I have now successfully walked, driven, Ubered, and taken both the metro train and bus in my short time here.
By far, the most entertaining of these has been Uber. I first used Uber on a solo trip to NYC in 2016 and have nearly always had a good experience. My Uber trips in D.C., though…those take the cake!
Thanks to my generous friend, Gloria, I started my time in D.C. with an Uber gift card. Wanting to make the most of it, I’ve used either the “pool” or “express pool” option each time. For those of you who don’t use Uber, let me explain. If you want a taxi-style experience, you choose the UberX option; it costs the most, but you’re the only rider, and the ride goes from your pick-up point straight to your drop-off point. I’m cheap and don’t mind carpooling, so I don’t use this option unless I have friends with me who are splitting the cost anyway. If you’re willing to carpool and your time is flexible within ten minutes or so, you can choose to pool; it costs less, but you’ll have to pick up/drop off other riders. If you’re
cheap frugal, don’t mind walking a block or two, and your time is flexible, the express pool is your friend. You won’t get a ride door-to-door, but you can save a chunk of change.
I unapologetically fall into that last category, and it is the root of my fun Uber experiences — all of which have reminded me how little people actually read. My first non-reading Uber-mate didn’t understand why our driver needed to drop him at the corner. He just kept pointing across the street and saying, “But I need to go there!” The driver was super patient, gave a short explanation of the express pool rules, etc. When the guy still seemed baffled, our driver finally said, “Look, I have to turn left at this light. You have to get out!” (We needed to cross three lanes of traffic to make this turn. We were sitting AT the intersection already. BUT HE MADE THAT LEFT TURN LIKE A CHAMP.) My second non-reading Uber-mate was a bit more dramatic. Our driver had picked him up first and then stopped for me. We went just a few blocks before Uber sent her one more rider, and this meant turning around and going back to very near my pickup point. #2 in the back was not having it. He kept pointing to the exit on our right and saying, “But I just need to go that direction. Right now!” (We were stuck in a long line of cars at a red light.) The driver on this day was less patient, so she immediately jumped to a very weary, “Sir, this is EXPRESS POOL. We have to pick up other people. This is what you get when you pay less!” (Meanwhile, I’m trying not to laugh in the front seat.) He grumbled a bit until traffic started moving again. We make the turn at the light and immediately get stopped at the next one. #2: “I’m sorry. I have to go!” That joker hopped out of the car and crossed several lanes of stopped traffic to get to safety where I guess he figured out another means of transport. Unfortunately, he didn’t close the door all the way, so our driver frantically asked me to. Somehow I managed to get my right arm twisted around my seat enough to open it far enough to let it slam closed, and the Uber lady and I had a nice chat — and a bit of a laugh — on our way to pick up the next rider.
Non-reader number three is my favorite. He was in the front seat when they picked me up for church on Sunday, so I sat in the back. He almost immediately got a phone call which he took in a foreign language except for repeated use of the word “bus.” In English, he asked the driver how long until he got dropped off. Our driver told him five minutes, but he got back on his phone and told his family member it would be just two more minutes. (Lies.) #3 stayed on the phone long enough to hear that the bus was leaving without him. He asked our driver if we could catch it. Along for the ride, I chimed in with “I can be a late!” (There was no way I was missing a bus chase!) We could see the bus leaving the Lincoln Memorial and legit tried to catch it — very thrilling, I must say, but the stoplights were not on our side. The bus’s next stop was at “a harbor,” but neither the Uber driver nor I knew where this was. Cue #3 “negotiating” with our Uber driver in their shared language. In English, the driver let him know that I had to be dropped off and that he could either get another Uber or travel with me and be delivered to his new destination later. #3 switched back to English, thanked me for letting them try to catch the bus, and then got out at the next stop sign. (He at least managed to shut the door correctly, unlike #2). For the rest of the way to church, my driver filled me in on what happened. It turns out #3 had already been in the car for nearly an hour when they picked me up. The poor guy and his family got all the way to Union Station before realizing they’d left their passports at their hotel near Tyson’s Corner (30 minutes away); he Ubered there to search for them with the hotel’s maintenance staff. He and our driver were on their way back when Uber booked my ride; because it was the pool option, the driver was obligated to pick me up. #3 was peeved but took it in stride. Until he missed his bus. Then he tried to get our driver to tell me to get out and just take him to the harbor. And that’s when our driver switched back to English and politely explained Uber’s rules and made it clear that I wouldn’t be getting out yet. Poor #3. I sincerely hope he caught up with his family at the next stop and didn’t miss his whole tour!
Reading is important, people.