Vera Ultima Blog

Abstract Blur Traffic And Car Lights Bokeh In Rush Hour Backgrou By Nipitphand FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Abstract Blur Traffic And Car Lights Bokeh In Rush Hour Backgrou By Nipitphand FreeDigitalPhotos.net

So I lied about that last blog being the last blog. I'm doing a fifth (and truly final) blog for three reasons: (1) the course requirement of five blog posts, (2) that last blog may have been a little too silly to act as an informational update/out-with-a-bang closer (you could even say that lines were crossed, I mean, I hope you understand that I understand neither Jim Watson, nor Jim Watson’s sphincter, has much to do with any of this), and (3) this business in India.  So, friends, this here is the real final blog.

If you've read (or at least glanced at the headline of) the hyperlinked article above, then we can proceed.

There are an estimated 25,000 reported rape cases in India (a nation of 1.2-billion people) every year, which we know is really a very small percentage of the actual number of sexual assaults. In India women are coached by friends and family not to report sexual assaults.

What does this have to do with my pro-Uber argument? Well, I think we might be overlooking the fact that a rapist is going to trial; and that Uber, clearly, is not the dream-career of the predatory male. If the argument here is: "Uber cars, unlike taxis, don't have cameras; therefor, drivers can just go around raping whoever they want," then not only is the argument, from every angle, a weak one, but in many cases it just doesn't apply. I'm not absolving Uber of their seriously fucking up by not making sure to run a background check on drivers in India (and I'm certainly not saying that rape is just a cultural problem (if that's what you're getting out of this then I suggest you scroll up three or four digital inches and start over); I think we can all agree that India is making some impressive strides since what happened two years ago).

HERE'S WHAT I AM SAYING: The extreme coverage of this rape case is a pathetic attempt to scare consumers out of trusting a smart new system that will undoubtedly dominate the market in the coming years. This is the sort of thing that happens to a company that isn't making the right people money. 

And as a final note and (kind of depressing) closing statement: The War on Uber is really just part of the War for your Wallet; the parties behind both sides of these "hot topics" have about as much of your best interests in mind as the commercials that play during your favourite TV shows.

Thanks for reading.


Matthew Thibeault

Matthew is a writer of both fiction and nonfiction whose work has appeared nowhere in particular.

Facebook | Twitter

Stuff he reads: Harper's | The Walrus | Oxford American

A Capital Solution To An Uber Problem

Night Traffic By Feel Art (FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

Night Traffic By Feel Art (FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

So maybe you’ve downloaded Uber’s app and gone for a ride or two. Maybe you’ve even gone and become an Uber driver, and are currently typing a beautiful, infomercial-type success story comment under my last post; something about how it’s the best job you’ve ever had and how your life has changed for the better, and maybe you’re just now reaching the part in your Uber testimonial where you’re thanking me for introducing you to such a fantastic/lucrative second job/career. Or, maybe, you became an Uber driver but have instead wound up being the 14 Ottawa drivers fined ($650) and you’re just now taking violent stabs at your keyboard in the midst of a less ecstatic and (probably lengthier) testimonial wherein you threaten this writer’s very life for introducing you to the thing that has swallowed up this month's rent. This, I hope, is not the case.

Last Tuesday the City of Toronto requested an injunction for a court order to stop Uber from operating within city limits, and the city’s new mayor, John Tory (succeeding Mr. Rob Ford on December 1st), is not going to put a halt on the Toronto’s suit against Uber; though he has claimed that court cases are “old-fashioned methods” and that “these kinds of technological changes are here to stay.”

What’s more disappointing, is the rigid anti-uber stance of the seriously tight-assed and newly re-elected Jim Watson, who’s pretty firm in his tight-assedness as the city promises more fines to even further screw Uber and their honest, hardworking drivers.

So, I have a plan; (1) you (i.e. Uber) offer free rides to anyone who can prove they work at City hall. How will this help? Well, no matter at what capacity, there will be city hall employees that take you up on free rides (if the ride is free, it isn’t technically illegal), and (2) when people are hopping on into Uber cabs from city hall, well, I don’t know what that’ll do exactly, but it won’t look good. And (3) this is just how the sprockets and cogs of getting-shit-done work, (i.e. greasing the wheels); free rides for City hall workers are barely a backrub in comparison to the million dollar blowjobs (kickbacks) politicians receive every year, so– wait, actually, scrap the free ride plan; (PLAN B) just grease ’em. We know you have the dough -- you’re projected to gross 10 billion this year. There’s nothing more sphincter loosening (I’m looking at you, Jim) than numbers that end with "illion."


Matthew Thibeault

Matthew is a writer of both fiction and nonfiction whose work has appeared nowhere in particular.

Facebook | Twitter

Stuff he reads: Harper's | The Walrus | Oxford American

"Maybe some training?"

Night Traffic By Feelart (FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

Night Traffic By Feelart (FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

“I just apply online, and I get the job; just like that?”

“No questions asked.”

“No questio-- oh, criminal check, yeah, background check, like a regular job; you know?”

My first driver was a father of four and an employee at the Supreme Court of Canada. It was his second day on the job; he was both incredibly kind, and a terrible navigator – which was actually pretty entertaining.

“So, left or?”

“Uh, I’m not sure, what does your phone say?” I don't drive often so I wasn't much help.

“Huh?”

“I usually take the bus.”

“One minute, one minute.”

He was not unsafe – I felt very safe in his family’s new Dodge Caravan (Uber drivers can't use vehicles made prior to 2006) – but he was confused, even with the GPS function in the Uber app. I have to take some credit for his getting lost though, I wouldn’t have fared very well if some snoopy jerk in the back seat were interrogating me about my life and my new, kind of illegal, job either.

“Okay, okay, sorry, we turn around.”

“Hey, man, it’s okay.” I wasn’t annoyed or anything, it was his second day, but he was clearly ignoring the GPS instructions, so I took out my phone.

“I think it’s a left here.”

“…”

“This one, coming up.”

“Huh?”

“This one here.”

“Yeah?”

“Yeah, it was that one.”

U-turns were made and we did have to pull over once but all things considered, we arrived and everybody got a five star rating (did I mention Uber allows you to rate your drivers and vice versa? because that's worth mentioning).

I stayed in the car for a while and we talked about Uber, and non-Uber related things. Just before I left I asked him if there was anything he would change about his new job.

"Uh, maybe some training?"

Nothing's perfect.

In the weeks after the city’s recent tragedy, news coverage of the Uber Vs. stuffy Ottawa legislators has slowed down quite a bit because – and luckily for Uber drivers – police efforts have been reassigned from sting operations to circle monuments with assault rifles, and no charges have been laid on drivers in over a month.

I’m including the following video tutorial for exactly two reasons: (1) the educational requirements of this blog submission (3 hyperlinks, 1 photo, 1 video), and (2) if at least one of the people reading this becomes an Uber driver, I’ll feel pretty great about what I’ve done here.


matt pic.jpg

Matthew Thibeault

Matthew is a writer of both fiction and nonfiction whose work has appeared nowhere in particular.

Facebook | Twitter

Stuff he reads: Harper's | The Walrus | Oxford American

"...it's all shit, man."

Photo by: Feelart (FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

Photo by: Feelart (FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

“The guy who invented this app is a fuckin’ genius, man. I’m tellin’ you, a fuckin’ genius.”

Wassim, my driver, is referring to Uber. He is apparently not Italian, but he sounds pretty Italian when he swears.

“Capitol has an app, Blueline has an app, and it’s all the same, it’s all shit, man,” he says.

I was a confused when a Capitol Taxi cab arrived in front of my apartment after I used Uber to request a ride.

“I wasn’t expecting a real cab."

“What do you mean?”

“You’re a real taxi; you do both?”

“Why not, man?”

He sounds almost defensive, which makes me think his boss probably doesn’t know he’s driving Uber customers.

Wassim tells me he’s been driving (legally) for over 20 years. He’s the archetypal cabbie; mid 40s, classic gut, bald, his skull shining and reflecting the passing greens and reds of intersections. He looks like a young James Gandolfini, and sounds like him too.

He believes that although drivers should have the proper training, Uber is the way of the future as far as the taxi business goes.

When I ask him about his contract with Capitol and whether or not driving for Uber violates that contract, he says: “I take calls from dispatch first, and I accept requests from Uber if I’m just waiting around and if it’s not a big trip or whatever."

This didn’t exactly answer my question, but since my ride with Wassim, the Ottawa Sun released an article stating that there is a “strict” rule in the union’s collective agreement. The union does not allow drivers who work for cab companies to drive for other companies (e.g. Uber).

When I first got in, Wassim set the meter and told me he just wanted to see what the difference would be.

The total cost of my ride through Uber: $11.57

The same ride through Capitol Taxi: $15.80

For those who don’t know how taxi companies work: They actually rent out their plates (and lease their cars) to the drivers who pay a monthly fee (in Wassim’s case, about $2,200.) Uber, on the other hand, takes 20 percent of each transaction.

It was hard to get a straight answer out of Wassim about which was better for him financially, but it’s important to note that he was, at this point, looking for a tip.

Matthew Thibeault

Matthew is a writer of both fiction and nonfiction whose work has appeared nowhere in particular.

Facebook | Twitter

Stuff he reads: Harper's | The Walrus | Oxford American

"Where you guys goin'?"

Photo by: Feelart (FreeDigitalPhotos.net)  

Photo by: Feelart (FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

 

Being sober for the last four months has changed more than a few things, but most relevant are: (1) decreased spending on any given weekend, (2) decreased number of people who want to hang out with me on Saturday nights while I sip soda water through a skinny straw from a glass with a lime floating in it, and (3) how often (drastically less often) I find myself in the back of an unlicenced taxi.

“Speedy?”

“Speedy."

“You’re not [name removed]."

“…."

“Where’s [name removed]?”

Regardless of my not being [name removed], like I claimed to be on the phone, we’re urged into Speedy’s car – which is a conspicuously low, forest-green Chrysler 300 that actually does smell like a taxi – and asked, somewhat discourteously, “Where you guys going?”

Speedy is the name (or codename?) of Ottawa’s most consistently inconsistent unlicenced taxi service. I don’t usually make these calls; as a sober person, they make me feel more than a little uncomfortable. We’ve been instructed by [name removed] to address both the operator and the driver as “Speedy.” The reason I lied about my identity on the phone (and why “Speedy” is not necessarily reliable) is that if Speedy-the-operator gets even the slightest indication that maybe you don’t sound like a drunk twenty-something looking for a cheap ride to [any shitty bar or club], but instead like an undercover police officer conducting a sting operation, Speedy-the-driver will not show up, and seeing as how their operation is less than legitimate, they also won’t bother to let you know that they’re not coming (which has happened twice before).

“How’s your night so far?”

“Huh?” reaching over to turn the music down.

“Your night; driving.”

Giving me a "why are you talking to me?" look, he turns the music back up.

I think he’s still pissed that I’m not [name removed].

In light of our city’s current interest in the subject (CBC), and in an attempt to make this whole thing a little less self-absorbed than it could be, I’ve chosen to use my blog not only to share my unbiased (ie. completely biased) opinion on the complicated socioeconomic issue of Ottawa’s war on UBER, but my experiences and conversations with the drivers who are risking $20,000 fines to give you $20 (or less) rides to [that shitty bar] on a Saturday night.


Matthew Thibeault

Matthew is a writer of both fiction and nonfiction whose work has appeared nowhere in particular.

Facebook | Twitter

Stuff he reads: Harper's | The Walrus | Oxford American