My Fight with an Uber Driver
I have an altercation with an Uber driver that spills into the street. Here is the moment-to-moment account of my interior life during the event.
It is extremely cold outside. The coldest it has been in five years.
In the morning it was seven degrees.
I need to get from our home in Brooklyn to the West Side of Manhattan to get together with friends to play guitar.
I don't want to have my guitar exposed to the extreme cold.
Instead of taking the guitar in a soft case I pack it into its hard case.
Despite the surprise expense of an Uber, I opt against the subway. It will be $45.
I’m not sure I want to go to my friends houses and consider canceling.
I order the Uber.
Outside on the sidewalk, it is not as cold as I'd imagined.
I check my watch for the temperature. It isn't 7 anymore.
I feel a twinge of disappointment it isn't colder. I’ve missed a claim on being out during the worst of the cold spell.
Two cars pass that aren't the right kind of cars for Uber.
I'm aware of leaning but not stepping forward to meet them. I would look slightly stupid if I did.
A third car approaches. It has the dark orange license plate that car shares have in New York City. It is my ride.
I don't want to put the guitar in the backseat. It’s large and might damage the backseat.
I move towards the back of the vehicle.
The driver doesn't get out.
I lift the latch on the rear door and it opens slightly, stops. I pull and it stops again. But then it still doesn't move. I'm not sure if it is automated or not.
I call through the door and ask if it is automated.
I don't hear a response.
The driver doesn't get out.
I think that usually they do.
After I put the guitar in the rear trunk, the driver snaps at me rudely not to touch the door.
He's irritated that I'd pulled against the automated door.
I'm surprised at his tone.
It isn't what I’d expect from an Uber driver.
I wonder if I've broken the door pulling at it.
I understand why he's mad.
When I get in, I have the brief inclination to lower the emotional temperature with him.
I opt against it. He was harsh enough about the door that I decide not to make peace.
I would be giving him too much.
I have ear buds in my pocket. I struggle under my seatbelt to retrieve them from my coat as I have a lot of layers on and don't know what pocket they're in.
I'm conscious that I'm awkwardly searching for them.
I don't want to give the driver the satisfaction of seeing me struggle.
I have a small ear training application on my phone. I start to use it.
I have a flash of guilt at not engaging socially at all and going directly into my iPhone world. Usually, I ask how their day is going.
I adopt a "get me where I need go /I don't talk to the driver" attitude.
A minute later, I get a message that my driver has arrived.
I don’t think much of it at first. I decide that it is an Uber messaging glitch.
We go several blocks down the street when I look at my Uber application again.
My driver is supposed to be named Mohammed.
My driver is Asian.
I know something is wrong.
I don’t interpret this as a threat, but it bothers me.
It raises credibility issues. This has happened to me before.
My assumption is that I’m being misled. I was misled when it happened before.
I ask my driver where we're headed and he gives me an address on the East Side.
I go on offense.
I challenge him on who the passenger was that he was supposed to pick up. He says "Sophie" or "Sophia."
Neither of us asked the other who we were or where I was going, and I hadn’t checked the plates to validate the car.
We're both in the wrong.
I take for granted he'll bring me back to my address.
He says he doesn't have my address anymore.
This makes possible sense to me. Maybe Uber removes this information for security reasons once you pick someone up.
I tell him my address. He starts to fuss with his GPS.
I realize that the prior Uber message was from the correct driver.
I text the correct driver that I'm on my way.
I text him I'd taken the wrong Uber.
The other driver text that that's fine. He'll wait.
Our messages cross paths in the timing somehow, but his communication is friendly.
I feel relief that I won't have to start from scratch getting a car.
I check my watch. I'm going to be late to my friend’s apartment no matter what.
I worry that the woman who's Uber I took will now take mine.
I text my wife that I got in the wrong Uber. I want an audience for the problem.
I'm concerned that I'm going to be paying the actual driver even more than I'd hope given the extra time waiting fees.
I'm concerned for making the actual driver wait. It is hard on my street to find a way to get out of traffic that comes up behind you.
I'm getting on edge but retreat into my iPhone world again.
I remain in "you take me where you are supposed to take me" mode.
I'm focused on my phone and don't notice immediately that the driver has passed the correct turn to get back to my house.
I allow myself overt frustration.
I let him know that we're going to shoot further out of the way now.
He’s frustrated, too.
He asks for my address a second time.
My driver keeps fussing with his GPS. He has two screens with GPS.
I realize that the time to get back to the correct driver just grew.
I give the directions again with the tone of you need to get it right this time.
Part of my pushing my irritation with him is getting back at him for his attitude when I got in the car.
I wonder if the actual driver will continue wait for me. I decide this is doubtful.
My window for getting to the correct car is closing.
There is no follow up text that he's going to leave on the phone. That's good.
I go on offense with his not knowing how to get the address right and struggling with the GPS.
I’m losing confidence in him.
I stop paying attention and am back on my phone.
I feel him make the correct turn at a stop sign. I don’t look up.
I look up a minute later to see the next correct turn approaching on the right.
I tell him to turn there but again he misses the turn.
I know I'm going to be late.
I worry this will cost me a fortune, and my right driver is waiting there and might leave.
I cross over from irritation to open frustration. My words are not literally rude, but my tone is "you're an idiot."
He stops the car after missing the turn. We are partially pulled to the side of the road at the edge of the intersection.
I think he will back up to turn down the right road now.
He orders me to get out.
I'm confused. Not sure if he's saying what he's saying.
I refuse to get out, telling him no he's not, he's bringing me back to my house.
For maybe 15 seconds, we go back-and-forth.
He still refuses. He threatens to drive to Manhattan if I don't get out.
There is a brief moment of me trying to get things calmer.
I explain he can't leave me in freezing weather, that he has to bring me back.
I'm firm about not getting out while giving him an out to take me back.
I call his bluff and stay in the car.
He calls my bluff. He starts to drive us away.
I know there are times Uber drivers asked passengers to get out on highways.
I might be playing with fire.
I let him win.
I swear and tell him to stop and open the rear trunk.
I need to get my guitar, but then I'm concerned he'll drive away with my guitar once I’m out of the vehicle.
I get out but leave my door open.
It crosses my mind to leave the door open after I retrieve the guitar so that he has to get out and close it himself.
He does not pull the car away as I go to retrieve my guitar.
I have my guitar. I'm relieved.
The automated back opens and I get my guitar.
My adrenalin is flowing.
I head back to close the passenger door.
There is a brief moment when I consider slamming the door.
I check myself that this feels too risky of an escalation.
I yell something at him through the back as I lean into the vehicle.
He yells back.
My next decision comes in an impulse.
I slam the door on him with full force.
It makes a different sound than I expect.
I expect a duller thunk, but it is hard and metallic.
The door felt less solid than I'd thought it would be. Flimsier.
This has escalated. It might explode.
I turn my back, and head away.
He is yelling.
He's gotten out of the car .
He is headed for me.
He's moving fast.
There is a flash where I evaluate whether he's going to yell or attack.
He's going to attack.
He comes at me fast to push me.
I take the guitar case and bang it towards him.
I feel the handle is firm in my grip and it’s weight.
I realize that the guitar is protective and that it has surprised him.
He backs up for a moment and then comes at me a second time.
He's still yelling, but I assess that he's assessing my threat level to him.
Seeing that on his face, I know I have an advantage I can press.
I decide the guitar has surprised him.
I see he has some willingness to back off.
I assess that he is now less of a threat.
He is yelling at me in English.
I’m not hearing what is yelling at me.
The dynamic of the altercation shifts to a more even plane than when he was charging.
I move slightly towards him going slightly on offense.
I calculate whether to further go on offense will make him back off and lower the possibility of a fight or raise the risk level.
He starts to trail away.
There is more yelling. I’m not taking the words in.
He comes back to me a second time.
There's more pushing. It is brief, but hard, by both of us.
It is still volatile and physical and could reignite, but this last burst is calming things for some reason.
I yell at him "you need to calm the fuck down."
I have a background thought of the absurdity of that.
I feel good about the hard line I've taken. It has worked.
He backs off and heads to his car.
The fight is over.
I wonder after I've turned if he'll unexpectedly come after me.
For a second time I take the risk of not looking behind.
I have a flash of satisfaction that I was more aggressive than I would have expected myself to be.
I feel masculine pride.
I'm not someone who gets in fight so how I'll behave when confronted with one is unknown.
Fighting back is important to me.
I have another flash realizing that the weight of the guitar and the feeling of grip on the guitar case had weaponized it unexpectedly.
I have a flash of appreciation for the power of a weapon.
Then I find the use of the weapon takes away from my pride in my strong defense.
It wasn't an equal confrontation.
Charged with adrenaline I walk another block to clear the area.
I think that people walking by me are oblivious to what just happened.
I see on my phone that my correct driver has now cancelled the ride.
He is eating the cancellation fee.
That bothers me that he had to pay. It feels unfair.
From where I am, I calculate it still would have taken me another 5 minutes to get home.
The correct driver wouldn't have waited that long.
I dial another Uber and stand waiting on the curb.
The second Uber arrives.
I'm struck by this driver’s friendly reception.
I go to the back of his car to put the guitar in, and he comes around and tells me it is fine to put in the backseat.
We fuss together to solve the problem. We awkwardly try to get it aligned properly so it stands straight up and down in the foot area on the other side of the backseat.
I have to get in pretty far on my knees to get the guitar situated.
I think that's why I didn't want to put it in the back in the first car.
The driver assures me it is fine.
In my mind, I replay the events with the other driver until I arrive at my destination.