Utilities Commission laws to give a ride to a teen unless an
adult is present. I have no idea what the legal ramifications
are if something bad does happen, but I have to believe Uber
and Lyft have intentionally been lax about education and
enforcement. It’s just business. Why turn away paying customers if you don’t have to? Meanwhile, the driver is caught
in an awkward situation.
Despite it being against Uber’s terms of service, I’ve yet
to refuse a ride to a teen, nor have I even mentioned having
given one. Why? Simple practicality. Most of my pickups
in Marin involve some travel time just to get there — frequently more than 15 minutes. If you get there, discover
the PAX (passenger) is underage and refuse to give a ride,
you’ve just wasted your time — and the potential passenger’s. Also, there’s this thing about the tyranny of ratings.
After that ride, you’re at the mercy of the passenger ratings.
It doesn’t take much to set some people off. If a teen thinks
you’re dissing him and gives you a one- or two-star rating, it
can take a long time to recover. To maintain my 4. 8 rating,
I need four fives for every four-star rating I get. A one star
rating is devastating for a driver — it takes a long time to
recover from that.
The most compelling reason I drive teens is that by and
large, they’re a delight. They’re honest, mostly respectful,
and full of great gab. I’m like a sponge up there in the driver’s
seat — soaking it all up. The experience gives you a peek into
their lives that even their parents don’t have. Some of what
I’ve learned is revealing. I’ve had teens so drunk their friends
had to stuff them in the backseat. Another teen needed a ride
to and from a parked car two miles away to pick up his pot
stash. Occasionally you get a hothead. Three guys didn’t like
my music selections and ordered me to “just put on the radio.”
I can smell attitude when I hear it, so I demurred. Things
quickly got tense. “Do I get a say in this matter?” I ask. “Since
this is my car?” There followed a long silence until we reached
their home in Tiburon. As they got out, they started banging
on my car. One guy opened the back hatch and slammed it
shut. He got a one-star rating (passengers get rated, just like
drivers). I suspect I got the same.
Monday evening and the sun has just ducked behind Mount
Tamalpais in the west. I’m hanging out at the Town Park in
Corte Madera as I watch a softball game, while I wait for my
next Uber request. The ping comes from Jake and I start
walking toward my car when the phone rings. “We’ve got
an emergency. My friend’s mother in Mill Valley has just
cut her wrist and she needs to get to the hospital — right
away,” Jake says.
“I’m on it.” The adrenaline kicks in. “Looks like I’m about
“Which hospital?” I ask.
12 minutes away from her. I’ll be there — pronto.”
I race to my car, fire up the Brown Bullet (my trusty 2002
Volvo V70 XC AWD with 250,000 miles) and screech to a
halt at the light. I speed down Tamalpais Avenue toward
101. Traffic is light so I make good time. When I arrive a
woman comes sprinting down the driveway, holding her
right arm up high. It’s soaking red, wrapped in a makeshift
tourniquet. She’s out of breath. Trailing behind is her daugh-
ter, who is freaking out.
“Kaiser in Terra Linda.”