A Painful UberX Lesson Learned

Posted on December 9, 2015 by - Also by this author

It’s time to eat a slice of humble pie. Some of you may recall my first experimental UberX ride a few weeks back, taken under duress, which I wrote about in a complimentary fashion because it actually went well, no different than an efficient taxicab ride.

Nothing wrong with trying something once, especially since vast numbers of operators have used Uber to sample it for themselves, and a minority percentage group either has done or still does business with the controversial transportation network company.

But there’s a painful sequel to my first UberX ride: Another ride. Like the first, I had a similar set of circumstances: This time, I needed my car AAA-towed to the repair shop because it kept lurching and then literally broke down two miles from the shop because of a burned out, smoking alternator. After the tow truck dropped me and my car off at the shop, I then walked in a very bad mood to a bus stop one mile away.

Feeling guilty about my first UberX ride, I thought I’d wait for the bus. Once again, the public transit bus did not show up. A woman who had been waiting on the bench at the stop shook her head, as she kept craning her neck out to see when the bus would be coming up the travel lane.

Now, in an even worse mood, I got impatient (again) in heading back to work, hit the Uber app, and a compact VW Jetta showed up within eight minutes in the same Jack-In-The-Box parking lot where I had been picked up before. I climbed into the dirt-stained back seat.

The driver, let’s just say, looked a bit dicey with his hand tattoos, talking in that clichéd, annoying SoCal “dudespeak” lingo. He was playing some funk/R&B music while holding up his smartphone trying to figure out the route to take me back to work. He reminded me of one of those 35-plus single guys who never grow up.

As the driver pulled out of the parking lot to turn left toward a major intersection, he did not look both ways. “Whoa, whoa,” I said, as I saw a car heading toward us at about 30-35 mph. My UberX driver darted out of the way just in time, avoiding a broadside accident, as the oncoming motorist honked and hit the brakes.

Could you imagine the tabloidy headlines on this one? “LCT Editor Injured In UberX Accident.” “Told You So: UberHeX On LCT Editor.” I would have never lived that one down. I dodged one of the biggest bullets of my life.

For the rest of the ride, the freak-headed driver chatted about recent traffic hassles and actually complained about other drivers he's outmaneuvered on the road. He mentioned he had been working at UberX for all of two weeks. I had to give him directions back to LCT offices, and was thankful I arrived uninjured. Being too nice of a guy, I gave him two stars instead of one. (I never got a follow up email from Uber about the two stars. I guess they only do that for one star).

My first UberX driver got five stars, which proves my point: UberX is a flaming crapshoot. Even if you get decent rides, you’ll soon enough land a strange one. Maybe this had to happen so I could confidently reaffirm what is apparent in the growing number of media stories about Uber-related safety problems: Uber X is a dingy, cheapskate motoring equivalent of a claptrap, Third World rickshaw service that rips off its drivers, fails to screen out criminals and lunatics, and makes hitchhiking look safer. I hope the chauffeured ride apps all fist bump its compact, candy-ass off the GPS map.

Well, at least I can admit my mistakes. Next time I need an app ride, I’ll pay about 3x the UberX rate and use iCars, Blacklane, or Asteride, or any other app that comes along that uses insured large luxury vehicles and qualified, vetted, background-checked chauffeurs or drivers.

Permission spurned, lesson learned, forgiveness earned.

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