One ride; Two days; Infinite difference in my Uber experience

It was a sweeping change for me to move from snooze town of Brookline to hipster town of Cambridge. Not to mention, I hated my landlord in Brookline and I can write a whole book about that. Anyway, I moved from a furnished apartment to an unfurnished place so I had to find furnitures, so I used craigslist to find some good, used furniture out there. Now all the furniture in my room including the lamp are from Craigslist, they are all in great condition and reasonable price.

After moving to Cambridge I also joined some meet-up groups including one for Dragonboat racing. Dragonboat is a traditional Chinese paddling sport, it looked very interesting so I joined the group. On the first day I was expecting it to be extremely intense but the experience was great so I went to the practice for the second time on the following Saturday. After the practice I was planning to go and see a desk that I found in Craigslist around where we practice. Before practice we put all our stuff in a big trunk by the dock and go off to paddle. Just before leaving I typed the address of the person selling the desk in google maps in my phone so that I can go afterwards. Then we went on to practice for two hours it was fast paced but a lot of fun. Then when I came back and took my stuff, I realized that similar to a butt-dial phenomena my phone has called an Uber to the address that I added to the google maps. I also saw some missed calls and texts from an unknown number which I presumed as that of the Uber driver. This whole Uber calling was completely surprising and I felt bad for the driver to have disappointed to find out that there was no one to pick up and that was the end of my thought on that because I thought nothing can get worse than that on my end.

Then I came back home and when I checked the email, I found out that I was charged $9.38 by the Uber driver for driving around two minutes close to where I practice since that is the location of the place where my phone “requested” the Uber. I was furious to find out about it, one: I never get on his car, two: he could have charged a cancellation fee but instead he (I saw that driver was a guy) charged me $9.38 for driving around for 2 minutes which was absurd. I contacted the Uber right away and explained what happened and they said they will refund my money. When I opened the Uber app it was asking me to rate the driver that I never rode with. Although I was hesitant to give any rating, I gave him a one star (terrible) rating in the app. I justified what I did by thinking that if that driver can charge me $9.38 for a ride that I never took then I can certainly give him a terrible rating for an experience that I never had.

Then the next day I was planning to move the desk that I saw and a bed to my apartment in the morning. I hired a U-haul and moved both of them and I was tired after that ordeal since I was the only one in the apartment moving all of them three flights up. Since it was a Sunday and I didn’t have any groceries, I decided to go and buy some groceries in Wegmans. The Wegmans that I go to is in Newton, MA which is a town right next to Brookline. Although Central Square has lot of option for groceries like Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, H-Mart, Harvest Co-op etc., nothing comes close to Wegmans in my opinion. Groceries and vegetables in Wegmans are fresh and cheap. Chicken, bread and many other food items are even cheaper than those in Stop & Shop. Whenever I go to Wegmans I buy in bulk for almost $100 or $150 and I can survive with that for more than a month. So on that day I took the bus to go to Wegmans and I was planning to get an uber back to my apartment. I was frustrated with what happened yesterday and even thought about deleting the app, but I had to concede uber is essential in a city if you don’t have a car. So I bought all my stuff and called an Uber and waited inside since it was getting rainy and nasty outside. Since my Uber driver had a hard time finding where I was, I gave him a call and directed where to pick me up.

My Uber driver was James and he was one of the great Uber driver that I have ever had. I took the Uber pool so there were two other people in the back of the car. It sounded like they were speaking French and they were into their conversation. The trip took about 20 minutes from Newton to Cambridge and on the way we dropped off the people who were pooling with me. In those 20 minutes ride James and I had a whole range of conversation from Wegmans food, chicken farming malpractices to presidential politics and Zika Virus. James seemed like a very knowledgeable person in world and local news. When I told him I was from Sri Lanka he was aware of the country and also knew there was a civil war going on there. Even many of my Ivy League colleagues don’t know about Sri Lanka or what happened there! By the time we got to my apartment it started to rain heavily so James and I quickly took the bags out of the trunk, since most bags were paper bags they start to rip apart due to wetness. I was very much focused on getting all the stuff out and I forgot to check whether I have my everyday trinity (My phone, wallet and the keys).

I lived in the third floor, so I moved all the bags (about six of them) to my apartment. About fifteen minutes lated I realized I don’t have my phone. Since I had the phone to call the Uber, I was sure that I lost the phone in the car. I panicked for a second and then I went to the Uber website to see if I can do anything to get the phone back. They did have a lost item tab for each trip and they wanted me to enter my phone number so that they can call the driver directly. Since my lost item was the phone I had to find a different way to do it. I explained the situation to my roommate and gave his number for Uber to call back. About a minute after I gave his number they gave a call and try to connect me to James, but it went to his voicemail. Due to a spark of enlightenment I jotted down his number from the voicemail. I waited for about an hour there were no callbacks, I was slowly losing hope on getting back the phone. My roommate was getting ready to go somewhere, so I was going to lose the only phone that I had access to, so I gave another call to James as a last hope before my roommate left. Thankfully James picked up the phone, from the phone number he recognized who I was since I left a voicemail in that number. He told me he was  going to be picking up someone close to my apartment and can drop the phone off at my place. I had a huge sigh of relief. I was very thankful for James for giving me a callback and returning the phone on the same day. I waited for him outside my apartment and he was there within fifteen minutes. I gave him $20 for going out of his way to stop by my place to return the phone. It was a small amount compared to his honesty and empathy. Those are the kind of people that bring back my faith in humanity.

In those two days, the experience that I had with Uber was starkly different. One led me to consider not to take Uber anymore and the other made me appreciate the service that Uber  drivers provide. The Uber driver on Saturday charged me outrageous amount without even considering what kind of impact it would have one me and then on the next day a different Uber driver went out of his way to help me. I guess there is that Yin and Yang playing out in everyday life. So keep in mind if you had a terrible Uber driver, the next time you will have a great one and vice versa!

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