If you're thinking about becoming an Uber driver in your spare time, you should perhaps check out Mickey Rapkin's dispatch in the March issue of GQ about the life you face driving your city's trendy 20-somethings around.
Uber is the controversial car service of surge pricing fame. Their business operates in two divisions: UberBLACK, a black car service with which riders can hail town cars with relative ease, and UberX, a service that allows any Joe who can pass a background check and owns a ride that meets some decency standards to act as a driver. (We do mean literally any old Joe, even Joe Jonas.) UberX is the cheaper of the two options, obviously, and the sign-up process is simple. Rapkin runs into no trouble becoming an Uber driver. His plan is to work for one week in Los Angeles and relay the experience back to us, the readers of GQ.
Over the course of 24 rides, Rapkin discovered that driving for Uber is a lot like driving any old cab. Drunk people treat you like both the nicest person in the world, or garbage, depending on the ride. Couples are cute and will remind you of your own lonely existence. Some people will sit in the backseat and talk your ear off. Others will stay silent the entire ride. The really weird people sit in the front seat. But mostly you spend your time hoping the next fare will not end in your fatality. "I was basically picking up hitchhikers and trying to convince myself: Murderers don't use iPhones," Rapkin writes.
Rapkin survived, but just barely. Let's start with the group he picks up at the very start of his story: two guys, two girls, all drunk and ready to party in Los Angeles' trendy Silver Lake neighborhood. They talk about doin' it in the butt in his backseat until they realize car is not self-driving, then they ask Rapkin for his thoughts on doin' it in the butt. Beyond that unpleasantness, there's this:
Just for the record, I have been waiting in this brat's driveway for fifteen minutes while he (I'm just guessing here) stared at himself in the mirror and (again, just guessing here) debated exactly how many rope bracelets still qualifies as casual. I won't notice the pimp cup he and his friends are sipping from until they get out of the car, which is probably a good thing—I'm a bit of a neat freak, and I've never enjoyed so much as a Nutri-Grain bar inside my car.
The potential mess caused by a vodka cooler is not the problem, really. Driving with open alcohol is illegal, a fineable offense, and could definitely be considered a problem. Within his week behind the wheel, other customers proceeded to "make out in the backseat (that happened) or refer a friend to your coke dealer (that, too)." Coke seems to be a theme. Another rider talked about what L.A. dealers cut their bricks with. So, if you take away anything from this GQ piece, take this: if you're new to L.A. and need a hookup, become an Uber driver.
You won't necessarily be able to afford coke with your Uber money, though. Driving for Uber doesn't seem like a very lucrative hobby. On average his full take-away ("$312 on twenty-four rides") works out to about $13 a ride. That's enough to put some extra change in your pocket, sure, but the risk of a car-cleaning bill or, worse, a ticket for open alcohol in your car tips the scales out of Uber's favor.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.