I love Uber. During a recent family trip to New Orleans, we took 10 Uber rides over five days, hopping in and out of strangers' cars, zipping anywhere we needed to go at any time of day. Our friendly, efficient drivers regaled us with Mardi Gras stories, shared jambalaya recipes, and told us where we could buy the cherry-scented air freshener that was rocking my son's world.
In fact, we became so comfortable in the back seats of these on-demand cars that once I inadvertently locked eyes with the driver in his rearview mirror and realized — at the same time he realized it — that my finger was up my nose.
I know. I'm sorry. I'm sure that grosses you out, but it wasn't even your car! Consider how he must have felt.
As soon as he dropped us off and I leaped to the curb in shame, I wondered: What must Uber and Lyft drivers really think of the all-but-faceless passengers they schlep around? What fresh horrors are they subjected to and — other than abstaining from personal grooming gaucheries — how might we be better customers for them? In other words, how can we passengers avoid being the thorn in their ride?
To find out, I asked half a dozen drivers. And it turns out nose-picking is the least of their worries.
"Some people don't seem to understand that they're getting into our personal vehicle," lamented one driver, who didn't want his name used. "It's not a cab and it's not a car we're renting. It's the same car we drive ourselves and our families around in."
They can't believe it when passengers mess with the radio or climate control. "I'm more than happy to make you comfortable," says another driver, Steve. "It's also not okay to slip your shoes off and put your disgusting feet on my dash. Yes, it happens frequently."
Many drivers complain of passengers who bring smelly food into the car, spill their drinks, or leave trash behind, all of which ruins the next passenger's experience. Other pet peeves: riders who break the law by cramming in too many passengers, or not bringing a car seat/booster for their infant/toddler, or bringing open booze containers, like they're in a limo.
"Please don't compromise my driving record just so you can continue your buzz at my expense," pleads Steve. By the way, drivers can report you for violations like that — and can get you deactivated from the service as a result.
And another thing: Drivers hate waiting more than a few minutes at pick-ups. Time spent burning gas in an idling car is time they could be picking up another paying fare. And if you need to make a stop on the way somewhere, either offer the driver a tip or let him go, and call another car when you're ready again.
Drivers can get deactivated from the app if their rating falls under 4.6 stars, so don't hand out fewer than five stars for petty reasons, like not approving the route they took. Just tell them your preferred route; they're happy to take it.
Here's a surprising one: Please don't call an Uber for a drunk person. "I appreciate that you're trying to do the right thing," says Steve, "but I'm not a babysitter. A rider who passes out in my car creates a very uncomfortable scenario for me and is nothing but a liability."
And guess what? "If you vomit in a rideshare vehicle, you're going to get hit with a massive cleaning fee," says another driver, also named Steve, I swear. "I have to take my car off the platform until it is completely clean and no longer smells. If it's a Friday or Saturday, I'm probably going to lose at least $100 in fares."
Finally, don't make out back there. "Listening to you two moan and groan in my back seat is so inappropriate and uncomfortable," Steve says. "Can't you wait a few minutes until you get home in private?"
Actually, ahem, that's good advice for all of us.