Are Uber drivers the new first responders?
We expect heroic acts from police, firefighters, paramedics, and EMTs. The Emergency Department staff also sees it all, but (usually) with more personal safety and resources.
Now Uber too? Really?
I’m a recent convert to Uber because it can make travel feel more personal, like we’re visiting friends and family. We are able to ride in comfort and know that we’re also helping people help their families with their side hustles. It’s so much nicer to support someone with a name and a face than a mega-corp*, so we seek these experiences whenever possible. Plus, it’s usually quicker and less expensive than a cab and the drivers are friendly and happy to provide inside information and recommendations when we’re in a new place.
In the last few weeks, though, I’ve heard about two Uber drivers who went above and beyond the call of duty to take care of their passengers in ways they never should have had to.** While these drivers are to be commended, we need to think about what led to these situations in the first place and vow to take better care of each other so they never happen again.
On my very first Uber ride, my driver told us about his very first Uber passenger.
She was a young woman we’ll call Anna who drank a little too much while out with her cousin. When the car arrived to take Anna home, she was barely able to walk or talk, so the driver verified the address with the cousin–who then returned to the party.
But it’s never that simple, is it?
When the driver arrived at Anna’s address, he found it to be a multi-unit complex accessed through an alley, and Anna was in no condition to give additional directions.
Her barely-there skirt was no longer down ‘there,’ and she was unconscious, slumped across the back seat.
Put yourself in the driver’s no-win situation: it’s your first night with your first rider, she’s passed out and fully exposed in the back of your car in a dark alley, and you are a person of color. Any neighbors who might be able to help would be unlikely to believe that you have good intentions.
What would you do?
This man was calm under pressure did his best to preserve Anna’s dignity and her safety. He pulled over, walked around to the back seat and repositioned Anna’s clothing more appropriately, then got back in front to wake her as gently as he could.
Luckily for both of them, she was arousable and could walk (with his assistance) to her door. He saw her safely inside, waited while she called a friend to come and care for her, and waited again to make sure she locked the door before he left.
The Uber driver was not her friend, her mother, or a first responder. It was not his responsibility to dress Anna, wake her without embarrassing her, and half-carry her into her home. The extra time he spent doing so cost him several fares that night and induced PTSD that was apparent as he recounted the story to us months later.
He was a young man we’ll call Joe who drank a little too much while out with his cousin. When the car arrived, Joe was barely able to walk or talk, so the driver verified the address with the cousin–who then returned to the bar.
But it’s never that simple, is it?
Joe had been violently assaulted before he left the bar, and he too became unconscious while en route to his home. The driver knew something wasn’t right, so he made a detour.
He took Joe to the Emergency Department.
Despite heroic efforts by the whole team, Joe died.
The lesson here is
to not hang out with cousins that we need to care for each other better.
I’m sure that neither rider and neither cousin thought twice about the Uber drivers who were traumatized by these events, and that’s part of the problem.
Would the cousins have felt comfortable putting their impaired relatives in a cab or on a bus unaccompanied? I hope not.
Did Uber and its impression of friendliness and familiarity give them a false sense of security?
I wrote that I love Uber because it can make travel feel more personal, like we’re visiting friends and family, but the drivers ARE NOT our friends and family. They’re not police either, and they’re not paramedics.
They’re everyday people trying to get through life, trying to pay the bills, and trying to help others have a good vacation or a good day.
If you’re out with friends, be a good friend. If you’re out with family, be a good cousin/sister/brother/etc.
You’re hanging out with these people because you love them, so act like it. People are more important than the party. We need to care well for each other and make sure that everyone arrives home safely.
Please, please, don’t abandon your loved ones and force untrained strangers into the position to be heroes.
Have you ever been an involuntary hero? Tell your stories in the comments below.
*It is true that the company itself does make money on each ride, and that Uber has had some less-than-stellar accusations in the news lately.
**One story was told firsthand by a driver himself, and the other by a coworker who cared for the patient an Uber driver brought to our ED and was confirmed by news reports. I am not able to independently verify any details.
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