checked on Google Maps. It wants me to make an impossible right turn, but even then, my actual route, saved on my Uber record, was only two minutes and 400 metres longer than Google’s best and illegal advice.
“Let it go, Pete,” my wife advised. I will. If I can rate a passenger any way I want, then a passenger can rate their driver the same. For whatever reason.
If my ratings drop consistently, I’ll give it away. I won’t have any choice in the matter, really. Uber kicks low-rating drivers and passengers off the app. Fair enough.