Ride Uber, meet the world: Part 1

Photo by why kei on Unsplash

Having been a business traveler over a lifetime of health care and leadership ministries, I am no stranger getting around in cities across the country. However, the opportunity these days with Uber and Lyft bring an incredibly rich interpersonal dynamic that in my opinion has never been available through taxi or shuttle bus rides prior.

On a recent trip to Virginia to play in an orchestra concert, several days of rehearsals and the performance itself afforded me the new experience of using Uber. What an incredibly ingenious concept this is: You simply load the app on your phone and set up credit card info. When you're ready for a ride, you connect, type in where you want to go, as Uber already displays where you are, and offers you a choice of going in the UberPOOL (with other riders) or UberX (by yourself). It then finds the closest Uber car, displays the name and picture of the driver plus the license plate number, and on the screen map on your phone shows this car navigating the city streets to get to you. You even get an approximate time that the car will arrive, such as "3 minutes away."

Ingenious! No more hopping in a taxi without knowing how efficient the travel route will be or how much the fare will be. On this out-of-state trip, I used Uber twice each day. I had a great experience each time.

The first driver was Mr. A. There were already two other passengers in the car, and one quickly realized I was a neophyte traveler, so she took my phone and showed me a few tips. Both passengers told me how they work in one city but live in another. They don't even own cars because they use Uber every day.

Another driver was Ms. F. She told me that driving for Uber freed her schedule because she can work when and how much she wants. Now she's back in college pursuing a master's degree in education.

Still another driver was Mr. P. A passenger already in the car made three, so we talked about who we were and what we did. I said I was a Catholic sister, and the passenger immediately shared that she had tried religious life as a postulant in her early years but soon realized it wasn't her call. Mr. P chimed in that he had been an altar boy through Catholic grade school and high school, but he came from a tough urban neighborhood and struggled with life issues for years. Now, though, he's focused on going back to college and finishing a degree in computer science.

After reflecting about all the Uber drivers and fellow passengers I encountered over several five-minute trips, I'm grateful for these opportunities. Try it — you can meet the world.

[Nancy Linenkugel is a Sylvania Franciscan sister and chair of the department of Health Services Administration at Xavier University, Cincinnati.]

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