Cabs and Ubers provide us with a strange mix of personal and private space. A lot of passengers are happy to make loud and personal phone calls in front of drivers, or make out with each other, or just generally overshare. And for the drivers, these moments open some pretty interesting windows into a city's private spheres.
It's for this reason that we asked drivers in Melbourne what they've learned. What have all those hours at the wheel shown them about their passengers, and about humanity?
Being an Uber driver has made me realise that everyone has a story to tell and people are pretty open to sharing them. I turn on the meter, open the doors into my world, and invite strangers and the unknown in. I think people really appreciate that space and they often make the most of it.
I often get guys sharing their love life stories. Sometimes they're on their way to see their lady friends and they'll ask me for advice. I had a lady once tell me she'd taken the day off work because she needed a holiday and used the excuse "My grandma died." She hadn't told anyone and said she felt better getting it off her chest.
There's a comfort zone in my car that passengers don't find anywhere else. I can't speak from the experiences of a male driver, but as a female driver I find my passengers are incredibly open to sharing. Also, the trip is very short so the chances of seeing them again are slim to none. I think this plays a huge part in why passengers feel comfortable sharing. All in all, I've learned that everyone has their own story or own troubles—and most people have something that they want to get off their chests.
I've been driving around Melbourne for over 33 years now. I used to drive hire cars and limousines, but now I drive Uber. If I could give you my words of wisdom after driving so many people it would be to just slow down. Seriously, enjoy each moment in your life because you have no idea what is around the corner. Things go very, very fast so it's important to enjoy life as you go and try not to dwell on things too much.
Everyone is so busy these days and no one gives a shit about each other. It's getting very expensive to live and people are moving at a much faster pace. It's not their fault, it's just the pressure that we have these days. People are so stressed and always seem to be rushing. Then sometimes the government says, "Why are you people so stressed?" I say, "Screw you!" to the government because they make people stressed. Bills are more expensive—my coffee cost me $5. We all try to be happy but I think money truly is the root of all evil.
Unfortunately we need money to survive so that's unavoidable. But people need to slow down. We're expected to leap two-footed to match the pace of life while trying to have our feet planted firmly on the ground. We all need to take care of ourselves and try to enjoy the present. I think people are forgetting about these little things.
As an Uber driver I hear a lot of stories about nights that have gone badly. From this I've learnt that it's important to be patient and kind to each other above everything. You never really know if someone has been having a really bad day.
Everyone is so quick to blame and use judgement. So often I hear about people who have been out and had a big fight with their friends and it is always their friend's fault. Or it's someone who's been kicked out by a bouncer and they're so angry at the bouncer but you know, the bouncer was just doing their job. People take things personally so quickly. People are very quick to blame each other.
This seems to really represent what's going on in the world right now. There's a lack of understanding and people aren't really giving each other the time of day. So let's just try to understand one another and empathise with each other more. And be kind to your Uber drivers! They're just doing their jobs.
I often have customers who tell me how sad they are. I just tell them to try not thinking about whatever is making them sad. I tell them to leave it behind. We need to try and stay away from negativity. I once had a man who came back from Hobart and he told me his father had died. So I told him to look after his family and forget about his father, but try to move forward.
I've also had customers who have been really angry with me and made me incredibly upset because I couldn't find the right road. Then this negativity travels through to the next customers. Negativity is contagious and I've learned that it's important to just move on. Leave it in the past and don't look backwards.
Follow Sam on Twitter
And for more taxi/Uber related content check out some of these all-time classics: