Uber

Uber Tales: The Downtown Alpha Male (Douchebag)

This is a totally true, cautionary tale for you ladies that frequent the downtown nightlife.

So I’ve been meaning to write on the different levels in which the vast majority of stupid, misogenistically-programmed men ruin it it for the rest of the halfway decent heterosexual males out there and I had a few ideas, but around a week ago I was given a prime example that not only prompted a bit of introspection, but left me with a few questions.

Around midnight or so I received an Uber request at a nightclub in Orlando called “Gilt”.  This particular club was formerly known as “Roxy” and is one of the few major nightclubs that is not located in or around the downtown area of Orlando.  (At least the only one that’s not an actual strip club.)  It turns out I was passing nearby after another drop-off so I literally pull in to the parking lot within a minute of the ride request and pull to the side to await my riders.  The club was not closed yet, so I expected it would be easy to spot the people waiting for their ride.  I observe the valet and security staff talking to a couple of guys in the parking lot in front of me when one of the security guys points at me, prompting the two guys to turn around and head for my car – easy enough.  The men – let’s call them Bob and Steve – confirm I’m their driver, exchange some pleasantries, and Bob gets in the front while Steve gets in the back.  They ask me to head downtown towards Wall street.  I know it well and we’re on our way.

Close Enough.

Close Enough.

Bob and Steve are well dressed, well groomed, relatively attractive men in their late twenties to early thirties.  Bob is especially muscular and probably spends an above-average time in the gym, whereas Steve is not as obviously “swole” but still defined and in shape.  It becomes obvious very quickly that Bob is an alpha – type A, outgoing, attention seeking and a strong personality while Steve is a / his follower (though not necessarily “weak” but less controlling in the dynamic of their friendship.)  Steve is very likely also a strong personality among other groups that he runs with, but Bob is clearly running the show this night.

There’s a lot of typical talk about the club we came from and it quickly becomes apparent that these two are the all too common (read: shitty) men who by their discussion see women as objects meant solely for their pleasure.  Apparently the crowd at Gilt that night had not impressed them and they were ready to use the remaining ninety minutes downtown to salvage the night.  The highlight of this enlightened exchange is when the two start to go back and fourth regarding STDs (Sexually Transmitted Diseases.)  Up until this point I had mostly tuned them out, but this particular section of their discussion was especially disturbing:

Bob: “The only STD I’m really concerned about getting is HIV you know?  Obviously that’s the one nobody wants to get..”

Me: “I don’t know man… I mean that’s the worst, but any of them would suck and once you get Herpes there’s no cure for that either…”

Steve: “Yeah I was going to say you don’t want to end up with Herpes man… and a lot of people have that!  You know, that’s just people who get cold sores and shit.”

Bob: “Oh I’m not worried about herpes, who cares about that?  I’ve probably already got it anyway.”

Steve: “Dude you would know if you had it.”

Bob: “I know that, I figure if I’ve had open sores for a few days that probably means I have it.”

Me: ……….

Bob: “That’s just what happens when you fuck these bitches downtown without a condom… that shit just happens man.  But as long as it’s not HIV you’re not going to die or anything, so fuck it.”

Steve: “Yeah man, you should try to use a condom downtown.”

For the love of god downtown folk... please?

For the love of god downtown folk… please?

**Note: If I need to elaborate on the many, many things wrong with this dialog, it’s probably too late for you.  What kills me though, is that this is not atypical for the kind of guys that frequent clubs downtown (I also realize there’s SOME good ones)… and it works… you ladies actually go for these guys or whatever persona they show you… mind blowing… regardless let me continue. 

What followed was more or less them continuing to talk about the “action” downtown.  Bob asked me how it looked down there that night and I responded that it was busy, but only average for the night, not overly packed.  Then came the more interesting part:

Bob: I bet you see all kinds of action in here man!  How often do you get blowjobs from the bitches you pick up?

Me: Actually I’ve heard those stories and I’ve seen some things, but never anything like that. Drivers try to avoid touching their riders in general… you know, liability and such.  Besides, even if I had a rider that wanted to do something like that, think about the liability involved there.  What if later on they decide they were drunk, regret it and decide to tell Uber they were harassed?  Then, at the very least, this is no longer an option for making money.

Bob: Oh yeah man, you can’t trust drunk bitches… but what if they want you to come party?

Me: I’ve been invited along a few times, but honestly by that point, they’re pretty much done for the night anyway and I still need to work, so I haven’t taken anyone up on that yet.  If I wanted to do something like that, I’d pretty much have to be done for the night so nothing that happened would have anything to do with Uber.

Bob: Tell you what, why don’t you park the car downtown and come out with us.

Me: I can’t man, I have to work.  (And.. you’re essentially the LAST guy I would care to hang out with..)

Bob: How much you think you’ll make tonight?

Me: Probably around $200?

Bob: I got two bills right here for you.  Come out, relax, I’ll buy drinks, then we’ll find some bitches at the club, go back to my place in 55 West and at the very least you’ll get your dick sucked.

Me:  You’re serious? ( I should’ve given a higher number…)

Bob:  Yeah man I got you, let’s have some fun.

What's the worst that could happen...?

What’s the worst that could happen…?

From that point on I more or less avoided the question, and Steve regurgitated some of what Bob had said.  When we finally reached the downtown area I pulled up to the corner of Orange Ave where they close it off to traffic.  As I ended the fare, Bob was disappointed that I wasn’t going to go with them and the condescension was pretty obvious.

But as I drove off to gather my next fare I wondered if I had made a bad decision.  Obviously, I had no intention of making decisions as bad as Bob and Steve undoubtably did, but at the same time I had passed up a story… and adventure… and honestly more money than I would make that night.  Had I kept things on my terms and gone along with them, it might’ve been fun and maybe I would’ve met somebody worthwhile downtown.  If things had gone south, it would’ve been a simple matter to break off and head home (possibly even via Uber had I been too drunk to drive myself.)  Part of me wondered at what point did I lose my sense of adventure, of new things and new experiences?

I resolved that I didn’t know those men beyond that things they said that were nearly the opposite of how I view things.  To be associated with them, and somewhat inebriated at the mercy of them downtown and especially at his place did not seem like a great idea.  There was more potential for discomfort and possible disaster than there was anything promising and deep down I knew that.

Admittedly, it’s possible over the last year or so I’ve become a bit more introverted.  We all grow and change and though I did have a great time at an EDM club in Seattle earlier this year, for the most part my days of weekly clubbing are long past me.  It’s on my mind though… the fear of leading a boring life and not being open to new experiences.  Frankly, at this point I don’t have the resources for such things anyway, but when I do, I’ll have to pay a bit more attention to finding my groove again… without any assistance from the Alpha Douchebag.

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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!  

Freedom and the In-Between

“How did you expect it to feel?  You are free, and that can be lonely, and empty, and frightening… but it is also powerful.”

It’s been a while.

I did say I would return, but I’m betting some of you might’ve given up on me.  Regardless, as you can imagine, much has happened over the last nine weeks or so, and much will likely happen over the following weeks.  It is all too much to write here, in a single post, but I will attempt to recap a bit.

“Freelance”

The biggest change, and what has kept me from this and my beloved FFXIV ARR (Which I’ve been able to get back to some as well…) is that I left my position as a full time Executive Assistant.  I left on good terms and am technically still a freelance member of the team, but after the most recent show in early May, any requests for my assistance have been quiet.  This suited me fine as I had been feeling trapped and was longing for a level of freedom that I truthfully hadn’t had in some six years.

Pretty and crazy... Miami reminds me of some people I know.

Pretty and crazy… Miami reminds me of some people I know.

For a few days I allowed myself to simply stop and work on things around the house.  My stress level dropped to near nothing, I did chores, clean-up and sleeping whatever hours I wanted to.  However, I had ground rules for myself that included a legitimate job search via Indeed and LinkedIn, reaching out to whatever contacts I had and keeping my eyes open for whatever opportunities I could.  Though it has only been about a year since my last job search, as the days passed it sunk in that finding a new, promising position is not easy.  My freedom would cost me.  I was fortunate in that I had been saving for some time in order to make the trip to Japan this year, but even as I found ways to stay afloat while I sought my next opportunity, it became increasingly apparent that my trip would be delayed.

Only recently, some 8-9 weeks and many, many resumes and cover letters later did I have two promising initial interviews.  The catch is that both of them required that I relocate: one to Naples, FL and the other to Miami.  Though still in Florida, they were far enough away (in different places) to be a complete change of situation, lifestyle and routine.  Each also had their own unique benefits and potential, but even after making the trip to Miami and meeting with a two-hour gauntlet of executives, they didn’t pan out.  And so the search continues…

Uber

What has kept me afloat during this not-so-free time (along with my quickly dwindling Japan savings) is a “rideshare” aka personal taxi service called Uber.  I won’t go into heavy details about how it works because you can easily google that.  Essentially Uber makes your own personal vehicle into something similar (but better) than a taxi.  You pass a pretty thorough background/driver/VIN number check, fill out some forms and in just over a week or so you are ready to take riders.  I’ve been doing this relatively full-time and though the money is decent, it’s not something I would make a career of (watching my car mileage climb this quickly is a bit bothersome.)  That said, ninety percent of the people who get in my car are pretty great people.  I’ve got some great stories (some of which I will recount in future posts) and I’ve met one or two exceptional people that may or may not permeate outside the realm of the Uber tales.  My friends often tell me I’ve done everything, well this is another thing I’ve done to add to this list.  If I feel so inclined I might share the stories of the recent semi-orgy a group of six (not counting me… I only got to drive and witness) had in my car, or the adorable nurse that continuously apologized for her hiccups, or maybe the fifty-something drunk man that was petting me and calling me his best friend…  Or maybe I’ll tell you something newer.

Other than mine being silver, that is my car.

Other than mine being silver, that is my car.

In the meantime, shameless plug:  If you’ve never used Uber before and want to give it a shot, download the app and in the promo code enter: P9W5KUE.  It will give you your first ride (up to $20 – only if you’ve never used Uber before) free, but the driver still gets paid.  Likewise if you’re considering driving for Uber use that as a referral code and you get a bonus after so many trips (as do I!)

Regardless, stay tuned, I have lots of material.

Ramadan

As of this writing, I am two days away from the halfway mark of this year’s Ramadan.  To answer your immediate questions: No, I’m not Muslim. -and- Yes, it means that from first light to sundown every day I do not eat anything, drink anything or partake in any.. debaucherous activity.  Thoughts are supposed to remain clean and peaceful too.. (fortunately that’s more of a guideline or I’ve failed consistently every year.)  For more back story as to why I participate in Ramadan, I invite you to visit the blog a few of us used to contribute to during this time: https://alegriabalancocascata.wordpress.com/

I haven’t written there this year, but if you start from the beginning (The most recent post shows in the front page, I suggest you navigate to the first post in the archives) you’ll get a good indication of the “why”.  Naturally you’re welcome to ask me questions here as well.  Rather than post to that site, I will likely write about notable aspects here and either reblog or re-post them there if I feel the need.

This looks good anyway... imagine it after sixteen hours!

This looks good anyway… imagine it after sixteen hours!

This year is interesting as I’m primarily nocturnal while driving for Uber.  At first thought one would think that Ramadan fasting would be easy because of this.  However, while I do believe I am having an easier time than my good friend Leslie (in Japan) as a result of my schedule, the very short hours of night time compared to the very long days of Summer mean that at least 50% of my awake time is during the fast if not more.  Comparatively speaking though, she has a tough teaching schedule all day that requires a great deal of focus and awareness, two things that are easily compromised by prolonged fasting.  I can’t complain in comparison to that!

But with that said, for me, a major realization this year is that sleeping the second half of your fast makes waking up, and getting out of bed much more difficult.  Keep in mind the fasting hours now are between fifteen and sixteen hours (literally the longest days of the year,) so though people normally fast for (hopefully) eight hours or so by sleeping,  I’m waking after roughly double that having had nothing.  Think extreme lethargy and zero motivation.  Then remember that as time goes on, the effect amplifies through the wear on your body.  Suffice to say much coffee was had after breaking the fast at sundown.  The other aspect I didn’t think about is when I stay up all night for work, start my fast, and continue to operate into the day as I am today.  The effects of fasting + all-nighter hours are a bit rough to say the least.  But then a large part of this is the learning experience, and I am learning a lot.  More on this and the second half of Ramadan later.

What’s Next

Like clockwork, Martial Arts University is right in the middle of Ramadan this year (aka Tomorrow.)  For those of you that don’t know, I have been involved in Martial Arts for nearly a decade now (with some breaks here and there.)  MAU (for short) is a five day long testing / seminar series that takes place at a camp in Greensboro, NC.  I spent many years serving as the assistant to the Grandmaster who presides of this event, and I’ve been asked to attend by a specific master that I look up to and owe on some levels.  Since I will be traveling, I will break my fast while I am gone and make up the days at a later date by feeding the less fortunate of fasting extra days after the Eid holiday that ends Ramadan.

Like a bos... err.. black belt.

Like a bos… err.. black belt.

When I return from MAU it will be back to Uber and back to finding the next step.  So the interviews didn’t work out, that just means I keep looking for the next ones.  I am fortunate enough to have had savings and a support structure that allows me to supplement with something like Uber and not be forced to sacrifice the quality of life that I’m used to. I have also been getting better and better at managing my time with a very irregular schedule.  That means it’s not going to be several months before the next post.  So in order to keep this at a readable length I’ll draw the line here.  There are many more adventures and “wisdom” to come.

PS:  I took a look at my readership and was pleasantly surprised to see it’s not only been consistent, but has even spiked more than a few times in my absence.  Good to know my writing has some staying power! THANK YOU to all my readers… I don’t know what you’re getting from my rants, but I appreciate the time you spend here regardless!