My Day With An Uber Driver
For This Mother-To-Be, Ridesharing And Fair Are A Perfect Fit
SANTA MONICA, Calif.—It’s an unsurprisingly sunny afternoon in Southern California, and I’m about to hop into an Uber.
Only I’m not running late for the airport or headed to a quickie appointment. I’m tagging along with Carmella Penniman to check out her typical workday as a rideshare driver.
At the time of our ride, Carmella has been using Fair to drive with Uber for about four months in a pristine, late-model Kia Soul. Carmella actually didn’t have a vehicle immediately before this one, and says the Kia is pretty great—not only for rideshare driving, but for her personal life, too.
“It’s super spacious, it's good on gas, it’s really nice,” Carmella says. “I always get a lot of compliments on it from my riders.”
Personally, I’m not surprised she digs the Kia since I drive the exact same car and love it. It’s even the same color (black). When we climb inside, however, the differences behind Carmella’s car and mine are immediately clear.
Her interior is neat, orderly and smells really good. Mine looks like a dirty bomb of random errands went off.
“No one wants to ride in a dirty car,” she says.
As I note this for the future, we pull away.
Not long into our drive, I notice some infant onesies hanging off the back of the driver’s seat. Carmella is expecting a baby soon and says the clothes were a gift from a baby shower the past weekend. She says being a rideshare driver is a convenient fit as she awaits her new arrival.
“It's not too hard because all you have to do is sit and drive, so I'm not putting any strain on my body during my pregnancy,” she says. “And I could just go on and off whenever I want.”
Carmella Penniman in her mobile office: a Kia Soul she got via Fair's Uber program.
Before looking for riders, we stop to gas up—which is how Carmella starts every shift. When she’s topped off her tank, she then pulls over to the side of the road and waits for her first ride to pop up.
We pass a few minutes as she shows me the Uber app for drivers and her various incentives. She’s just under 200 points away from reaching Platinum status, which would unlock new driver perks.
The Fair car she got has a flat fee of $195/week (exclusive of taxes and fees), which includes insurance, routine maintenance, 24/7 roadside assistance, and unlimited miles. And if Carmella hits 90 rides in a week, she gets a $150 credit from Uber on top of what she earned for driving.
She pulls up her recent driving history on the app. We look at one week where she drove full-time and gave exactly 90 rides.
“The flexibility is the best thing,” she says. “I'm in charge of my own schedule.”
After a few minutes, Carmella’s first ride pops up on her phone. She uses Uber’s in-app navigation to start heading toward her pickup. It’s seven minutes away.
She’s playing classic rock, her go-to, because she says it appeals to her mix of both older and younger riders. Right now, she’s listening to Leaving on a Jet Plane by John Denver.
“This song plays a lot,” she laughs.
“I make more in one week driving than I was making at my job every two weeks,” Carmella says during a day of rideshare driving in West L.A.
With her serene demeanor and the scent of cherry wafting from her air freshener, we drive a few blocks to pick up her first rider—a young woman in front of an apartment building.
Carmella had previously informed me that part of driving is “knowing when to talk or not.” Following her playbook, she opens the door to some light conversation, then lets her passenger take the lead.
The woman asks about the baby clothes, and we all chat for the duration of the five-minute ride. As she drops the woman off at a doctor’s appointment, it’s no wonder to me why Carmella has a five-star Uber rating.
As she awaits her next ride, Carmella tells me that getting her car through Fair was a great option because of her age.
“I'm not 25 yet, and Fair is 21 and over. So it worked out perfectly,” she says.
Carmella said she’s met a lot of fellow drivers through the Uber Rideshare Council, a group of Fair customers who drive for Uber and meet to give feedback on ways Fair can improve its Uber program.
“They ask us what we think, and what we think would help to improve it so that we can all be happy,” she says. “Which is great, because not a lot of companies go out of their way to see how their customers are satisfied.”
A new ride pops up, and we head off to pick up another passenger. I ask Carmella if driving rideshare has turned her into a sort of therapist, since she’s constantly sitting in a uniquely private space talking with strangers. Carmella laughs, instead training the keen eye of a therapist on something else about her last rider.
“She actually spilled some tea on that ride,” Carmella says.
We pick up Carmella’s next riders. This time, it’s a group of three cheerful women who are visiting from out of town. Again, Carmella waits for the ladies to get settled in before going with her opening.
“How’s your day going so far?” she says.
The women give an enthusiastic response, then chat amongst themselves. Carmella tells me that when she picks up groups, she tries to ignore their conversations to give them their privacy.
“I try to tune it out as much as possible, but sometimes you can’t,” she says.
As we ride to the ladies’ destination—a restaurant six minutes away—Carmella tells me that nights and mornings tend to be her busiest. She says she used to work another job, but has now totally transitioned to driving rideshare—not only for the flexibility, but for the pay.
“I make more in one week driving than I was making at my job every two weeks,” she says.
She drops the women off at their lunch date and awaits another ride. Now John Denver’s Country Roads plays over the car speakers. As we sit parked on a cracked L.A. street, I don’t have long to ponder the irony before the next ride pops up.
A few miles away, Carmella picks up a 30-something male rider. After Carmella asks him about his day, the man spends the ride chatting about his IT job at a movie studio.
When he gets out, Carmella tells me that what she enjoys most about being out on the road are the interesting conversations.
After doing a few more rides, we pick up her final passenger of the afternoon, a woman standing outside on a residential sidewalk. Carmella pulls over, and the woman gets in.
“How’s your day going so far?”
And away we go again.