I've failed you as a writer this month. While many riders shared pieces of their stories on their way from point A to point B, I didn't do my due diligence/ask the right kinds of questions to be able to relay an inspiring story for the month of January. Twenty months into driving for uber, I'm more than 2000 rides/riders into the process. Occasionally, specific stories stand out, and those anecdotes are usually shared with my fiance or friends at the end of the day.
I'll keep mining for the best/most inspiring narratives from future riders, but for this month, I thought it might be interesting to do a quick, top 5 of do's and don't's for uber rider conversations. Basically, this is my very own, small-talk manifesto. After a couple thousand interactions in just over 1.5 years, here's what I've learned about modern day, uber small-talk:
Top 5 topics of conversation for good uber chatting:
5. Travel - If your uber rider is headed to or from the airport or train station, it's obvious that he/she either is or has just been out of familiar surroundings. A simple "where are you headed today" or "what brings you to town" can start a fun back and forth about other cities or regions that you may not be totally familiar with. In the past week, I've gotten to chat with passengers about landmarks in Montreal, events close to Fenway Park in Boston, and the pros and cons of taking public transit in Chicago. These convos can easily kill 15-20 minutes while you're heading somewhere.
4. Other uber experiences - This can be easiest if this is one of the first times using uber for the rider. For them, "this uber thing" is a whole new world, and they love to ask what kind of crazies have been in my car. They'll also talk about how helpful other drivers have been, or even how hard it is for them to get a ride. Re-assuring the rider that most drivers aren't crazy, most riders are generally good people, and "this uber thing" can be an overwhelmingly positive experience usually brings out good energy, and puts them at ease.
3. Food - Seriously, who doesn't like to talk about food. Everyone loves restaurant recommendations, or talking about a great meal they just devoured. This also can lead to some good natured competition, i.e. what place has the best burger, bbq, etc. Food is always safe, and I usually stop for a snack after rides where we talk about it.
2. Technology - I think, deep down, we all love to be pundits, trying to predict what the next big app or tech product might be. I've been introduced to all kinds of new and convenient tricks with my phone or online accounts just by chatting with riders who seem to have their finger on the pulse of the tech boom.
1. Love - This encompasses dating, marriage, and family. It's convenient for uber chatting that I'm fairly newly in love and planning a fast-approaching wedding. People love to talk about wedding planning, how I met Michelle, and then how they met their spouse/significant other. When you think about it, it's fun to talk about where your relationship began, and you don't get to do it as much when you've been together for a long time.
Top 5 topics of conversation for bad uber chatting:
5. Work - This was a hard thing for me to learn, because I love to talk about my job. But a lot of people would prefer to leave work at work. For some, it's hard to explain exactly what their job is, and others, they know their job is temporary/a stepping stone to what they really want. I've found, in general, talking about work is a non-starter.
4. Parents - I'm also a little off, in that, I like to brag about my parents (in their 60's, volunteering for every charity under the sun). But I've found that most people get quiet or sad when discussing parents. Sometimes this is because of an illness, and other times, it's because they don't spend as much time with them as they want to or feel like they should.
3. Politics - No explanation needed
2. Friends - Your uber experience is, on average, about 20 minutes. Twenty minutes is not enough time to explain the context of your friends/social circle. So if a story about your friend or their friend comes up, that's usually the beginning of the end. I care about you, and I care about you getting to your destination safely. I do not care about the 6th grade class where you met your third best friend.
1. Music - Sure, we COULD talk about music. I know you probably like certain genres, and we could even talk about concert experiences. But if we're talking music, sooner or later, I know you're gonna ask me for the aux chord so you can play some song in the car that you SWEAR I'll like (and I'm almost certain I won't). Honestly, if I haven't already heard the artist you're trying to get me listen to, I'm probably not gonna like it now. Plus, NO WAY am I giving up the aux chord...who's car do you even think you're riding in?