Your Private Driver: Man About Town

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This a column about an emerging yet transformative technology, written for those who are fans of technology. Still, when it comes to Uber, most people are uninterested in the logistics of how a car gets to your door in five minutes and just want me to share my crazy stories. Over the course of three years and over two thousand rides, I can come up with a few.

Every day I’m reminded that Los Angeles is indeed the capital of the entertainment industry. Riders who work in movies, TV, music, video games, or even tech start-ups are par for the course. I’ve driven executives for Walt Disney, marketers for Lionsgate, programmers for Snapchat, and sales people for Netflix. I’ve driven backup dancers, costume designers, actors and actresses, cover bands, set riggers, amateur video producers, and others connected with industries in ways that I can’t even comprehend. I’ve driven to cocktail parties in Bel Air, through the middle of film shoots on Santa Monica Boulevard, behind the gates of CBS and Paramount Studios, and even to the secluded campus of Blizzard Entertainment. I’ve heard conversations about cancelled TV pilots that most people will never hear about. I’ve listened to people talk about millions of dollars in the way most of us talk about tens. I’ve listened to studio and licensing deals be made and fall apart in my back seat. I’ve learned that apparently every female game developer in the city works at Riot Games. And so many other things.

Celebrities? Maybe, but if so I didn’t recognize them. Being a big fan of video games I did have a couple of moments that really stood out. The first was when I met Jamie Alcroft (the voice of Colonel Hoffman from the Gears of War series) and his wife when I took them to a show at the Hollywood Bowl. The second was picking up a group of gaming press personalities, including Arthur Gies and Kat Bailey, from EA’s DICE studio where they were getting an early look at Battlefield 1. It was really cool to chat with them a little about their experiences over two weeks before the game was released. I also got a chance to talk to an animator who worked on the Cartoon Network Thundercats reboot, and he actually gave me some very interesting details about what was supposed to happen in the second season that never aired.

Beyond that though, most riders are still regular folks like you and me, with regular concerns. I’ve had teenage girls ask me for advice after embarrassing themselves in front of a cute guy. I’ve had a woman who was nearly in tears after she was late for work again because she couldn’t seem to wake herself up on time. I’ve listened to women talk openly about their vaginal piercings. I had a family from out of the country with a cranky three-year-old that had to be bribed with candy from my secret stash so he’d stay quiet long enough to finish the ride. I’ve talked with riders going through breakups, riders who are falling in love, and even riders on their first date. I was also witness to a drunken argument that ended with one partner telling the other “I hope you get raped.”

I’ve listened to waaaaaaaaaay too many people give their opinions on Donald Trump.

I had a music lover introduce me to Zedd. I was given future career advice from a Google employee. I was given hugs and thank yous from a quadriplegic man’s wife for bringing him home safely. I’ve been propositioned for sex–multiple times. I’ve even managed to convert a few Waze lovers to Google Maps.

But the craziest stuff? Well, I have two candidates, and it should be no surprise that both times alcohol was involved.

I picked up two guys on a birthday celebration who were on their way to the casino. They got really happy when “Thong Song” came on the Spotify-powered radio, and requested that I blast it on repeat for the entire twenty-minute trip. When we arrived, they invited me in to celebrate with them. Which I did, since I had nothing better to do. As part of the party they paid for a spot at the craps table for me. At the end of the night, that casino trip ended up nearly paying my rent for the month. I also got a half bottle of champagne out of the deal.

I picked up a group of four women for what I assume was a bachelorette party. One of them drunkenly asked if I was gay, to which I replied “No, I like boobs too much.” This led to the ladies deciding amongst themselves who had the best boobs of the four of them, and the winner was apparently the women in the front passenger seat. The drunk woman who originally inquired about my sexual orientation seemed to think that since I was a fan of boobs, I should get a better look at the best ones… so she started taking her friend’s top off. I consider myself to be a professional, so my primary responsibility is always to be watching the road. Not much can make that job harder than a two-girl strip show in the passenger seat of your car though.

The human interaction elements are what make the Uber experience so interesting, whether you love them or hate them. I know most of you can’t wait for the self-driving Johnny Cabs to finally hit the road and replace us annoying humans, but you gotta admit, those rides are gonna be really boring.

Sekani Wright is an experienced Uber driver working in the Los Angeles metropolitan area. If you have any questions you would like answered for this column, you can contact him at djsekani at gmail dot com, or on twitter and reddit at the username djsekani. Have a safe trip!