Cole* is a part-time Uber driver in Atlanta. On his first week on the job, he finds himself driving a passenger who has clearly had too many drinks. The passenger, a new arrival to the city, wants to know what to do and where to go, so Cole informs him of several tourist destinations.
“Out of nowhere,” Cole recounts, “he yells at the top of his lungs and slams his hands on my dashboard. ‘Dude, shut the F-up. Seriously, just shut the F-up or I’m going to have to hurt you.’
Stunned at the sudden outburst, Cole finds his bearings and quietly adjusts his hands on the wheel, careful to keep them loose in case he needs to ward off his aggressive passenger. They ride on in silence. A little while later, Cole’s passenger asks if he can smoke in the car. Hoping to appease him, Cole pulls over, so the stench doesn’t ruin his car interior—and possibly land him in trouble with a future ride. Each of them smokes a cigarette standing at opposite ends of the car.
When they arrive at their destination, Cole’s passenger invites him inside to smoke marijuana, and after he declines, suggests another cigarette instead. Feeling agitated at this early stage in his ride-hailing job, and eager to keep the peace, Cole doesn’t feel he can easily get out of this one.
“I didn’t know the Uber guidelines then,” says Cole. Company rules advise that riders who behave disrespectfully can lose access to the Uber platform. But even knowing the guidelines isn’t enough to negotiate all the exigencies of a ride-hailing job. “If I knew then what I know now, the second he got out of the car I would have driven…