I’m a taxi kind of guy. When I get to a new city and need to get from the airport to the hotel, I’m hard-wired to look for the taxi line and the next available yellow vehicle. But I realize that times are changing, and that sometimes, in some places where cabs might be hard to find, it’s just easier to use Uber to get from one place to another.
But Uber sparks inner conflicts for a taxi guy like me. With Uber, I don’t have the same sense that the person driving me is a trained professional who does this for a living. It’s almost as if, with cabs, the little taxi light on the roof of the cab and the cab company information on the side of the vehicle create a presumed level of competence in my mind. It’s probably silly, but when I get into the rear seat of a cab I don’t typically feel the need to fasten my seat belt — although I eventually do just to be safe — because I trust the driver to be a good driver. And cab drivers always seem to know where they are going, too.
Uber is obviously different. The outward trappings of a professional driver that you find in a cab are absent. In some of my handful of Uber trips, the drivers have promptly established their competence with their driving and their behavior, and I quickly experience that familiar cab ride feeling. With other Uber drivers . . . not so much. Recently I took an Uber ride where the young, highly tattooed driver immediately confessed that she was new to town, and she drove the whole trip with her cell phone on her knee, looking at her map app to follow the directions to get to the airport. Her car smelled like cigarette smoke that had been only partially masked by air freshener, and she talked non-stop for the entire drive. Even worse, when she asked why I was in town and found out I was a lawyer, I got an earful of her family’s ongoing legal problems. When I got to the airport — admittedly without any driving mishap — it was a relief.
The experience made me appreciate that cabs are typically clean and smoke free, and most cab drivers just drive without trying to engage you in conversation. I suppose there are some riders who want the driver to be talkative, but for those of us who want the silent treatment, Uber should add an “Uber silent” option when ordering a ride.