Conversations with Uber Drivers

In Features, Latest News by Anna Carlson

Jabari rolled up to Salt & Straw on 1670 India St. in a white Toyota Prius NEW CAR. At first glance, I noticed Jabari’s tired eyes and subdued smile. As I climbed into the Prius, I expected a boring and short trip back to Loma. Instead, I got Jabari’s life story.

When selecting Jabari for my chauffeur that night, I scanned Jabari’s past reviews to get a sense of who was driving me. Past riders praised Jabari’s “great music taste and clean car.” So for the course of the ride, I listened to Jason Derulo and Miley Cyrus’ top hits. Midway through the car ride during Miley Cyrus’ “We Can’t Stop,” I noticed Jabari eyeing me in the back seat, following him turning down the volume and launching into his personal monologue.

He immigrated to America with his family during high school and swears that by 25 he will no longer be an Uber driver. Jabari marvels at American customs but acknowledges that in his eyes he will never be, “truly American.” He also encouraged me to share my dreams with him.

“Strangers find it easier to impart personal information because there’s no strings attached,” says Allison Landis, a senior psychology major. “That’s probably why he told you all that.”

Throughout the car ride, Jabari possessed a debilitating need for conversation and connection, confirming that Uber drivers are people too. Jabari spends most of his days conversing with college students, which he loves. He believes that college students are dreamers like him.

According to Business of Apps, nearly “15 million Uber trips are completed [each] day” and 37% of daily riders in the US are ages 16-24.

For PLNU students, the Uber franchise is no stranger, since Uber lends itself as perfect transit for quick trips, ordering in, or going home for a weekend.

Specifically for PLNU freshman pressed with the no car epidemic, Uber’s services fill a gap.

Tommy Anderson, a freshman graphic design major, tells of one of the Uber drivers he has encountered. “My Uber driver used to be an amazing racquetball player so rich people would fly him across the country to play them. This one dude in Georgia flew my driver out to play him in this fancy gym that he built for his daughter. The other day my driver picked up this gymnastics coach from the San Diego Airport and she realized that her dad played him in racquetball 40 years before.”

For Uber drivers, transportation isn’t only their job, it is also their mode of communication, a chance for them to be heard and listened to. For me, at least, I enjoy finding friends in unlikely places. I also enjoy good conversation, so I gave Jabari a five-star rating for driving, music and vulnerability.

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