The Law of the Concrete Jungle: A Revealing Interview with an NYC Uber Driver

For New Yorkers, Uber has quickly become a ubiquitous mode of transportation. It's fast, easy, and often less expensive than standard yellow cabs. 

It's simply a much more streamlined process for riders, and New Yorkers are constantly looking for convenience.

But despite Uber's strong presence in The Big Apple, there's still a lot we don't know about the organization, or the drivers themselves. 

What is being an uber driver actually like? What's the craziest thing they've ever seen/overheard/experienced during a trip?

I wanted to find out. 

So, I decided to hop in an Uber and strike up a conversation with my driver, hoping to gain some juicy tidbits of info. 

I was feeling super Lois Lane and badass about the whole thing as I ordered a car and stepped out into a chilly evening on 7th Avenue to await its arrival.

Unfortunately, this optimism didn't last long. My driver, though he agreed to answer some questions in the name of journalism, didn't offer up much information. 


When I asked if he had any passenger stories that stood out to him, he simply said, "No." 

I then asked if riders could do anything to make his job easier, to which he replied, "To be honest, I don't really care about the rider." 

We finished off our rousing conversation with him telling me that he would not recommend driving for Uber, and that it's just something he's doing until he finds something better.

To get one thing straight, this driver wasn't at all rude or aggressive at all. He simply didn't have much to say; he's just a quiet guy who's doing his best to pay his bills. Which is something I can definitely understand. 

Regardless, it was still a fail of an interview. So, I scrapped my original plan and decided to ask around, hoping that someone in my circle of friends knew someone who drove an Uber.

Luckily, a friend of a friend was able to hook me up. The driver wishes to remain anonymous, but he was willing to share some insights with me regarding his experiences driving Ubers part time in New Jersey and NYC.

Ever wonder what you can do as a rider to make the experience better for everyone? The answer is pretty obvious (one would think): just be nice. 

Our driver says, "Realize that you are in the driver's personal vehicle. Be polite and courteous and don't leave garbage in the car."

Seems easy enough.

There are also ways to make the trip more efficient and enjoyable for you as a rider:

"If you get a chatty driver and you don't want to chat, say something. I personally will not speak unless spoken to. I have people who love to talk and people who don't or are working in the back seat. And I see a lot of tops of heads of kids who have their face buried in their phone."

Have you ever been in an Uber and been supremely frustrated with the route that the driver has chosen? I certainly have. It once took me an hour-and-a-half to get from Bushwick to Midtown, and this was not during rush hour. 

And while the scenic tour of Brooklyn neighborhoods I didn't even know existed was certainly educational, I wish I had known then that I could speak up without offending the driver:

"Realize that you are in the driver's personal vehicle. Be polite and courteous, and don't leave garbage in the car."

"I follow Google maps. Where ever she tells me to go, I go. I leave the sound on so the rider knows where I'm going. If you are a rider and you know a better way or have a preferred route, tell your driver. Honestly, I don't know care which way we go, and most of the time, I have no idea which way she's sending me. So as a rider, don't be afraid to correct the GPS. It's your dime, go whatever way you want."

And while it is the nice thing to do, Uber rules state that tipping is not required.

When it comes to ratings, they have less of an effect than you might think. Drivers aren't even aware of their individual ratings; all they can see is their overall score. 

"At the moment mine is 4.75 out of 5. I very rarely look at a riders rating...drivers do not see what a rider rates them. All I see is how many trips were rated. Some people don't rate at all. I may have gotten a bad rating, but I don't know."

Okay, onto the crazy stories.

When I asked him to share the experience that has stood out to him the most, our driver certainly did not disappoint. 

"I picked up 5 Peruvian business people in NJ and had to drive them to two different hotels in NYC. After dropping some at The Meridian, I was at a light waiting to turn to go uptown to the Hilton. I heard the man in the back seat say 'movie star'. 

"I turned my head to look and I saw Bill Murray's face in my passenger side window. I rolled down the window, he asked me if I was going downtown. I said, 'No, I'm going uptown, I have to drop them at the Hilton on 6th.' 

"Bill looked at them and said, 'The Hilton? Don't go there, it's all drugs and prostitutes there.' Not sure they really understood what he meant."


It's not always rainbows and butterflies, though. (It's compromise that moves us aloooong. Maroon 5? Anyone? No? K.)

There's been a lot of controversy surrounding Uber in recent months. 

For example, you may have heard that Mayor de Blasio has been pushing a policy that attempts to regulate the number of Uber drivers on the road.

Our driver thinks that there's more to this story than meets the eye. 

"I'm sure the cab companies made donations to De Blasio's campaign. So he is in their pocket and trying to help them out. It has nothing to do with how many Ubers are on the road. It has to do with keeping the money going into the cab companies that supported him."

He also added another interesting tidbit: "I'm not sure if you know, (but) a law was passed in Newark (by the Mayor) restricting Uber drivers from operating at Newark Airport and Port Authority. Same deal, I'm sure. He's in the cab companies' pocket. 

"The way I see it, the Mayor is infringing on people's rights. He has no right to tell me what mode of transportation I can use to go to or from the airport. If I want to use an Uber, that's my choice and my right."


While I can't say I feel as strongly about this as my interviewee, the whole thing definitely does seem a little fishy.

The other big Uber story in the news lately was the incident in which a Kalamazoo Uber driver went on a shooting rampage, killing 6 civilians in between passenger trips. Our driver offered a simple sentiment: 

"It's a sad statement on the world we live in. I don't live my life worrying about what might happen, I deal with what does."

He doesn't take his job lightly, however. When asked about safety precautions he takes and general fears/concerns surrounding the job, he says.

"I do drive differently when I have a passenger in my car and even more so if there's a child in the car. You'd be amazed how many parents don't put the seat belt on their kid. until I tell them to. That's my rule: kids are strapped in or I don't move. Don't like it, then get out. I don't wan't to be responsible for taking a kid's life."

All in all, he enjoys diving for Uber, and would even recommend it to others.

"I was really surprised how much I enjoy doing it. It's a great way to make extra money and you do it when you want."

I had one last burning does he feel about yellow cabs?

"NYC yellow cab is a crap shoot. I've gotten into some where I thought I was gonna die. Poorly maintained, some smell, and I won't even go into the drivers."

Check out The Already-Too-Old Saga of the Exquisite 34th Street - Hudson Yards Station. 

[Feature Image Courtesy] 

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