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    Ride Sharing: A Teaching Moment

    This afternoon, I ordered an Uber ride home from Trader Joe’s. When my car arrived, I asked the driver – a young woman – to help me put my cart of groceries in the trunk. It’s a very small cart, and probably weighed all of 15 lbs, but I have a hidden disability which limits how much I can lift, and also limits my range of motion. Lifting even that seemingly minor weight, and moving it up and over the the back end of a car is just not something I’m physically able to do. 

    The driver rolled her eyes at me, dramatically, and barked, “Are you KIDDING?”
    I replied, “No, I’m not kidding. Can you help me out?”
    She said, “Jeez. I popped the trunk open for you, already. Do it, yourself.”
    I said, “I have a disability which makes that impossible. I wouldn’t be asking for help if I didn’t need it. Can you please help me?”

    She groaned, made a big production out of getting out of the car, and scowled at me.  (As if I cared. I wanted some help with my groceries, and a ride home – not a best friend.) She grabbed the cart and  picked it up and over, putting it into the trunk with ease. 

    I got in the car, and we drove towards my place in silence, except for the sound of NPR. The story on the radio was about political corruption, and how certain politicians seem to spend more time just hurling insults via social media, instead of doing the work they were elected to do. I make a funny comment about the political climate and politicians using Twitter. The driver laughed, and we shared a moment of solidarity, in terms of agreeing that D.C. could sure use a good clean-up, politically.

    We approached my building and the driver asked, politely, “Are you going to need help getting that stuff out of the back?”

    I answered, “If that’s possible, yes, I really do need some help.”

    I decided against giving her a bad review, because I could sense that she was feeling remorseful, and she seemed completely sincere in asking if I needed help. Not snarky – sincere. I pulled out cash to tip her – I always tip drivers who help me with packages or luggage. When I got out of the car, she’d already jumped out, opened the trunk, and pulled out my cart. I thanked her and offered her the cash. She refused it and said, “Look, I’m really sorry about before. I had a herniated disk, so I have to be really careful with my back.”

    I said, “Believe me, I understand. I have 9 herniated disks, myself, right now. That’s why I need help with stuff like this. I appreciate you loading and unloading the cart for me. I do have to tell you, though, that asking “are you KIDDING?” and rolling your eyes at me was not ok. In the future, you might want to consider something more like, “Sorry, I can’t help with your cart because I can’t lift anything/I have an injury/disability.” I would have totally understood that and just figured something out. I would have cancelled and requested another Uber. But you asking, “are you KIDDING?” and making those faces? That snark and attitude were not cool. Don’t do that to a person who asks for help. I only asked because I have a disability and actually NEED help with this sort of thing. The way you responded? It’s just one of the reasons that Uber is right now facing a bunch of lawsuits all over the country regarding their refusal to serve people with disabilities.” 

    She seemed to really listen to me. She thought about it a second and then asked, “If you have a disability, why didn’t you use the special service Uber has for people with disabilities? You used regular Uber. I’d never expect to be called on to help anyone with a disability, because there’s an Uber service just for that.”

    I replied, “Because the service you’re referring to exists on paper, so that Uber can claim they’re accessible, but there are virtually no cars that are actually providing that service. That, in part, is what the lawsuits are about.”

    She said, “Wow. I totally didn’t know that. I thought you could just request a special car, if you had a disability, and that it would show up, no problem.  I didn’t even know Uber was being sued. I’m sorry I was so nasty.”

    I said, “No worries. You won’t do it, again. I can tell. And remember: if you can’t help someone with lifting, that’s fine. You need to take care of yourself.  Just think about how you refuse the request. It makes a difference.”

    When it was all over, I decided that she seemed like a nice young woman, and I do think she took what I said to heart. I feel as if our mutual frustration with national politics is what broke the ice. Maybe the mess in D.C. has some value, after all. 

     

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