How to treat your Uber driver like a person

Like everyone working in the service industry, Uber drivers deserve fair treatment.

by Kate McCarthy

I don’t often take Ubers, but when I do, I hop out afterward with a false sense of accomplishment — the Uber afterglow. 
Perhaps you have also found yourself feeling oddly grandiose after taking an Uber. It’s an embarrassing, self-interested dynamic, and I’m often unable to own up to the privilege of being able to afford an Uber in the first place.
So I end up trying to mask that uncomfortable reality by talking garrulously to my driver.
My need to engage comes from a place of guilt — after all, it’s a little awkward having a stranger as a chauffeur. I can’t begin to describe how awkward it was upon discovering that the father of one of my high school acquaintances was my Uber driver. 
In circumstances such as these, there’s an odd reversal of standard authority and power roles. Suddenly I’m the one in charge, and so I neutralize these uncomfortable situations through conversation.
Once the ride is finished, I get out of the car feeling a renewed emotional fulfillment and life-affirming energy from peeking into someone else’s experience. I immediately pocket their stories and move on to whatever’s next in my day. Maybe later that night I’ll relay one of their stories to my boyfriend or roommate, exclaiming, “Wow, I met the most interesting Uber driver today! What a life they’ve had.” 
But what I’m really doing is commandeering their experience for myself, collecting their narratives to dish out as anecdotes or little tales that make me seem more sage and worldly. I end up inadvertently reinforcing my privilege by marveling over my driver’s experiences — as if their life is a rarity or deviation from the norm. 
I’d like to think that I’ve treated my driver just like any old pal and that I’ve somehow done a good deed in the process. But I’m really only thinking of myself and failing to consider their autonomy and existence. 
When it comes to Uber, it’s important not to proceed like a self-absorbed fool. But what then is the proper etiquette? After all, it’s boring to sit in silence as you’re carted to brunch or an alt-comedy showcase. 
There’s a balance to strike: respectful engagement is great, but be aware of subtext. Avoid culture crusading, and try to be considerate and conscious of people’s differences.
When in doubt, I recommend writing a glowing review of your driver — highlighting them as an interesting person in their own right or recommending them to others for business. I’ll definitely try these, at least as a conscious reminder to myself that everyone I interact with, especially for service, exists fully beyond my individual sphere.