Friday, March 4, 2016

My first ride with Uber ... 'This is Blowing My Mind'

Uber driver Bill Beal
I took my first ride on Uber the other day, when I had to get my car from C&S Auto, where they were replacing the power steering pump in my 2004 Subaru. No one was home to give me a ride and I needed to be somewhere by noon, but also I'd wanted for a while to find out what the Uber experience was like -- and report to you, of course, because perhaps a few of you might actually be curious.

I downloaded the app on my iPhone 5s, indicated I needed a ride and waited. In less than 10 minutes, a silver late-model Ford Escape pulled into my driveway.

Behind the wheel was Bill Beal, 68, an Uber driver since January this year. Beal came to Idaho Falls in 1979 after “prematurely retiring” from the auto industry. He picked eastern Idaho because he is passionate about trout fishing.

In the years he has been here, he has sold cars and real estate, worked in restaurants and guided on the river. He said he was attracted to becoming an Uber driver because he could work the hours he wanted.

“This beats cabin fever,” he said. “If I wasn’t doing this, I’d be at home hollering at the television.”
As for the money, “I don’t think I could make a living at it,” he said. “If you lived in a place like San Diego I think you could keep busy all the time, but not here.”

His fares typically range from $6 to $10 (mine was $12.76, and will be counted as a business expense), but he once had a rider who wanted to go to Island Park. He drives mainly during the day. He could make himself available at nights, but isn’t sure he wants to deal with people coming out of bars.

Another thing he has gathered from his conversations with riders is that they tend to be either young or originally from somewhere other than Idaho Falls.

At 68, Beal said he never really thought much about what could be done with a mobile phone until he became an Uber driver. “This is new to me,” he said. “This is blowing my mind.”

As a footnote, let me add that after he left me at C&S Auto I realized I’d left my iPad in his vehicle. Luckily, I still had my phone, and the app allowed me to call him. He was back in five minutes at no extra charge.

All in all, the trip was 3.8 miles and took 10.38 minutes. I rated him 5 stars.