Young women with Uber driver in Washington.

Chronicles of an Uber/Lyft Rider

Unless you have a job that requires a car or you are a commuter, having a car on campus is, unfortunately, not an option for first-year students. A personal favorite of mine is walking. With Glenside shops and restaurants being just down the road, it’s no great effort to take a walk or ride a bike. But not every place is accessible on foot, which means we sometimes have to get creative. Like befriending an upperclassman. Or catching a lift from a sympathetic commuter.

But if begging isn’t your thing, you might just turn to your handy-dandy smartphone and download the apps for Uber and Lyft. For those of you who are a little behind in the technology age and don’t know about these apps, they allow you to connect a credit/debit card to an account and with the tap of your finger, call a driver closest to you, who will pick you up and take you wherever it is you need to go.

Hopping in the car with a complete stranger is something most of us were taught never to do. So to ease the discomfort a few of you might have about using the services, I have compiled a short collection of experiences I have had with Uber/Lyft drivers.

More time for fun. I am waiting in the cold with my friend, debating whether a train/bus ride into Philly would leave us enough time to spend at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. It’s a Sunday, so the train isn’t running as frequently. Then I have the great idea to try my Lyft app.Within 7 minutes, there’s a car at the school waiting to whisk us away to the city. A $16 ride to the museum, split between the two of us, ended up being cheaper than the train would have cost, and we saved time. Which meant we were able to leisurely peruse the exhibits at the museum and even sit down for a cup of coffee at the cafe. Besides art itself, the driver was one of the best parts of the day. He told us all about how he loved to travel, and had visited 12 different countries. He also told us that he had just opened up a healthy smoothie shop in Philly and was working on renovations. We laughed, we listened, we talked, we had a great day and a great car ride.

Small world. I am sitting on my luggage in the brisk breeze as I wait for my Lyft driver to take me to the airport to go home for Thanksgiving break. The car pulls up and the driver helps me load my heavy bags into the trunk. “Where are you headed?” she asks from the front seat. “Airport, please,” I tell her. I was a little anxious about the drive since the airport was a bit of a drive and traffic was bad. “Oh, I work there, I’ll get you there quick,” she says. With that, I relaxed in the back seat and enjoyed my ride. She told me about her family and it turned out she had relatives not too far from me back in Texas.

World traveler. I just landed at Philadelphia International Airport after a great break with my family. As I wait for my checked luggage, I pull out my phone and order a Lyft. The driver is there within a few minutes and I hop in the car, ready to be on the road and back in my cozy dorm. The driver asks me where I’m coming from and I tell him Texas. “Oh, I lived there while I served in the Navy,” he tells me. This sparks a conversation that lasts all through the traffic on the way back to campus. He tells me about his kids, the man cave he is building in his basement, and we even talk about his parents. Out of 15 men in his family, 13 went into the Navy, the other 2 went into the Air Force, he says. He tells me he also had lived in Hawaii and gives me tips for when I move to London next semester since he visits family there every year.

Believe it or not, you didn’t just read an advertisement for Uber or Lyft. Leaving home can be scary and being without a car can feel confining. But have no fear. With both services (and you can rate the drivers if you have a bad experience), there is never a place you can’t go. The drivers are nice and each has a story to tell. Nothing like a little human connection to go along with the ride.

Photo: WSDOT