This past week, ride-sharing app “Uber” opened up in our city, only to be followed the next day by “Lyft” as well. Decatur, IL was finally getting “on the map” in a way that seemed to echo finally being included in “Craigslist” a few years before. Certainly we’re no Chicago, but we are a greater-area population of about 85,000 – and potential for growth as we were also recently identified as #3 most affordable housing market in the WORLD.
I’m a confessed extrovert, and love meeting new people. So it wasn’t surprising to my wife when I joked about signing up as an Uber driver, not as a money-making venture, but for fun. Even after quickly moving through the process, snapping pictures of my documents like insurance and registration, and getting notified I was approved – I didn’t think I’d find myself driving anytime soon. Although as a pastor there was another layer of appeal.
Fridays are my “day off”, and the rest of my family was occupied at our homeschool co-op. My wife told me to take the morning to enjoy. As I sat at Panera, reading the latest edition of Harpers, I flicked the “Online” toggle on my Uber-Driver App, and officially became available. I figured, it would be fun to give a ride or two, in the midst of my morning coffee. Ten minutes later, it was obvious Decatur didn’t need many Uber drivers around 9am on a Friday. Almost an hour in, I realized it wouldn’t be so bad to just spend the morning reading with coffee.
Then it happened. I don’t even remember much about what the alert looked like. All I could think of was “There might be several Uber drivers getting this same notification, I’d better accept it quickly!” Boom. I accepted. Then I looked at the address. It wasn’t far, so I loaded up, made sure the radio wasn’t blaring princess music, and began to follow the built-in navigation system within the Uber app.
As I eased my family mini-van into the driveway of a nice quiet neighborhood, a smiling middle-aged man and his wife emerged with two suit-cases. I quickly asked his name to confirm, though it seemed pretty obvious he was definitely my fare. I helped load his luggage into my trunk, and opened the door for both he and his wife. As I started the van, I slid the “Start” button on the Uber app, and asked him where they were headed this morning. He smiled and said the airport, which I’d kinda anticipated from the luggage. There was only one issue:
The airport he was talking about was 1.5 hours away in Peoria, IL.
For a brief second, I thought he was joking. I think he caught my surprise, because he clarified, “You saw that when you agreed, right?” I looked at my clock, and saw I had just enough time to get there and back before the family came home for lunch. Why not? I was honest, however. Laughing, I confessed I’d not seen it, but it was no problem – let’s go!
He and his wife were very kind, and were in good spirits as they were heading out of town on vacation. Their flights had been changed last minute, and they decided to try Uber since it had proved useful in previous times of transportation need when they’d visited larger cities. They even tipped well, although Uber does not require this habit.
Altogether, I enjoyed my coffee and met some new people whom I was able to offer God’s blessings to for their journey ahead, as I dropped them off for their flights. They’d paid Uber about $75, and I received about $55 of that (plus their gracious tip!). Probably the most I’ll ever cash in with Uber, since I was just doing it for fun. I was thankful that their few hours of need happened during my few hours of availability.
I also learned an important lesson: Before you agree to help someone get somewhere, make sure you know where they want to go. (That’s probably a deep profound truth, eh?) Next time I’ll make sure I check the request fully, before accepting. I suppose I could be glad they weren’t heading to an airport in Chicago, or Canada…? lol
Thanks, Uber. That was fun. Maybe we’ll do it again someday.