I’m an Uber Eats Driver: Every Night Is an Adventure
I’ll never forget the night I climbed a torturous apartment complex and then next found my way into a McFlurry debacle.
A surge of adrenaline rushed through my body as soon as I heard the chirp of an incoming request. The book I was reading flew to the passenger’s seat, as if it had been trained to do so, and I looked at my phone to see what Uber was offering. The countdown timer pressured me to accept, but I had learned the hard way to use all 15 seconds of my allotted time to review the information on my screen before accepting or rejecting the request.
This one was a delivery trip, but not from a restaurant. It was a Walmart grocery delivery. I had only done a few of those and it had never been a particularly pleasant experience, but the estimated payout was decent and the drop-off location was fairly close. A familiar fear set in as I contemplated sitting in my car for 20 minutes waiting for the next request. With only a second or two left before the opportunity disappeared forever, I hit the accept button, started up my car and launched into one of the worst experiences of my career as a part-time Uber driver.
I Didn’t Realize How Many Steps I’d Climb to Deliver Groceries
Getting to Walmart was no problem. Like I said, I’d been there a few times before. I pulled into one of the designated grocery delivery pickup spots and called the number on the sign. The good news was that I didn’t have to wait long. The bad news was that it was the biggest Walmart grocery order I had ever seen. Eight cases of 32 water bottles towered over one of the two carts. They were flanked by cases of soda, a gallon of milk, a few cartons of fruit juice, canned food, frozen food and baked goods. I helped the two Walmart employees load everything into my trunk and backseat and set out.
Just two minutes before reaching the destination, the familiar chirping of an incoming request once again filled the car. It’s not uncommon for Uber to offer another trip as I finish up the previous one. I knew that it would take me a few minutes to unload all the groceries onto the customer’s porch in the muggy heat, but I went ahead and accepted the McDonald’s delivery.
It was only as I pulled up to the destination that I realized exactly what I had gotten myself into. This was an apartment complex, and the number one rule of Uber deliveries to an apartment without an elevator is that the door you are trying to get to is always on the top floor. This delivery was no exception. For every load of groceries, I would have to climb up a half-flight of stairs to get to the front door, open the aforementioned door with my hands full of groceries, climb up two flights of stairs, open a stairwell door, open another hallway door and drop off the goods in front of the very last door on the left.
I knew the clock was against me. As far as the McDonald’s customer could tell, the whole time I was climbing those stairs might as well have been me sitting in my car playing a game of solitaire. Even worse, Uber’s algorithm doesn’t factor in the size of the order or the distance to the customer’s door when they estimate the payout for the trip. The only way I would get paid for climbing up those stairs was if the customer was kind enough to leave a tip.
With the clock ticking and no good options, I did the only thing I could do: I ran. With every bounding leap up the stairs, more sweat poured down my face. I started with the eight cases of water, then moved to the soda, milk and juice before bringing in the bags of assorted other goods. I despised every minute of it, but to be fair, I could certainly see why these people had their groceries delivered.
My Night Got Worse When the McDonald’s Ice Cream Machine Broke
After more trips up the stairs than I cared to keep track of, I was on my way to McDonald’s with the AC on full blast. Looking at the Uber app, I saw a notification warning me that the McDonald’s customer was waiting and that I shouldn’t have spent so much time on the previous request. If I’d had any breath left in me, I would have laughed.
Running across the McDonald’s parking lot, I prayed that the McDonald’s employees would be in a good mood today. Food delivery drivers have an interesting relationship with restaurant workers. My experience has been that most restaurant employees view drivers as their comrades-in-arms. We aren’t the customers; we are folks just trying to make a living like they are. Sure, a few workers here and there just don’t care or act like we are their enemy for whatever reason, but most workers will treat delivery drivers far better than they will treat customers. It’s not uncommon for workers to even offer a drink or some free food, especially around closing time.
While the guy behind the counter at McDonald’s didn’t offer any freebies, he did offer some insider information. “You’re here for that order?” he asked. “Sorry dude, but we’re in the middle of cleaning the ice cream machine. It’s going to be a few more minutes before we can make your McFlurry. You might want to cancel the trip.”
I thought about what he said. I knew he was probably right, but I didn’t want to cancel after all that hassle. Besides, canceling now might only mean waiting for another request in the parking lot, so I might as well wait for the McFlurry.
And wait I did. It took nearly 20 minutes before the order was ready, which actually isn’t the longest I’ve waited for an Uber order at McDonald’s. Nonetheless, I wasted no time getting back out to my car and making sure the food got where it was supposed to go, albeit much later than anticipated.
There Is Never a Boring Night While Driving for Uber
The instructions on the app told me to leave the food on the porch rather than hand it to the customer, so I never got to meet her in person. She didn’t exactly leave a five-star rating, but I certainly can’t blame her for that. She did not know what it took to deliver her food nor would she ever know.
When people ask me what I like about driving for Uber, my answer is the same every time: Every day is an adventure. Almost daily, I meet interesting people and travel to parts of my own city that I never knew existed. I’ve seen head-on collisions and drug deals. I’ve been tipped $20 by someone who said she liked my taste in music. I’ve comforted a grown man who was bawling because his wife left him and took the kids to a different state. I’ve directed a woman in an abusive relationship to the help she needed. Also, I’ve lugged cases of bottled water to the top of an apartment complex and waited 20 minutes for a McDonald's ice cream machine.
Whenever I hit the button to launch the Uber app, I have no idea what my day will hold. All I can hope is that customers will be patient with me when things don’t go according to plan. Every day is an adventure.