by Thomas Hochman
My parents have been out of town a lot lately, and being the baby-faced freshman that I am, I can’t drive myself around. So Uber and Lyft, two ride-sharing services that have recently appeared in the Portland, have often come in handy for getting me places quickly on my own.
There seems to be a tradition of uncomfortably staring down at one’s mobile devices/feet/papers/any inanimate object to avoid awkward small talk with taxi drivers, but ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft are inherently more personalized than taxis, and allow for some pretty interesting conversations with a wide variety of different people.
Drivers who are used to getting ignored have a lot to say, although some of their stories sometimes seem to be stretching the truth. Nonetheless, they’re all interesting. Below are a collection of quotes I started gathering from the different drivers I’ve ridden with over the last few months.
“I’ve run a graphic design company in Portland for 11 years now. I think of myself as more of an entrepreneur than anything else. I want to build something that’s around long after I am.”
“I’m at 30 way too fast.”
“I work for a tobacco company, which is never something I saw myself doing in college.”
“I was super into music. Rock. I would film some concerts in Atlanta, like Modest Mouse and Death Cab for Cutie.”
“Everyone is using Netflix and Apple TV for movies these days. I go to Goodwill and buy videotapes for a dollar each. I stand by that method.”
“This is definitely not my full time thing. I’m a writer. Screenplays and stuff for the most part.”
“The tobacco market is getting smaller, so the pie is getting smaller every year. As a result, we’re trying to gain a larger piece of a small pie every year.”
“I was a freelance baseball scout for the Braves for two years.”
“I’m currently on hiatus from corporate America.”
When you get into an Uber or a Lyft, there’s no guarantee on the type of person you’re going to get, the quality of their driving, or how your trip is going to go.
I think, however, that there is some easily discernible value that can be taken from two people hailing from very different backgrounds getting thrown into each other’s worlds for fifteen minutes.
There is a lot to be learned if you make the effort to have a short conversation, and maybe even potential for a slightly broader understanding of the wide spectrum of humanity that exists in this city.
This seems to be a growing necessity at a school that is sometimes stereotyped as promoting a narrow world view. It’s worth a shot. Below you can see the message my Lyft driver sent me on Instagram after watching the movie I had made with my Stage and Screen group.
If none of the above is true, and there is no deeper value to taking Uber, at least you might make a new friend.