Modern

Uber Tales: Why Taxis Are Scared and Uber is Good For People.

Taxi drivers hate Uber drivers like me.  I’m being literal, they really, really do not like us.  It’s not so bad here in Orlando where I drive in the late night / early morning hours (I get glared at occasionally), but in major cities like New York and other countries where Uber hasn’t already been banned, taxi drivers will actually become violent towards Uber drivers.  It’s not hard to see why; they’re being beaten at their own game.  Taxi service has been around since before we had motor vehicles.  Over the years as places like Manhattan grew into the sprawling metropolises they are today, public and alternative transportation became a huge necessity, which gave rise to the booming taxi cab service that would become a major component of city transportation and a prominent cultural icon.

For nearly a century cab service was without competition.  Sure, there were different cab companies, but they all abided by the same general rule set and system.  They were competitive with each other’s pricing and most often operated the same style of vehicle.  Sure, you had different levels as you do today: Private, higher end “town car” service and localized “pedal cabs” for getting around downtown, but for the most part the position of the taxi cab in our society went without competition or alternative for many decades… until now.

Originally only upscale cars.

Originally only upscale cars.

Where Uber Came From:

In 2008, Garrett Camp, the founder of StumbleUpon (which he sold to Ebay) got together with another web visionary named Travis Kalanik.  Both were coming off of previously successful ventures and looking for their next big thing.  They teamed up to tackle the taxi problem in San Fransisco, and the original “UberCab” prototype app was born.  By 2009, Camp had re-taken over StumbleUpon and hired Kalanik to directly control and develop their ongoing UberCab application.  After much testing and development, UberCab was launched in San Fransisco on July 5th, 2010.

However, even from the beginning, challenges arose.  By October of 2010 the city of San Francisco served UberCab with a cease and desist order for operating a cab company without proper licensing.  So Uber dropped “cab” from their name and officially became “Uber”, an “upscale ride-sharing service” just as AirBNB allows hosts to share their apartment.  Using this model, the founders raised significant capital from eager investors and launched in New York City by May, 2011.  Following that success was Seattle, Washington DC, Boston, Chicago and even Paris as the first international expansion.

In some places it's almost warfare.

In some places it’s almost warfare.

Up to this point, Uber had been primarily based an affordable premium vehicle (“Black Car”) service.  But just as they began to face some backlash regarding surge pricing and fares over the holiday, the unveiled their next secret weapon: UberX.  Based on the above mentioned AirBNB philosophy, this service is cheaper and focuses on newer model hybrid and sedan drivers to get customers where they need to go.  This facilitates expansion into more cities and draws even greater ire from taxi services and cities seeking to regulate the quickly growing trend.  By 2013 Uber was facing tens of thousands of dollars in fines and new competition from other ride-sharing services like Lyft and Sidecar.  However, that same year, California officially recognized “Ride-Sharing” as it’s own official transportation category, providing specific regulations, but paving the way for Uber and other services to operate without the previous fines and roadblocks they had faced.

However, opposition is fierce for Uber, from competitors like Lyft and especially from large, well-established taxi companies and unions.  Because of this, less progressive states are slow to act on regulations regarding the status of ride-sharing platforms.  Much of it is because of outside pressure and in other cases they simply don’t know what to do with it.

Why Uber is Important:

With the history out of the way I can relate a bit more personally to you.  With all the politics involved and the headlines, what you don’t see is the actual good that Uber and it’s drivers are doing for the everyday person.  Allow me to give you a few examples:

"Are you my Uber?"  "No."

Perfectly normal night for an Uber driver.

A few weeks ago I got an early AM request in the Winter Park area.  Shortly after accepting the ride through my app, the client called me.  He had a flight leaving in just over an hour, and the taxi that he had requested a day earlier “couldn’t make it”.  This was for a very important meeting,in Chicago that day and he could not afford to be late.  I didn’t promise I would get him there because the time frame was tight, but I was at his door within five minutes and had him to the airport with about thirty-five minutes to spare.  I don’t know if he made it or not, but he was grateful to have some kind of hope and without Uber he never would’ve had a chance.

Fast forward to about four nights ago and a much more severe situation.  Around five-thirty in the morning I get a request from a neighborhood nearby.  As I’m traveling to the address given, the client calls me and I pick up.  She says: “Hello? Listen, I need you to help me.  I don’t know where I am and I need you to get me out of here.”  I tell her that I’ve got her location on GPS and I’ll be there in a couple minutes.  When I arrive in the area, I find her walking down the side of the road in a black dress with her phone flashlight on for visibility.

She gets in the car and immediately thanks me.  She explains that she had been downtown and had foolishly come back to this guy’s place.  When she arrived she discovered she was alone with he and three of his roommates, and while he had been relaxed and laid back while they were out, he had become aggressive and “creepy” when they arrived at his place.  When she politely (tactfully) tried to defuse the situation, he had put his hands around her neck and began acting more aggressively (to be clear, not violent yet, but implying that things could escalate if she wasn’t cooperative.)  Keeping her calm, she managed to talk her way out of the house by telling them that her friend was worried about her and was already on their way to get her.  Once outside, she used the Uber app to request me so that I could find her and get her home safe.  She relayed this story to me as we were driving and said things like “you probably saved my life”.  While that might be an overstatement (she was already out of the house by the time I got there,) the fact is that a taxi would never have made it to her in the five minutes it took me to get there (especially at 5:30AM in the morning.)  She believes that if she hadn’t gotten away soon, he would’ve come looking for her and it could’ve ended badly.  We stopped at McDonald’s along the way and I dropped her off at her apartment with the trip costing her somewhere around fifteen dollars.  Small price to pay for “salvation”.

Uber makes it a lot easier to be responsible.

Uber makes it a lot easier to be responsible.

The two above are specific examples, but I also want to talk about the huge number of drunken college students and downtown dwellers that might otherwise decide to try to drive if not for Uber.  I’ve heard numerous stories from people who’s friends have been killed in alcohol-related crashes and others who have had their licenses suspended.  The general consensus is that taxis often take too long, cost too much and the drivers are often rude and/or “creepy”.  In contrast Uber is “cool”, “fun”, comfortable” and usually much cheaper than their taxi counterparts.  This social standing and minimal financial impact makes a huge difference with the (often underage) college students to whom conserving image and money are their primary concerns.  At two in the morning, when the partying is either done, or ready to move to the next location, people don’t have a lot of patience, so they want something quick, easy and that doesn’t require too much thought.  Uber fits that description perfectly and that’s why despite opposition the company is growing at an exceptionally fast rate.

Why taxi cabs are scared:

Taxis are working on an antiquated dispatch system that is unreliable at best.  Larger companies like Mears Transportation have launched apps to attempt to compete, but that’s only a surface improvement.  In order to really have a chance their entire system needs a modern overhaul.  The general consensus is that taxi cabs are more expensive, far less reliable,  have lower quality and/or dirtier cars and have drivers that are either not personable, angry or (once again) “creepy.”  I think this has a lot to do with the structure.  Most cab drivers rent the car from their company.  They pay something along the lines of $100 to take the car for a twelve hour period.  That means they begin their day in the hole, having to make that money back before they begin to make money for themselves.  Then, they are pushed to maximize their twelve hours in order to make as much as possible.  This means that breaks, meals and naps are all discouraged during their on time.  I’m not sure about you, but after ten hours (or less!) sitting in a car, I’m ready for a nap, and that’s with several breaks.  It’s no wonder that a lot of cab drivers are irritable.

Realistically... this doesn't happen... (at least not involving the driver...)

Realistically… this doesn’t happen… (at least not involving the driver…)

In contrast, Uber is modern, easy and convenient for both the driver and rider.  As the driver It’s my car, so I’m inclined to keep it clean and take good care of it.  I drive when I want, for as long as I want and take breaks whenever I want to.  That means the only time you’ll see me driving is when I want to be driving.  If I don’t feel like it, I can simply shut the app off and take a walk, take a nap, or meet a friend for a meal.  Combine that with an app that allows the customer to summon me or another driver in three taps or less and you pair up happy riders with happy drivers.

Meanwhile for the rider you have an app-based, cashless system (your credit card is attached to the app.)  There is no worry about tips (you CAN tip, but as drivers we never expect it and don’t get grouchy about it… the point is to keep it all in the app) and no need to fumble for cash or a credit card.  You simply get in, get where you’re going and get out quickly and comfortably.  On top of that, in my experience Uber is about one-third to half the rate of a taxi during normal pricing.  Surge pricing can close that gap some, but it needs to be nearly three times our normal rate to match up in most cases (and if you wait twenty minutes the surge will probably reduce or go away completely.)

Orlando has only had Uber for about a year now, and it’s continuing to gain in popularity.  Feel free to drop me a line if you have any questions about riding or driving Uber.  I strongly recommend you give it a shot, and if you plug in a promo code given to you by an existing driver before your first ride, it will be free up to $20 (which can get you a long way!)  I shamelessly dropped my promo code a couple posts back, but since we’re on the subject, it is P9W5KUE.  You can use that for your first free trip and also if you’re interested in becoming a driver for some kind of kickback after so many miles.

They aren't slowing down.  At all.

They aren’t slowing down. At all.

I’m not so much concerned about any extra bonuses as I am getting more of you into using Uber though.  I really feel like it’s an ideal solution for modern transportation that is being embraced by all walks of life from the poor college student to the rich celebrities and everyone in between.  Furthermore, it builds connections between people that might otherwise not exist and enables those who otherwise wouldn’t have feasible transportation to more easily get around.  Whether the taxis like it or not, this is the future of private transportation and it’s good for everyone involved.  Their only choices are to evolve and keep up, or get left behind.

For a great and well-written article on typical Uber rides via GQ, check this out: http://www.gq.com/story/uber-cab-confessions

Thanks for reading!  

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How to: Casual Sex

My last post on relationships / cheating / communication was the most popular in the last five posts or so.  I know, you want juicy stuff as opposed to pictures of fantastic food (though I maintain that tasty food is one the great joys in this life.)  I think you’ll find that communication (and a lack thereof) remains a major theme in many of these posts as it directly affects the success of probably 90% of human social interaction.

It's tough.  He understands.

It’s tough. He understands.

Anyway, as you’ve read a few times now I’ve been single for right about eight years now (I’m literally within a week or so of the anniversary of the breakup.)  Post relationship I spent a lot of time focusing on myself and rebuilding, and then a few years later I started looking around for somebody who could be “the one”.  Well, the bad news is I haven’t found her yet.  The good news is I’ve gotten pretty good at this bachelor thing.  I’ve had a fair amount of forward movement professionally,  I’m improving my financial status daily, I’ve got some pretty strong bonds with friends of mine personally and (sometimes related) I’ve generally been pretty successful sexually (As in, women have regularly found me desirable enough to share themselves with me in that manner…)  So if I can’t have the one, this is a pretty awesome close second.

What blows my mind when I talk about this with some people is why they (or more often their “partners”) really suck at this casual sex thing.  It’s like they took something they saw in a movie and expected real life to be like that (thanks Hollywood.)  While I understand the male need to “alpha” (ugh) and the female desire to not be a “slut” (really ugh) you need to understand that those terms, and even those concepts are fucking ridiculous ideas created by insecure morons who were likely trying to manipulate you in order to keep you “in your place”.  Men must be physical, unrelenting, dominant, stupid cave men, and women must be weak, blindly dedicated, subservient nurturers.  Obviously… NO.    Now don’t get me wrong, this sort of role-play in the bedroom as playtime is all fine and well and healthy if that’s what you’re into, but as a standard of operation in the real world it’s narrow-minded and limiting for both genders.

So, whether you’re in-between serious relationships, getting a little on the side (legitimately.. or not..), indefinitely single by choice or you’re like me and are holding out for “the one”, here’s a few guideline “Dos and Do Nots” that have worked very well for me and I think are pretty universal (but is nowhere CLOSE to a complete list.)

First, DO:

Honesty at work.

Honesty at work.

1. Be Honest.  If there is one thing that will ruin a potentially good situation and make it ugly, it’s you spouting a bunch of bullshit.  It’s not “the game”.  It’s real adult life, so act like it.  Be straight up about what you want (and even how you want it…) in the beginning, even if it’s tough to let somebody who was hoping for more down.  It’s true, this might damage your chances of getting busy in the short term, but think of it as an investment.  The worst thing that happens is they respect you for being straight up with them and move on.  Sometimes though, they become friends, and sometimes that comes with benefits.  More than a few times I’ve been told I’m a good choice for that sort of thing because they know where I stand and don’t have to worry about complications.  Honesty keeps it simple.  When things are simple we can do our thing and get on with our lives.

2. Be Respectful.  This is huge.  Did you know that when somebody feels like you respect them, they are much more likely to let you see them naked?  It’s not rocket science.  This means eliminating words like “slut, whore, etc” from your dictionary as those are basically misogynistic double standards created to shame women (and albeit far less often, men.)  Newsflash: If you make people feel bad about being sexual, they are a lot less likely to be sexual with you.  This is ironic because people will often put down somebody’s sexual activity/history with others and then turn around and try to make something happen. You’re not going to make them feel okay about hooking up with you if you berate them for hooking up with others.

flirty-just-friends3. Be A Friend.  So a big part of functioning as a friend with benefits, is (wait for it) being an actual friend.  I’m not saying you need to pour your soul out to them and spend a bunch of time with them, but communicate, relate and hang out without any expectations periodically.  You’ll find some people become important to you and others stay very casual, but as long as there’s not false expectations, things stay pretty light.  When the benefits DO kick in, it depends on the person, but they might be wanting to play every time they see you anyway.  Sometimes that really IS the core of your “friendship” (gee darn.)  But the danger is in assuming.  So be cool, be a friend, keep it light, and fun.  The more fun and flirty (if accepted / appropriate) you are, the more likely at some point you’ll hit that moment when you know something is about to go down.

4. Be Patient.  If there is any one major secret to my sexual success, it is that I know when to be patient.  Often times people are not in the mindset / position to hook up (or, maybe just not hook up with you) when you first meet.  But that doesn’t mean they won’t always be. If you were honest (see step 1) and told them what you were about in regards to them, and then you were respectful (see step 2) then you will probably have some level of interaction with them on a friends basis (see step 3.)  So long as you’re not overbearing about it, if they thought of you sexually at some point in the past, odds are somewhere deep down it crosses their mind from time to time IF you’ve been fun and easy to be around.  Then if you’re lucky, they’ll let you know when they feel like acting on those thoughts.

Possibly overkill....

Possibly overkill….

5. Be Smart.  Sometimes I tell my friends stories of people I know that have literally slept with over a hundred people.  To this day they are healthy and happy and obviously know how to attract attention.  On the flip side I have personally witnessed somebody in a Frat House years ago who had been with probably five people in their life at most, hook up with three different people consecutively in a drunken rampage that didn’t appear to include protection.  That, to me, is a stupid, sad story.  (For the record, there was no visible rape involved… this person was literally seeking the people out and they were very happy to receive them…)  Point being, both sound pretty scary right?  Yes and no. There’s something to be said about numbers, as number of partners can indeed affect your chances of contracting an STI.  But the point of my example is that the first person knows what they are doing, is protected and communicates openly with their partners.  The second… not so much (obviously.)  Who’s the bigger risk for you to hook up with?  Call me traditional (see that whole friendship thing) but I kinda like to get to know my partners and even moreso communicate with them.  Does this mean I haven’t hooked up randomly at a party before…?  Well, no.  But I was protected and though I left the next morning, I left my information (which she was super surprised by), we became friends, had some great sex and her and I have hooked up a few times in between her boyfriends since then. Regardless my point is:  Learn about your potential partner by communicating with them, use protection, get tested.  It’s all fun and games until you start screwing around with somebody’s health (including your own.)

Next: DO NOT:

1. Have expectations.  This isn’t just about friends with benefits, this is about dating in general.  Numerous times have my friends told me the person they were out with made some offhanded remarks like “Oh man you’re going to be so amazing when we finally sleep together…”  What?!  I can’t even make up something that ridiculous.  Needless to say that sort of attitude is a very quick way to screw your chances (no pun intended…) and possibly damage the friendship.  Having expectations also leads to inevitable disappointment if they happen to not feel like hooking up at that point.  This can cause you act out in stupid ways and damage your chances in the future too.  So play it cool, show your interest (casually!) and don’t count on something happening the first, second or any time.  To be honest I’m not certain of the science behind it but I very often end up getting busy when I am pretty sure something won’t happen going into the evening for whatever reason.  It’s nice to be surprised!

What.. are.. you?!

What.. are.. you?!

2. Try too hard.  I’ve done it, you’ve done it, we’ve all gotten to the point where we got really really excited about a potential date/hookup/girlfriend/boyfriend/etc.  We got super nervous, put on too much smelly stuff, forced the conversation and likely drank entirely too much in the process.  Where did it get you?  Lot’s of places, but not in bed with the person you wanted.  Both genders have a sense for when the other is trying too hard, and it comes off as desperation, which in most cases is a huge turn-off.  Sometimes they may have totally planned to hook up with you, and the sort of erratic behavior that comes from nervousness and irritating passive-aggressive pushiness convinces them it might be a bad idea.  It’s good to seem interested, but keep your cool because desperation will scare most people off.    

Don't Judge. :D

Don’t Judge. 😀

3. Judge.  I’m going to be straight with you here, your opportunities for casual sexual encounters will come from all kinds of unexpected places (I mean.. they have websites for this stuff.. and no, for the record, I’ve never used Ashley Madison.)  Anyway, the point is regardless of circumstance, judging the other person for their choices will (obviously) screw up any chance you have of hooking up with them.  I’m not just talking about those fooling around on their spouse either.  You want to take the moral high ground?  That’s your business.  But otherwise people are in totally honest, open, polyamorous or even mostly monogamous relationships that might, for some reason with to include you and/or legitimately see you outside of it.  Maybe the idea of multiple people weirds you out? Well that’s fine!  But judging others about their activities outside of their involvement with you is not.  At the very least, it’s really hypocritical being that you’re trying to make yourself a part of those decisions.

4. Be Possessive.  This happens all the time, and women get the bad rap for it despite the fact then men very often get emotionally attached and fall into this trap.  “No Strings Attached” means no strings attached. (Like “no means no” with more words.)  Do not come into a situation claiming your ability to remain unattached and keep it casual and then expect it to magically change (thanks again Hollywood.)  If you begin to feel differently, you’re gonna have to talk about it.  The whole point of the benefits behind casual sex is that it’s casual.  You can get together, have a good time, maybe grab a bite to eat, and get on with your lives without having to take it with you.  It’s like going to the gym: you might be sore from it the next day, but otherwise it has no effect on your outside life other than making you feel better about things.  I realize that for some the emotional separation is difficult, and it’s easy to attach to somebody that is both a good friend and fantastic in the sack, but once you start feeling like you can tell them not to see anyone else, or go on dates, or even how often they need to see you, you’ve crossed the line from casual to trying to control them, and that’s not okay.  If you find this happening you need to talk about it, and it may be best if you downgrade to regular friendship.  If by chance you’re both wanting to take it to the next level?  That’s wonderful!  But very rare, so don’t hold your breath.

1332453942295_473877If you keep you head in the right place and your emotions in check, you can have a really great time and take care of those urges without hurting anyone.  I think that’s the best thing: when everyone knows what they want, they get it, and everyone walks away happy.  But this is only going to happen if you’re willing to be honest and communicate about your situations.

I could go on about this forever, I even considered dividing it into two posts.  But I liked how it flowed, and I felt it was related enough it warranted a long post.  Last week was the longest post yet until this one and it was very popular so perhaps you don’t mind a lot of words as long as I can keep it interesting (or maybe just sexy.)  Regardless, expect more on this, we’re just getting started.