Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Uber v. Taxis

Here is a good one brought to you by the Onion, via Will. Thanks, Will.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Has Uber Peaked?

The employees of Uber that I've driven ask this question from time to time: Has Uber Peaked? In the digital world of bubbles, booms and busts there is always this kind of speculation. With Uber moving into a major office space in Oakland this is more than just an academic question. Many people's lives will be impacted in my neighborhood (there are 3 Uber drivers on my block and another one around the corner).

Here is the article (thanks to Dan for sending it my way):

Has Uber Peaked?

In other Uber news, the company is in a European war. France has arrested Uber execs and threatened them with 2 years in jail. London wants to make Uber riders wait 5 minutes before getting their hailed car. What is next, Italy nationalizing Uber?

Here is the Quartz article:

Uber Troubles

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Uber Awkward

It has finally happened. Tonight I gave one of my students a ride. Her name was Olive and a more graceful, gracious customer does not exist in the East Bay. (If you've read this blog you know I'm a teacher and might be able to imagine what it is like to have the tables turned by a student becoming an employer.)

The ride was awkward from the driver's seat but Olive did her best to put me at ease. Being September, it is early enough in the school year that I won't recognize all of my students but late enough in the year that I should know most of them. So when Olive got in I knew she was a student but didn't recognize her. Immediately I began to panic hoping beyond hope that she wasn't currently in my class. Turns out she isn't in my class and thankfully didn't give me grief for not knowing her from around school. She also helped keep the conversation on neutral topics so that I avoided explaining too much about why I was driving for Uber. I wanted to avoid that topic because whenever the issue of low teacher pay comes up I sound whiny. Olive helped me avoid whiny.

However the trip was still strange because I was being paid by one of my students to drive her home. The experience was a painful reminder of how little social standing teachers actually earn in our society. The media often refer to teachers as though they are a respected part of the middle class. However, with the current state of teacher pay, this traditional "respected" or "middle class" designation no longer applies. As a teacher, I may not be poor but it is ridiculous to say that I'm part of the middle class.  After all, I just charged Olive's father $16.53 to drive her home on a Saturday night (and was disappointed I didn't get a tip). If I were middle class, I would have driven as a favor not for a fee.

Having two work worlds collide is a common occurrence for teachers. I don't know a teacher who doesn't have a second income. Uber driving, gardening, tutoring, pet sitting, the list goes on and on. (The teachers who don't have a second job often have second incomes through their spouse or inheritance.) With two or more jobs, educators play multiple social roles that often have conflicting images and expectations. This puts strains on teachers and impacts their students in important ways. (But don't trust me, check out The Teacher Salary Project for more on this topic.)

Tonight it was fun driving Olive home but I'd be lying if I said I wanted to do it again. Having said that, I know I'm bound to drive a student in the future and only hope that next time it won't be so awkward.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Who Drives Your Cab?

Teachers are taking over the taxi business.

Check out this teacher who drives for Lyft.

Thank you, Teacher Salary Project, for making this film.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

3 Uber Stories From The Civic

Three short stories in one big city. September 5th, 2015:

8:40 pm - 2389 Mission St., S.F. Waiting for me is a muscular white guy, named Maury. If he were on T.V. he’d be cast as a rugby player. His 3-person party eventually pours into my car. It is clear that Maury is the most sober. I’m thinking it’s a bit too early for this amount of drunkenness. A guy in the back seat is thinking he needs a hook-up and holds up a text with an address slurring, “Let’s go here - there are THREE girls.” Maury wisely vetoed the plan and gave me an address in the low rent district of Berkeley. Maury is not actually a rugby player but rather a transplanted history professor from Florida. He did his doctoral work on the “creation of whiteness” as a social concept in America. He points out that teaching as a profession has been disrupted by the Internet because now everyone can get information without the help of teachers or professors. Disruption, he claims, is responsible for educators having to struggle to stay in the middle class. Suddenly the sleeping drunk in back wakes up and asks, “Can we stop right here ... right now?” Naturally I think, “PUKE!” There are a few tense moments while we determine that drunk friend doesn’t want to vomit, he only wants cigarettes. Further inspection reveals some in his pocket. Catastrophe averted, the three amigos get home without incident.

"I Love Oakland!"

10:05 pm - Customer pick-up, in Piedmont. Last time I picked up in Piedmont it was one of my students and I was humbled by the experience. This time, waiting for me is a very talkative Asian woman on her way home from her job as a live-in nanny (I never get an answer as to why I’m driving her from her live-in employment to her home - which is in a very expensive part of the city). Driving her home was a wonderful ride through the winding, tree-lined streets of the Oakland hills. We talked of caring for children and her dreams of becoming a nurse. “Nursing is a good choice,” I tell her. “It can be a real middle class career.” Until the Internet "disrupts."

10:40 - As soon as I drop off the au pair I get a customer call in the Oakland hills. Dodging a doe and her fawn (Yes, Bambi is Oaklandish!) I arrive at yet another mansion. Jay, a tall, skinny, African-American man greets me explaining that his sister and friend will join us shortly. It’s his sister’s birthday. Apparently they have been out wine tasting all day and need an extra minute to get ready. I’m thinking, “These ladies are going to be D-R-U-N-K! Hope they don’t P-U-K-E.” When we finally hit the road, everyone is sober, friendly and fun. Jay and I chat in the front seat about his successful, national law practice while the women do some pre-club strategizing in the back.  

There they are: three Uber stories from my Civic. Not sure there is a theme or moral binding these stories together. At first I wanted to say they all lack any hint of stereotypes which is what I experience every day that I Uber in Oakland - a decided lack of stereotypical encounters.
*Update: As I was writing this post, Maury showed up in my Facebook newsfeed. Now he is in this post and I’m feeling somewhat sorry for his lack of anonymity. I really want to defend him because he gave me a $12 tip but I don’t think I can.  If you read the story about Maury you might find that like most news on the Internet, the story about this professor leaves you wanting more information (like, “what the hell was he thinking?").

Friday, September 4, 2015

Lots of Love for Lopez

This post is about the Uber competitor - Lyft. But I say, "Check, check ... check it out!"

You may ask, "What, what...whats it all about?"*

George Lopez is trying to raise money for the LA school system. By doing so he is raising awareness of the fact that taxpayers are unwilling to pay for other children's education. If you've been reading this blog you'll know he won't make much money but awareness is good because the situation is dire. Entire school systems are being run on donations. (In my school district, donations account for a huge percentage of the district budget.) Go George, Go!

*If you were born before 1967 or after 1982 you might need this to get the "Check, check..check it out!" reference.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Thursday On The Dark Side

Thursday night was Uber night. Most of it was spent on the Contra Costa side of the Caldecott tunnel. In Oakland we call this the Dark Side.

7:00 Update the Uber app. Back at work.

7:15 Oakland to Walnut Creek $29.30.
Terry was a gentleman's gentleman. Second tip as a driver and really didn't deserve it because I took a wrong turn. Thanks, Terry. Faith in humanity restored.

7:58 Walnut Creek to Alamo $10.69.
Customer wanted me to a) take him to a bank, b) watch over him as he deposited a check (with the meter running), and c) let him walk into the sunset (destination unknown). I wonder if I could charge him for bodyguard services.

8:07 Lafayette to Lafayette $7.66.
Pickup was down a street with no lights in a rural (not suburban) neighborhood. If this had been anywhere but Lafayette it would have been CREEPY.

8:30 Lafayette to SFO $53.62. 
I made the trip so quickly the customer was almost upset that he got to the airport so early. (Yes, I am that good.) I was almost upset that it took me an hour to get home. If it weren't for Spotify I would have been h-e-a-t-e-d.

10:00 Home at last.

Thursday Night by the Numbers
Hours Worked - 3
Miles Driven - 94
Gas Consumed - about 5 gallons ($15)
Uber fees - $7 + $18.85 = $25.85
Pay - $65.42 (net),  $21.80 per hour

After 2 weeks of the Civic being in the shop, tonight was the first night of driving in a long time. Not a bad showing, either.