Like I do every morning, this morning I took an Uber to the train station. And like I do every morning, while I was waiting for it I could not help thinking how – despite providing such a valuable service to commuters like me – vulnerable I am as a result of this daily need. I again marveled at just how many different drivers know exactly where I live! So as I again talked myself off this particular ledge I did what I always do, I took note of the type of car and the license plate numbers and letters the app had provided. I was to get ‘Wayne’ in a BMW with the last three of his plate being, ‘887’.
So, I waited the five minutes and when I was alerted he was approaching I again followed routine, set the alarm, said “goodbye” to the puppy and exited. Except what was waiting for me at the curb was a Suburban and, you guessed it, ‘887’ was no part of his plate. Naturally my steps were faltered, but I did approach. He rolled down the passenger window, confirmed my name and noting my obvious hesitation, let me know the BMW was in the shop. I climbed in.
But the entire ride (and no, I did not exhale until I got to my destination), I kept thinking this was the stuff of either too much ID TV or a very vivid imagination! Both apply to me! “My BMW is in the shop” indeed! I sat my ladylike ass in the back seat and envisioned just how vulnerable a position I had placed myself in; because see, not only was I being exposed as any of us are every time we climb into a stranger’s vehicle, but now the possible record of my ride that is on my phone will be absofuckinglutely NO help to those looking for me/him in a Black BMW, plate number ‘887’ should the need arise!
The entire ride I berated myself for my stupidity in getting into this Suburban with tinted windows and whose said windows my vivid imagination convinced me were also sound-proofed! I was terrified. And, not because he did or said anything to make me so; but because the behavior of some inhabitants of this world of ours dictates I should be. I can’t remember if I prayed; I do remember I held my breath.
The proof is in my ability to pen these words… I got to my destination safely. Thank you, God. But that does not negate the fact that this could have gone an entirely different way. My decision to climb into an unmarked (not because there was no license plate; but because there was no record of being picked up by this license plate) vehicle, could have proven to be not only an incredibly stupid one, but detrimental.
So, now what? Is this situation where I just calm-the-fuck-down and stop letting my imagination run away from me? Or, this morning’s switcharoo notwithstanding, there is cause for me to pause and fully appreciate my vulnerability woven into my/our Uber realities? I mean, my paranoia in this situation has even impacted my decision to rate drivers. I don’t. I have gotten some terrible ones and, in an effort to not indulge in any action that could possibly negatively impact my household, I do not rate them. Literally… they know where I live. And yes, I know you’re probably thinking the ratings are more than likely anonymous. Don’t care… they know where I live.
But what do we do, those of us that must indulge in some sort of one-on-one interaction to get us where we need to go… on a very regular basis? I do not have the option of not calling something – an Uber or a ‘regular’ car service – to aid in my commute; so again, I ask, “what do we do?” For a number of reasons Uber is less expensive than my other car service; but, I am beginning to appreciate, “you get what you pay for”. Maybe paying more, but having the cars branded and the drivers not be so very anonymous (even to the company) will restore some of my peace of mind. I am acknowledging that this personal- vehicle-business is not for me.
In no way am I saying that I have not had pleasant experiences when taking an Uber; not at all. I have had great drivers and felt less vulnerable. But all in all, as much as I applaud the innovators of this, I cannot help but to feel too exposed. There are too many strangers out there who now both know my name and where I live. An intimacy that is otherwise quite hard-won from me.