It’s the question I’m asked more often than any other and, for what it’s worth, the least interesting. But I’m a trollop for a captive audience, so here’s the short answer:
We’ve survived a series of near-misses, the old girl and me: jettison-spewing through the rear driver-side window, chunk-spittling from the rear passenger-side seat that just clears the door, and a traffic-stopping, exit-and-stagger into a full-body, curb-painting Pollock By Innards®. The Sonata required a profoundly humbling hose-down of shame one hot morning after, but her interior has remained (*crossing fingers and toes*) unsullied.
That makes me lucky. My horror stories pale in comparison to those of others – and they go on for miles. Drive long enough, and you’re eventually initiated into humanity’s worst-ever club, the Uber Order of Upchuck. Our members are legion, and we are Not. Fucking. Happy.
Which leads me to a recent rideshare development: Uber’s drunk detection software. It’s another in a long line of well-intentioned ideas that appear to have been workshopped in the Bay Area headquarters by LSD-addled chimps.
Here’s how it works: The company’s very best and nerdiest were chained to a table in a windowless conference room until they’d slide-ruled their algorithms and mainframed their geo-bots to determine measurables such as riders’ movements and reaction times. Basically, they geeked out and jerry-rigged the app to learn if a rider would have a high probability of being a staggering, low-functioning, besotted wanker.
You can see how this might upset some people. Hell, maybe you’re one of them. And I get it. Drunks need rides. Need ’em even more than the average rider, right? Uber, if we’re being honest, is the Patron Saint of Thwarted DUIs (and Completed Booty Calls). And so we’ve stumbled upon a far more interesting question than our original: Why wouldn’t the company – and its drivers – embrace the debauched masses?
Short answer: Because you’re dicks.
Now, I realize a blanket statement like this is lazy and potentially hurtful. It’s true that many of you are perfectly lovable, harmless messes. God bless you. But let’s not get caught up in #AllRidersMatter silliness. We live in a society, and in a society civilized people do not puke on the upholstery of perfect strangers.
See, the Sonata is my car. My car. It is not a taxi. It is not a CTA bus or an L car or a park bench. You might also notice that it is not a dimly lit alley or a nook behind a dumpster or your weed guy’s basement toilet. It’s the car I drive to work every day. It’s the car I drive to drop off my kids at school or basketball practice, and it’s the car I drive to take my wife out to dinner. I care for it, I clean it, and I expect it to never be forced to know the contents of your gut.
Cleaning fee? GTFO. If I’m lucky enough to be reimbursed by Uber for the damage – it isn’t a sure thing – I’m still stuck dealing with the aftermath of The Purge: I take a loss on whatever remaining fares I might have scored, shut down for the night. I enjoy a lovely ride home chauffeuring some dingus’ half-digested dinner. And assuming I’m willing to pony up for a service, and in the unlikely event that Uber’s fee covers the entirety of the cost, I have to to let the detritus marinate my back seat until the dudes in the hazmat suits go to work. It’s either that or take on Barf Detail myself.
I’m gonna go out on a limb and say Uber’s drunk detection software – like many things Uber – isn’t perfect. Some not-unreasonably sozzled imbibers may be denied a ride on their first try. Maybe a perfectly sober commuter is initially shut down while trying to navigate the app on a bouncy train car. To this, I say: Tough shit. We live in a society, and in a society civilized people make decisions based on the common good. Even if they’re imperfect, steps taken to protect the vehicle and welfare (and maybe even the dignity) of an Uber driver, and perhaps additional riders, are steps in the right direction.
Am I harshing your buzz? Well, that’s the idea. Grab a water. Take a load off. Or stumble to the IHOP and throw down a stack. Give it a tick before you dial me up. I’ll be glad to get you home safely. We’ll get through this together.
But if that just won’t do? If adhering to a basic standard of decency and respect for your fellow man (and his beloved midsize sedan) is a bridge too far? Try the CTA. Or, if you like, across the way I see a nook behind that dumpster. It’s got your name on it.