This is our friend Paul. My job is to make his life miserable. Today I’m doing it with Uber.
Paul and I have lunch together once a week. It’s my turn to drive. Without a car, though, I go to plan B. I show up at his house on my bicycle. It’s time to introduce him to the Uber ride-sharing service.
I ignore his “leave me alone” look. As a friend, it’s my job to keep Paul connected to the 21st century. He reluctantly hands me his phone so I can load the Uber app. I see his not-even-full single screen of apps. “This is pathetic,” I tell him.
I should have anticipated what happens next. He doesn’t know his Apple password, so I can’t install the app. He starts looking through a journal for his password. I need to move fast, or he’ll start rambling about Amish menswear or ancient Chickasaw burial practices. I’ve seen it happen. Not today, mister.
‘Pick a restaurant and shut up’
I tell him to pick a restaurant. I show him what I’m doing on my phone so that he’ll know how to use the app when he installs it in the year 2035, assuming he can find his password by then. Within three minutes, our Uber has arrived.
The show is about to begin. In the car, Paul turns into an Okie version of Studs Terkel. He peppers Bradford, the driver, with questions about his business, about Uber, about his prospects for the upcoming Super Bowl in Houston. Paul is an insatiable learner. He’d like more time to quiz Bradford, but our seven-minute ride is over.
I tell Paul that Uber will have a limited role in our transportation makeover. It’s our fallback to walking, biking and buses.
Of course, Paul gets Uber … and he hates Uber. He reminisces about his two months as a cabbie in Minneapolis, ferrying widows, hookers, drunks and factory workers. He worries about underpaid Uber drivers and laments the demise of paid benefits and unions. We discuss what’s motivating a Georgetown state senator to file a bill to streamline (steamroll?) the approvals process for ride-sharing services statewide.
My role is to listen, nod and play provocateur. “Driverless Uber cars are getting closer, you know? It’s going to be safer.” He and Studs definitely won’t like that, except for the safer part.
Why don’t people walk more?
Our Hughie’s Tavern “beer lunch” of bánh mì sandwiches and excellent Eureka Heights craft beer, both shamelessly hyperlinked, is done. I ask Paul if he wants to Uber or take the bus back to his house, two miles away. No, he’d rather walk. Fine with me. It’s a warm January day, and I’m wearing shorts and a t-shirt. We walk some complete streets and some incomplete streets. Neither of us understands why more people don’t walk everywhere. It’s wonderful.
Back at his house, I check my phone. The Uber receipt is in my email, along with an offer to send a friend a $15 coupon for an Uber ride. I know just who to send it to.
Coming soon: the Uber article you probably expected
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