warning Hi, we've moved to USCANNENBERGMEDIA.COM. Visit us there!

Neon Tommy - Annenberg digital news

Stories From Behind The Wheel Of An Uber

Emma Shepardson |
October 23, 2014 | 2:43 p.m. PDT

Staff Reporter

Uber's Logo (Uber/Uber Blog)
Uber's Logo (Uber/Uber Blog)
I don’t know what I would do without Uber. When I am at school, it is undeniably my main mode of transportation; I’m not ashamed of it.

Uber is so widely useful because of its convenience. Customers don’t have to have cash or a credit card to get home; they need only have some phone battery left. 

Catching a ride with Uber is a much more comforting and professional experience than taking a cab. The driver generally gets out of the car to open the door when the Uber arrives, and majority of the time there are water bottles and treats waiting in the back seat (many times, this proves to be a huge life saver). 

Since Uber is a significant step up from a typical taxi, it seems logical that as a passenger, you would treat an Uber driver with a certain level of respect and politeness. At least that is what I try to do. However, that definitely does not seem to be the case for every passenger. 

I have had my fair share of really great and not-so-great Uber drivers. However, there is no driver as strange as some of the passengers that Uber drivers have had to cart around the Los Angeles area. 

An Uber driver, especially one who works on Friday and Saturday nights, is privy to many interesting situations. 

Once, Mauro picked up a drunken passenger at around 2:00 a.m. Once they arrived at the passenger's destination, Mauro (naturally) expected the passenger to leave the car. Instead, the passenger gave Mauro another destination, saying he had given him the wrong one. This guessing game went on for about two and a half hours, lasting until around 4:30am. Mauro eventually had to tell the passenger that he needed a definitive destination because he was becoming too exhausted to drive. 

Ghalil, who usually works day shifts, found himself working a night shift one weekend. At around 3:00 a.m. on Friday, he picked up a couple from a bar in Hollywood. The woman told Ghalil that they were going to Manhattan Beach, so he started to drive them.

“The guy was so drunk,” he said. “He kept knocking at the door and yelling at me stop the car. So, I opened the door for him and he just leaned out by the curb and started throwing up. This happened every 15 minutes for the entire drive.”

One night, Tamer picked up a woman who did not seem to have any sense of physical or verbal boundaries. “She was saying the most inappropriate things I have ever heard,” Tamer paused. “I can’t repeat them.” 

Tamer said the situation just got worse when she kept trying to touch him from the backseat of the car. “I was like, excuse me, please stop touching me,” he recalled. “It was a very awkward situation.”

Tamer also had a woman throw up in his car one night. Instead of owning up to her mistake, she blatantly pretended that she did not vomit. Eventually, Tamer asked her if she had thrown up (the smell had already given her away) she finally admitted that she did. “I couldn’t work for a week because of it,” he said. “It smelled so, so bad.”

Not all of the recounts that Uber drivers share are horror stories from the backseat. Some of the drivers have been relatively lucky.

One afternoon, Ghalil picked up a man whom he described as a "multi-millionaire man from Texas". The man was nice, and was speaking on the phone almost the entire ride. “I dropped him at a restaurant because he was meeting a friend,” Ghalil said. “He said ‘Wait for a second, I am going to bring the key so you can put the luggage in my friends car.’ So, I brought the luggage to him and he handed me a bill. I didn’t even look, I just went on my way.” 

Most Uber drivers don’t ever receive additional tips because the entire payment is made through a cell phone. Ghalil said that he continued to drive people around all day and forgot about the bill that he had received. “I got home and I took my clothes off and felt the bill. I looked at it, and I swear to God, it was a $100 bill.” 

A lot of Uber drivers also work as private drivers or for other car companies. Tamer told me about an Uber passenger he had who  became one of his regular customers outside of Uber. “She was so nice and then she referred me to her sister,” he said. “So now, they constantly call me asking me to drive them places. They also referred me to their friends and because of that one passenger, I now have seven more customers.”

Yes, there were nights when these drivers were trapped in a moving vehicle with annoying or rude customers, but in the scope of potential back seat disasters, these three drivers seem to have had it pretty tame...so far. 

Reach Staff Reporter Emma Shepardson here or follow her on Twitter here



Craig Gillespie directed this true story about "the most daring rescue mission in the history of the U.S. Coast Guard.”

Watch USC Annenberg Media's live State of the Union recap and analysis here.