Ake's Pains debuted in the University of Akron Buchtelite in September of 1977. The school's reputation as an institute of higher learning has still not recovered. Ake's Pains returns after a brief 32 year hiatus. It's back, baby!

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

It’s Killing Me To Try Uber

All fathers have that “Rule #1”, the rule which is repeated countless times with strong and serious emphasis.  For mine it was: Never get in a car with a stranger! If you do, he will kill you and you will end up dead.  “Rule #2” was: Never take candy from a stranger because he will use the candy to lure you into his car. Then he will kill you and you will end up dead.

To make sure this rule was fully understood, it would frequently proclaimed and reinforced by examples.

Newscaster: They just found little Timmy Tucker’s dead body in the woods.

My Dad: You see that!  Timmy got into a stranger’s car and ended up dead. The killer probably gave him some candy. 

The message was clear and it was burned into my brain: NEVER GET INTO A CAR WITH A STRANGER

Now in most cases these rules are never needed – but one day when I was around ten years old, I was playing with my friend Johnny in his front yard.  It was the 60s and I was permitted to roam free in my city block, which contained about 20 houses.  We were distracted from our activity by a group of neighborhood kids, noisily gathered around a brown car parked at the corner of the block.  Johnny and I ran over to see what all the commotion was about.

The other kids who were eagerly munching on something, encouraged me to peer into the car. A short, dark-haired man with a mustache smiled at me, extended his hand and said, “Hey kid, here’s some candy.”

Well, chalk one up for a wise father’s instruction.  Without saying a word, I spun around and made a  mad dash for home.  I assure you I have never run harder in my entire life, with my arms flailing, feet barely touching the ground. In my mind, I was literally running for my life.  I can still remember the jaunt, including reaching the safety of my garage, heart pounding, sides heaving, too winded to climb the stairs up to the house.

When my dad got home from work, I recounted the incident, fully expecting to receive the fatherly praise that all children crave. He asked me if I could identify the guy in the car.  I could.  It was Ray, a friend, though maybe just an acquittance, of my father. He had been over to our house a couple of times.
“If it was Ray, it was okay”, claimed dad. I was stunned.  My father was a literal genius, but this is by far the stupidest thing he ever said to me.

It was definitely “not okay”.  Ray was either a pervert/creeper or he was just plain stupid.  Who sits in his car handing out candy to children whose parents are warning them about this exact activity?  But I had encountered a guy trying to lure me into his car with candy and I had lived, all because I had dutifully followed this rule:


So when I first heard about Uber, I laughed. This has to be the dumbest idea ever.  This company is going to bankrupt fast because no one in their right mind will ever get into a car with a stranger. Because if they do, the stranger will kill them and they will end up dead. They will probably find the body in the woods.

But then Uber became very popular. This growth was fueled mainly by those crazy Millennials who were never taught not to get into a car with a stranger because they never got to stray over ten feet away from adult supervision.  You better hire some more coroners, I thought.  Because soon the woods are going to be stacked up with victims killed by Uber drivers.

I still vowed that I would never use Uber because I would have to get into a car with a stranger and he could kill me and I would end up dead.  I thought people who use Uber were just careless idiots who don’t know any better, and they were going to get their fool selves killed!

However, Uber became so popular that thousands of people, even business travelers, started using it.  People who were paying my travel costs started presenting my options as: You can take a cab (said in a monotone voice) or you can use ♫Uber♫ !!!!

They would prefer I take Uber for the main reason everyone takes Uber – to save money versus a cab fare.  But isn’t money just a form of “adult candy”?  So when you use Uber, you are just getting into a car with a stranger because he offered you candy. Case closed!

And if these business colleagues think I will risk my life so they can save a few measly bucks, they can stick it.  I would gladly pay the difference out of my own pocket because it would save my life!

If I worked at a big corporation, I could just imagine:

Boss: It’s too bad about what happened to Don. I can’t believe they found his body in the woods.

Accounting Geek: Yeah, but he used Uber, so we saved 20 bucks!

Boss: Great! And don’t forget to post that new listing on Monster.com.

But then something disturbing happened.  I needed to get from the airport to the beach on an upcoming mini-vacation. My regular ride wasn’t available and a taxi is oh so expensive. So, the best option available was, was, maybe, possibly, Uu, Uu, ber.  However, this would require me to get into a car with a stranger and as you know, I had extreme reluctance to do that.

I did some research and learned that every Uber driver has a rating based on customer evaluations, using a five-star scale.  This was encouraging since I reasoned that killing a person and dumping their body it the woods could significantly lower the rating for that driver.

In addition, before you agree to the ride, you get to see your prospective driver’s name on your iPhone.  So I could reject anyone named Hannibal, Chucky, Freddy, Jason, and perhaps even Ray. With my luck, my first time the app would say: “Your driver is Charles Manson” – Yes, we kept his work-release job secret because we didn’t want to alarm anyone.

An advertisement for Uber declares: “Every Driver Has A Story” and claims even triathletes and chess grandmasters drive for Uber.  I just hoped my driver’s story was not “A Nightmare On Elm Street”.
Is Freddy an Uber driver? 

I installed the app, but was still nervous.  So I did what any strong, macho man would do in this situation. I brought my wife along, which at my age is the teenage equivalent of bringing your mom.  But I did this because my wife is excellent at keeping her calm in stressful situations.  Besides that, it would be much more difficult for an Uber driver to kill two people versus one.

To add to the drama, we would be summoning the ride late at night on the day after Halloween. My hope was that all the Freddy Kruegers of the world had quenched their bloodthirsts the night before and were exhausted at home cleaning off their knives.  Let me assure you, if it had been Halloween night, I would have paid for the cab.

Our plane landed and I was shaking slightly when I hit enter and ordered the ride.  The driver (who fortunately was not Charles Manson) arrived, but wouldn’t you know it, he was a foreigner! A FOREIGNER!!!!!!!   We really, really need to do something to secure those borders!  Okay, he was Frenchman. A young, handsome Frenchman named Frederic.   I think my wife wanted to give him five stars before he even pulled away from the curb.

When Frederic found out this was my first Uber, he asked if I had any questions.  Of course I only had one question: Are you going to kill us?  I decide not to actually ask this since it would be rude if he wasn’t planning on killing us and if not, why even plant the idea in his head.

And although Frederic was a foreigner, his “story” was purely American.  He does Uber at night to help pay off his large student loan debt.

But incredibly, Frederic was very pleasant to ride with and never even mentioned anything about killing us.  We got to hotel promptly and even saved $20!!!!  I think I will use the money to buy candy.  I gave Frederic a 5-star rating, although my wife was disappointed I couldn’t award him 6.

I felt some guilt disobeying my father’s command, but I really enjoyed the Uber experience. Our return Uber trip was terrific also! Those people who are afraid to try Uber are just stubborn, old-fashioned, fools who don’t want to embrace modern technology and such.  And sometimes, even those crazy Millennials know what they’re talking about.   

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