At 6:45 in the morning, while rushing to get back to Penn’s campus in time to shower, change, read the required Spenserian stanzas before my British poetry class, and get to work by 9 a.m., the last thing I expected to feel was at ease. Hopping into an Uber, the driver immediately greeted me with a smile and a question, “How’re you feeling?” This unexpectedly intimate opening to conversation was exactly what I needed in the moment — the reassurance that I was being seen.
Uber drivers have absolutely no obligation to provide this to their customers, yet how many times have you had a friendly or pleasant conversation with one? Many Uber drivers work a full-time job and drive students like us around in the time before or after working another job. It is a job worthy of respect just like any other, so we need to stop treating them like assistants, and more like people with lives, histories, and bills to pay.
How many times has a friend told you they got into an Uber insanely drunk, been disruptive or rude, or even gotten sick in the back of a car? Not only are Uber drivers responsible for their own car maintenance and insurance, but many drivers have recently gone on strike to denounce their low wages and lack of benefits. Seeing as the company they work for already creates barriers to a lucrative working environment, we need to be conscientious consumers of the service they provide and stop being obnoxious.
“What do you do with the extra cash you make driving Uber?” a guy asked the woman driving our shared Uber after she said she worked full time as a local security guard. She looked in the rearview mirror and calmly said, “Sir, I have two kids in college and a double mortgage to pay. It’s not extra money. It’s just money.” She went on to explain that she works doubles on the weekends — clocking out of her day job at 5 p.m. and immediately turning on her Uber app, patrolling the streets in a different capacity for another six or seven hours. “I’m exhausted by the end of the day. But then I have to wake up and do it all over again. When you’re a mom, you don’t have a choice.”
But when you’re a Penn student, chances are, you do have a choice. You can choose to be respectful to the hard-working people who often listen to our drunken charades.
I was startled that I had never considered how draining her job must be, let alone the other aspects of her life that require care and attention. Being a mom seems difficult enough without working two jobs. But when one of those jobs requires the shuttling of drunk college students to and from parties in the early hours of the morning, I can’t fathom the amount of patience she must have. That’s why we need to be more cognizant of how we treat people who some might automatically assume are just a service. A simple “thank you” at the end of a ride might seem unnecessary considering you paid for the ride, but that doesn’t mean it’s not appreciated by the person who gave it to you.
I’m a firm believer in the idea that everyone deserves praise for working hard. Navigating the difficult streets of Philadelphia’s rush hour seems pretty dang hard to me. Penn students don’t like to walk, and I’ve had many Uber drivers regale tales about crazy nights, trying to find their drunken Penn student to get them safely home. But that’s the key — these people, who aren’t supported by their company and often go out of their way to make rides comfortable for us, get us to and from locations safely. That’s worth an extra dose of respect, an extra “thank you so much,” and some extra consideration next time you think you might puke in someone’s backseat. Penn students are lucky to have this service available, so let’s respect those who help us out.
SOPHIA DUROSE is a College junior from Orlando, Fla. studying English. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.