It was oh-dark-30 and I was on an unlit road to nowhere, heading to a town I hadn’t even known existed. How the hell did this happen?
About thirty minutes before, I had been summoned to the Coach House in Scottsdale at around 12:30 a.m. I’d almost turned off the Uber Driver app to head home because I was tired and didn’t feel like hanging around for surge pricing when the bars close (aka the 2 a.m. puke fest), but as I was cruising through Old Town Scottsdale, I decided on giving one last ride if it came in before I jumped on the 101 South to head home to Mesa.
Wouldn’t you know it, I get a request, so I picked up my passenger, a nicely dressed guy in his late 40s who was leaving a holiday get-together at the bar; I figured it would be a short hop from the bar to his house or the resort at which he was staying. I was correct in that he wanted to go to his house, but had erred in assuming it was going to be a short hop — in fact, he lived in Waddell. For those of you not from the Metro Phoenix Area who don’t know where Waddell is, don’t worry — I didn’t know where Waddell was either. But I do now. Way the fuck out in the middle of nowhere. In fact, I had never even heard of Waddell before.
Let me give you some perspective on how far out I was heading — First Avenue is 30 miles from my house and this guy was going to 186th Avenue. I didn’t even know there was a 186th Avenue! In fact, I clown my buddy Jason Etzel for living out in the middle of oblivion at 157rd Avenue (a prime reason I don’t voluntarily go out there to visit him). At this point, 157rd Avenue almost looked like civilization, and I was sorely tempted to go by Etzel’s house after I was done and wake his ass up to say, “See, and you say I never drop by.” The main deterrent was I didn’t have his address in my phone (like I said, I never go visit him).
Oh well, at least the passenger, a well-heeled IT consultant, was a good conversationalist though, apparently, he didn’t believe in tipping. I guess that’s one way of staying rich.
After dropping him off, I set my home address in the app as my destination on the off chance I could pick up a passenger heading my way, but no such luck. No one was trying to flee Waddell at that ungodly hour.
I didn’t get home until around 2:15 a.m.
A Roll of the Dice: Destination Unknown
The problem with driving for Uber is I never know where it’s going to take me or how far afield I’ll roam until after I pick up the passenger and start the ride. And trust me, there are good long distance trips and bad long distance trips. Occasional long journeys are part of the gig and, generally, from a fare standpoint, the longer, the better — that is unless you have bubble guts and develop a sudden urge to go to the restroom mid-trip (bad news for you and the passenger), or you end up in Bum Fuck Egypt (BFE). At that point, you’ve got a few options:
- Make the best out of the situation and hope you can give rides to the denizens of BFE, which is not likely if it’s an outlying, low-population area. However, you’re one bad Uber summons away from ending up in an even remoter hellhole the residents of BFE typically avoid as being out-of-the-way.
- Pray that you get a passenger heading back to your side of civilization so you don’t have to deadhead back, usually an unrealistic outcome, but it happens on occasion.
- Find a bar and start drinking.
The reality is, you’re probably going to be deadheading back without a passenger, burning gas and not earning any revenue, a real bummer for a rideshare driver. Such was the case with my late night run to Waddell.
Is there a way of figuring out the destination ahead of time? No, Uber doesn’t want you cherrypicking rides. Oh, the app will flash up Long Trip in tiny letters when offering you a tire-wearing ride of 45 minutes or longer so you can pass it up, but it doesn’t tell you where you’ll be going until after you pick the passenger up and tell the app to start the trip. And remember, a long trip equals a good fare, though all long trips are not created equal. A thirty-minute trip back toward a high-pick up area? Awesome. A thirty-minute trip to BFE? Boo. Plus, it’s easy to miss that tiny long trip notification if I’m driving when the ride request comes in. I usually glance quickly at the request and accept it without thinking because of muscle memory. My fault, I know, but I want to keep my eyes on the road, even with my phone mounted so it’s hands-free.
Apparently, a few Uber drivers are known to use a shady tactic where they will accept a ride request. At that point, they can call the passenger through the Uber app and will ask the final destination, and if it’s undesirable, they’ll hang up and cancel the ride immediately. I’m pretty sure Uber will hammer them if they catch them doing it, but I can kind of sympathize with the driver’s desire to eliminate problematic rides that waste gas and time, thus decreasing revenue. I just wouldn’t do it myself.
Another thing I’ve heard about, this time from passengers, is getting a driver who complains bitterly about the destination to them. One passenger told me about a driver who bitched about the gas he was going to waste getting back to town and the economic impact on his earning potential. The guy wouldn’t shut up and her husband got pissed. Geez, who does that? Expect to get dinged on your rating for being unprofessional.
Anyway, I’ve learned from driving for Uber and Lyft to just relax and accept the fact that I’m going to be ranging far and wide and to parts unknown.