“Mom, call me when you get there.” The daughter
screams as she sprints down the long driveway.
“What happened?” I ask.
“I was taking on old aquarium out to the trash. The glass
“Dizzy,” she says, “but I always get dizzy at the sight
broke. Somehow, it sliced my wrist. Blood was spurting out
“That’s not good.” I say. “How long ago?”
“About 20 minutes.”
“Otherwise, how do you feel?” I’m pretending to do triage.
She smiles through the obvious pain. We’re out on East
“What do you do when you’re not slitting your
wrist?” I ask.
Slowly the joke registers and she smiles. A breakthrough.
The pickup was on Magnolia in Larkspur at 9 a.m. Friday.
She starts to relax — and breathe. “I’m a massage therapist and
an assistant to a chiropractor,” she says. “ You’ll have to come in
for a massage. It’s on me. I have a studio in our house.”
“I’ll do that,” I say, deadpanning, “Just one of the many
perks of being an Uber driver.”
What a gig. Thirty minutes ago I was casually watching
a softball game. Now I’m an ambulance driver racing to the
hospital with somebody’s life at stake.
“What do you do?” I ask.
“I own restaurants around the Bay Area,” Sam says from
“I understand Yelp ratings are key for restaurants? How
do you feel about ratings?” I ask.
“We live and die by the ratings, but they’re highly imper-
fect. Some people are chronic complainers,” he says.
“And some people give you low ratings because of something completely unrelated to what you did. I remember
getting a low rating from a woman just because her boyfriend just ditched her. I happened to be the target for her
misdirected anger. How are your restaurants doing on
Yelp?” I ask.
“Some are 4 on Yelp and they’re doing really well. Some
others are 3. 5 and they’re struggling. It makes the system
unfair because there are different standards applied.”
“You’re right about different people applying different
standards,” I say. “On Uber a four rating is a failing grade, yet
on Yelp it’s great. I wonder how many passengers give drivers
a 4 rating and do it using the standards of Yelp.”
“Lots,” he answers, as my GPS announces, “You have
arrived at your destination.”
I rate Sam five stars. I can only hope he reciprocates. m
ABOUT THE AUTHOR John F. Ince is a former
Fortune reporter, author, filmmaker and video producer living in Mill Valley. In the last two years, he’s
given more than 1,000 rides driving part-time for
Uber and Lyft, while working on a book about the
experience. This article has been adapted from that
book, Travels With Vanessa: An Uber and Lyft Driver
Tries to Make Sense of It All.