Hi. My name is Eric, and I’m an Uber-holic. I have been Uber-free for 24 hours. But I’m afraid I won’t be in another 24.
I discovered Uber through Twitter, a known gateway medium to trends, fads and, more importantly, revolutions (i.e. Iran, Egypt, and athletes and celebrities who want to insert foot in mouth). And that’s precisely what Uber is to me: a revolution.
Before Uber, I had no other choice but to endure the often less than sanitary conditions of DC cabs, and some of their drivers’ rudeness and lack of accountability. Especially when I lived in Arlington and played in DC; it was basically impossible to get a cab to drive you the five miles from Adams Morgan to Courthouse anytime past 11PM on a weekend. Even though, as passengers, the trip is a right to which we are entitled. Not to mention, I no longer had to find an ATM at some jumbo slice joint to get cash just to pay for the fare.
That was how it all started at first. Convenience, style and customer service when I was six or seven drinks deep and ready to turn in for the night. And when Uber was just starting out here in DC, it was a great way to impress women who didn’t know about it.
Then one day, I was running late to a brunch date in Arlington and couldn’t catch a cab to save my life. I used the Uber app, and a car pulled up within five minutes. I fell in love. No, actually, I became Uber-dependent.
When I go to meet my friends who insist on hanging out in Arlington, I Uber. When I’m taking a date to a restaurant more than a mile away, I Uber.
When I’m just not in the mood for rush hour on the Metro, I Uber. Yes. I’ve started to Uber to my office in Tysons Corner. It’s a real problem. From my place in Columbia Heights, it’s about a $65 ride and an uninterrupted 45 minutes to enjoy my coffee, read the Post (which comes with the Uber) or just chat with the driver. It’s affordable luxury I enjoy two or three times a month. To me it’s equivalent to when people treat themselves to a day at the spa or dieters on their cheat days. It’s absolutely amazing.
However, a few months back, that luxury seemed as if it was in jeopardy.
Although, the attempted regulation of Uber by the DC Taxicab Commission and the DC Professional Taxicab Drivers’ Association has quieted for the moment, I’m sure it’ll find its way back somehow. Fighting for a cause that no one wants and only benefits the protesters themselves. Meanwhile, other similar services have launched, and Uber now has a clear champion (other than general public outrage) in the DC Council.
I’m sure the DCPTDA will continue to argue that Uber has an unfair advantage in the market. But what the taxi drivers and their union refuse to acknowledge is that Uber’s innovative business model (which is simply beautiful) and technological application are not an endgame to the taxicab racket. It is, however, an undeniable opportunity to raise their standards. Install credit card machines. Make your drivers accountable for the sun-washed Passengers’ Bill of Rights that is posted in every car. Make customer service a priority.
If anything, the cabs actually have a great advantage: it has its own Government agency and union. It’s an institution that has been around almost as long as there have been automobiles. The fares are cheaper, and all I have to do is to raise my arm to get one. The money spent on lobbying against Uber could be better put to use on improving the market, rather than stifling advancement.
From time to time, of course, I still take taxicabs. But when I do, I often ask myself, “Why didn’t take an Uber instead?” And even more frequently, I ask the taxi driver, “Hey, can we stop by a bank?”
My name is Eric, and I’m an Uber-holic.
- Eric Wang