As a treat for LunaLucia we hopped on board the Vermonter on Saturday and took a trip to Essex Junction, Vermont. Her favorite vocal group (“They’re not a band!”) Pentatonix was performing at The Champlain Valley Fair and we thought it might make for a memorable end of summer experience. It did.
The remnants of Hurricane Harvey made for a wet Sunday, but it made the fair delightfully uncrowded, and turned our “cheap seats” for the concert into the most valued as only the rear of the venue is covered. We took advantage of the Uber app on my wife’s phone numerous times. The drivers were nice but, in my experience, not nearly as knowledgeable or skilled as cab drivers. Three times our drivers missed turns or took us to the wrong place, twice they forgot that they had personal items stowed where passengers would need to be to ride, and once a driver threw his car into reverse to back up the 30 or so feet he had travelled beyond his turn; scary!
It was the easiest thing in the world to call the Uber, of course, and the payment being handled virtually makes the experience neat and crisp. It was cheap, and I can’t help but see a connection between that and the various tiny misadventures and wonder if a hybrid which marries the ease of Uber with the professionalism of a taxi with the added advantage that people who do that work get paid something closer to a living wage.
Two of our friends in the neighborhood back in Springfield work or worked in the industry: Joe just retired from his job at Yellow Cab after four decades; Julio runs a business centered on Uber and branching out into all sorts of shuttle services. Joe has lived in the neighborhood for decades, his career has enabled him to rent a nice little place around the corner from our townhouse, and spend most of his free time as an activist and amateur intellectual. When his sister suffered a medical setback late in life he was also able to take her in.
Julio has a family. He and the extended members of his family occupy two apartments in the building which sits between our backyard and Joe’s building. We got to know them because Julio’s mother and sister in law love to look down from their deck and admire our garden. We invited them down for some early season peppers and to give them some extra seedlings. That night we went to a party at their place, we invited them to a cookout at ours, and LuLu and their children hit it off. Julio has high hopes for his business. He seems to always be out working; I doubt his free time would be spent in the same way as bachelor Joe regardless, but I wonder how the two would compare the pluses and minuses of the emergent changes to their vocation?
In retirement I plan to ditch my car altogether: I see some combination of walking, biking, the bus, Zip Car, taxicabs, and Uber in my future. I have very little control over what wider forces determine will be the quality of those experiences or even if those experiences will be there to be had, but I will take great, and I dare say increasing, interest in the developments which will impact them.