Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Mix tape or mistake?

I drove for Uber last night and didn’t even make enough to cover the gas I used to chase down riders. My refusal rate is going to hurt because I dismissed two repeat calls from some woman at a party. They came after I’d waited almost 15 minutes for her, sending several texts to let her know I was there.

The highlight of my night.

I waited almost 15 minutes for you, madam, stubbing my toe wouldn’t top that, I wanted to respond. Instead, I started heading back where I’d come from, I had more cancellations than actual riders. Flakes are the worst: you spend time (that you could be spending on a paying rider) and gas going to them and then, bonk, they cancel. I get zilch in the process.

The “He can wait” ninny made me four bucks for my “Rider no show” cancellation. What rides I did have were short, a couple dollars and some change for me after Uber took their cut along with dinging me a dollar more for the “security fee” (basically, the insurance on the rider).

One of those nights.

At some point, I need to decide if my time is not better spent at home, looking for a real job. As I tell some of my riders, Uber is just (barely) paying my bills while I try to get a job in my field, training or working as an Instruction Designer. The diploma for my Master’s in Education was awarded in May and I’ve been on a serious job search ever since, fielding solicitations from job boards and headhunters, grooming my LinkedIn network, searching out company websites. A lot of contract offers (mostly three to six month ones), most not worth what they’re offering given the more than three-hour round-trip commute entailed.

Contract positions don’t enthrall me the way that possible in-house jobs do, of course. However, I’d take a contract in order to pad myresume with some experience, make it clear that I can successfully perform the duties that a position requires. If credentials and excellent references aren’t enough to land the job then I’m primed to do the footwork.

Landing a job in this field is hard work. I research the company and then decide if I want to apply. Then, I tailor make a resume and cover letter to suit their needs. Each application is an investment of several hours. If that results in an interview, that first interview is invariably followed by, “This is just the first stage of this process and we’ll be reviewing candidates for the next several weeks.”
Then, a few weeks after that if the second interview goes well. And several weeks following the third interview.

Landing a job at a newspaper was easy. I dropped off a writing sample and about a week later the editor called me in to tell me, “You can certainly put a sentence together but it’s not journalism. Fortunately, I have two of the best writers in the southwest out there, “indicating the guys in the newsroom, “and they can teach you how it’s done.”

Starting as a stringer – taking whatever assignments were thrown at me and making $50 an article (a market rate that hadn’t changed in over 20 years) – I worked my way into a permanent position within a few months (even though I’d taken a couple weeks off to visit Ireland). Over the following years, I not only covered economics and politics at a local, state and national level for my paper’s readership but provided a spotlight on several ongoing controversial issues, my coverage often changing the dialog as new facts came to light through my reporting.

When I announced that I would be moving to Arizona in August (a clear sign that I was insane), many people from the area stated that my voice would be missed, in my reporting and in my columns, and were afraid that my successor would not be as willing to investigate the finer details of dealings within the town and throughout the county.

Unfortunately, Arizona publications largely seemed less interested in experience and good writing as they are cheap labor, hacks to fill content. Hard copy publication has gone from being the ultimate arbiter of information to the penultimate, undone by technology, resigned to being a niche medium but just better than word-of-mouth. With the culling of the herd in print came my decision to switch paths and pursue a different career. Impatient to wait on residency, I decided to pursue my Master’s online, with a private university.

I took a stab at secondary education for a year (appalled at the quality of work that was passed, unfortunately). Plus, the prospect of probably never making more than $50,000 a year in this state and dealing with teenagers all day (and all night, with my kids) made me rethink my path. After doing some research, it seemed that exciting things were happening in adult education, things that would pay considerably more than public education as well as providing the opportunity to work in a more technology-focused environment. The focus on adult education has only gained traction within the last thirty years or so and my thinking was that the potential for growth was immense.

I passed with a near-perfect GPA and reminders that there is a doctorate program. After updating my resume on job boards from “pending degree” to “graduate,” offers started dribbling in, people wanted to talk to me.

A week after one interview, a face-to-face second interview, I read that the company had decided to close 68 stores. Probably not much of a need for training people in that organization, I thought. Obviously, the training that needs to be done in that company needs to occur with the people in charge. In my experience, it is those people who are least likely to acknowledge that they are the ones who created the mess and need to rethink how they’re going to change.

I’ll land something in due time but the waiting can be frustrating. I’m itching to design an organizations learning and not be on the road, carrying strangers around in my car.

Passengers comment that I must have an interesting life as an Uber driver, that I must have some interesting stories. No, frankly what happens in my car is banal and monotonous, I’m not hosting orgies or an opium den. From time-to-time some frat boy wants to get in my car with an open beer and I tell them nope, not happening. Otherwise, I’m driving you where you need to go and if you want to talk, great, I’m always up for conversation. There’s no room in my car for co-ed shenanigans or rowdy cowboys.

Oh, and I’m not changing my music or taking it off All Things Considered, sorry. If you’re not going to talk, the driver needs his noise to help him navigate streets and traffic.

Prior to getting the call from party girl, I had a drunk on the phone who was too intoxicated to work the Uber app. He sent me to pick him up at Denny’s but that was where he wanted to go; he was actually about a mile and a half east of there. Yep, another two bucks and some change in that ride but, given how slow the night was,  I was willing to tolerate his idiocy.

“I wanted to go to Denny’s, that’s what I told it,” he slurred loudly through the phone. “I thought I didn’t have to put in my address.” Yes, the “Your location” and “Your destination” fields in the app apparently kanji, flipped around, dancing across his screen. It happens. Once, some guy (also drunk) had his location on the interstate, the navigator woman was insistent on that. When I called his inebriated, incompetent ass, he was more than 20 miles away at some strip club. I had that guy cancel the call, put in his correct address and call for another Uber. Last night’s drunk was not that far and I needed whatever fare I could get.

Unfortunately, the Uber app was screwing up. I told him that he was being charged $4 for the cancelled call and that he needed to resubmit a ride request. I’m pretty sure he was afraid he didn’t have the wherewithal for that. It was after cancelling his ride that I got the call from the woman who wished me a stubbed toe.

I’m going to try switching it up a bit and working some daytime hours, overnights are killing me.
And, I can’t afford another one of those nights. 

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