I touched down in Atlanta this morning and had to find a way to get across town — way across. Here’s a travel riddle for you: There are 25 miles between an airport and a gig and getting a lift from a pal is not an option. What do you do? Do you rent a car? Take a taxi? A shuttle service? A limo service, hm? Nope, in 2016, you order an Uber.
Uber is a company that has created the perfect way to order a taxi. You tap a button on your smartphone that pings where you are, then you tap out where you want to go. You hit, “Request Uber” and a bubble pops up that tells you exactly how long it will be before your taxi picks you up (usually it’s two to four minutes.) You can watch on the map where your car is in real time. Your ride arrives to your exact spot on the globe, you verify each other by name — riders should check the license plate numbers, too — and you’re on your way. Oh, and there’s no cash; the Uber app keeps your credit/debit card number and the ride is charged after you get out of the car. I love this service.
You can order a regular taxi, a fancy black SUV — maybe even a limo — or you can order an UberX. UberX cars are driven by anyone with a car and the ability to meet Uber’s strict requirements for signing on as a driver. When you order an UberX, you don’t get an actual taxi: you’re getting picked up in Dan’s Ford Taurus, say, or Shonna’s Toyota Camry. UberX is cheaper than a taxi and way cheaper than a limo. Here’s the solution to the riddle: a “real” taxi to the convention center today would’ve cost me $100; shuttle service, $80. An UberX ride? Thirty-six bucks. I placed my order.
As my driver drove up, I waved. He stopped the car and got out and I was about to say, “Hey, I’m your Uber” when Glenn — his name was Glenn — who was already helping me with his suitcase, said under his breath, “We work together. Don’t get in the backseat, get in the front.”
This was unusual. As in Sketch Town, USA unusual. And hey, man. I’m from Chicago. You can’t hustle me. “Woah, woah,” I said, putting my hand on Glenn’s arm so he couldn’t get my suitcase further into his trunk. “What is this? I’m looking for my Uber.” Glenn said, just moving one corner of his mouth, that UberX cars weren’t allowed to pick up at the airport and the cops were looking at him.
Great. Thirty minutes in Georgia and I’m breaking laws. But I rolled the dice; I got in. Most of the time in life, you’re not going to get kidnapped and tossed in the Chattahooche. Besides, I needed to get to work.
On the way over, Glenn asked me if it would be okay if he stopped to pee (he said “pee”) and get fuel. Sure, Glenn. Besides being repelled by his hacking cough there in the front seat, I actually enjoyed the ride. We got to talking; Glenn was a world-traveler. He’d been to Kuwait, Somalia, Afghanistan, many others. I just asked him about his big trips while I was on this small one.