I’m not sure about you, but when I first heard about the idea of ride sharing, I was a bit skeptical about the whole thing. Complete strangers? Riding in their cars? Then, of course, came the realization that hailing a taxi is essentially the same thing, and that’s been going on since the dawn of time. Maybe it’s just because where we live, Uber and Tapp Car are a relatively new concept and, like anything new, there is often suspicion. Interestingly enough, the ride share programs here were suspended for a while until recent regulations regarding insurance, etc. were implemented allowing services to commence again. Et voilà! Here we are, wherein Uber, Tapp Car and Lyft are fast becoming common household names.
This past summer, while travelling in the States, we quickly realized just how common ride share programs were, as outside each major hotel was a sign dedicated to such services and they were hopping! Literally. Hmmm…interesting. And so, it was something that we vowed to investigate further for our next planned trip. (When I say ‘we’, I really mean my husband, as he is the ultimate researcher in this household;-). Thus, upon our return to the U.S. this past week, we decided to ‘throw caution to the wind’ and use Uber for the first time. Within a couple of minutes of requesting a ride, a registered driver named Richard arrived on our doorstep. Thanks to the Uber App, we instantly had a picture of him, his license plate number, car make and model and a visual of where he was en route to pick us up. ‘Cool!’. We also had our route mapped out and a fixed rate that was far superior to what it would have cost us otherwise. And, that is where my initial issue of Trust took an ironic twist of sorts. Let me explain…
While riding with Richard in his red Volkswagon Passat, we couldn’t help but notice a very distinct accent of sorts, of which my husband bravely inquired (no one wants to offend, right?!). And sure enough, we learned that we were in the presence of a retired sergeant from the New York City police department, where he had served for over thirty years. Wow! What a life accomplishment that is and, most importantly, he had survived; which is no joke since he had admitted to having been shot, stabbed and beaten during his time, likely more than once. I can only imagine the stories that he could have shared, though I’m sure that he would have been bound by his professionalism, not to mention that I don’t think I’d have had the stomach for some of it. But, here’s the sad part...I asked him about his policing partners over the years, and he spoke only of one which had clearly impacted him a lot. He explained that before he retired, he was training a young rookie, who was eager and a real ‘go-getter’. Loads of potential. He had wanted to make a name for himself and make a difference, but he ended up losing his life on a call where he innocently ignored Richard’s advice to ‘NEVER go in alone, to always wait for back-up’. Apparently, the young police officer hopped out of their squad car, rounded a corner behind a building and was shot dead. Just like that. Richard knelt down beside him and wept. “It really shook me up, ” he sadly recalled.
In that moment, after hearing Richard’s story, I found some irony in the fact that it was I who had initially questioned my trust in him as a strange driver, and yet here was a person whom, for over three decades, hundreds of thousands of people had put their trust in daily to keep them safe on the streets of New York City. Having said that, I am also not naïve enough to ignore safety in any situation, including future ride shares, but I was moved by our first Uber experience in a way that I NEVER imagined possible. I can honestly say that my life has been somewhat changed in meeting Richard and in hearing a little bit of his story. And that, my friends, is one of the reasons that we love to travel. Meeting and/or sharing in other people’s experiences. You just never know who you might meet and/or what impact they or their life story might have on yours. Pretty amazing, I think. Maybe there is another Richard out there awaiting you or me? I mean, everyone has a story, right?! What’s yours?
P.S. As an aside about Uber safety, I found an interesting article from the National Post that some of you might also like to read, especially women. Click on this link.