Tuesday, 16 June 2015


"Do you mean to tell me that if a bunch of drunken party people get into your car and tell you to turn up the volume, you won't do it?"
"I mean to tell you that if you're looking for a DJ, then you shouldn't call a cab."

So it's been a week since I've returned to the nightlife. It terrifies me how quickly my body and mind adapted to a nocturnal lifestyle. Nine months of hard work, trying to live life like a normal human being, and yet here I am, with my eyes hollow and my brain running on fumes, cackling with every cent I make.


Now, this week has been mostly uneventful, though there have been some major changes. For one, the powers that be have decided that they need to tighten their grip on cab-owners. Apparently there's too much tax fraud going on, so we (that is, those that would be my bosses) are required by law to have a meter that continually sends all the numbers directly to a server, rather than storing it for later accounting. Thus, all the meters have been, or are in the process of being changed. From the dot-matrix hunk of 80's technology we used to have, to the dot-matrix hunk of 10's technology that we have now. And whoever designed this meter was obviously very drunk, or otherwise mentally impaired.

It's a mess. Press the wrong button, and the whole thing crashes and you need to reset it. However, there are no indicators to show which buttons are the right ones. Through trial and miserable error (resulting in way too much paid time being lost), I've managed to create a working relationship with the new meter. So, go me. I'm on  a roll.

Another change I've noticed is Uber. A year ago, I had heard about Uber; a new way of transporting people, skirting the line between cab driver and carpooling. I had heard that american cabbies were furious about Uber, and I had heard through various american media how convenient and wonderful Uber is.

And now, Uber has appeared on the home market. This past week, I've had at least one conversation a night about Uber. And every conversation is the same: first the fare will ask me what I think of Uber, to which I respond that I have no real opinion. Then the fare will make a statement to the effect of "I bet its worrying that they're taking so much of the market", to which I respond that Uber most likely is the future of cab-driving. This usually surprises people.

Because that's the thing: Uber has found a brilliant way of gaming the system. You eliminate a metric ton of middlemen, plus with a little application of free-market invisible hand mojo, you guarantee that only those  drivers who win the approval of the fares get work. What they are in practice are organised, illegitimate cabbies, who answer to nobody but their customers. From a purely capitalist perspective, they're an absolute beauty.

Does Uber worry me? Of course it doesn't. My intention is getting out of this business; I do not see Uber as a threat to my long-term plans. However, I will say this; Cabbies are, at least formally, trained professionals. We go through a process to get our licenses, we answer not only to our customers, or our companies, but to the government itself. Specific laws govern our driving and our income. Uber drivers are not.

Now I'll be the first to tell you that 80% of cabbies really have no business on the road. Getting a license is not difficult (especially as there are those who can, for the right amount of cash, set you up with a license, no questions asked). Uber drivers are on the other hand answerable to their customers. And I don't like giving that kind of power to the public.

It is bad enough that some people already feel the need to wave the tip in front of my eyes and threaten to take it away if I don't obey (this is a great way to get kicked out of my cab). What happens when not only some extra money is used as leverage, but a review? A review that could affect all your future business? All in all its a fair system; those who do good will be more desirable. But what is never taken into account when it comes to the free market is the sheer spitefulness of humanity.

Combine that with the internet, a bastion for rational levelheadedness if ever there was one, and suddenly you've got potentially very unpleasant working conditions ahead.

Be that as it may, Uber is here to stay. It won't be the last I hear from them, so I'm going to do a bit of reading on the subject.

And don't worry. Summer has just begun. I will be working my ass off. And with that, there will be stories, rest assured.

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