“But dad, I’m going to be late for school!” Such was the cry of my 18 year old daughter on her 3rd day of community college PSEO classes. We were in downtown Anoka conducting some bank business, ironically for the purpose of getting her a car, when poof!, gone was my vehicle and I’m stranded for four hours. Now Anoka is quite nice and all, and I did take in Serum’s for their incredible Chicken Wings, but I had to get back home in Ramsey. Hmmm … Northstar Rail? Nope. That was a four hour wait too. Bus? Never seen one anywhere near my house. A cab perhaps? Yeah, I guess. But how long would that take and did I need to make another trip to the bank to cash in a $500 savings bond to pay for the fare? What to do? Then it dawned on me … Uber.
I had Uber already preloaded on my latest cell phone so I clicked on the app. And what transpired was a work of beauty.
After entering my profile info, including credit card number, and my pick up and drop off points, the App gave me 4 options for vehicle types and the actual cost, to the penny, of what it would cost to get home. I requested the cheapest ride you can get–$9.87. The most expensive was $40+. A google map then popped up showing a roads and highways around the area. At the top of the map, which depicted a spot about five miles north of my location, was a animated black car moving along a county road. I saw at the bottom of the app the picture & first name of the driver and the type of vehicle he was driving, along with license plate number. The app also proclaimed “7 minutes away”. I barely got a fix on all this when I got a text message: “Stopping for gas. Be there shortly”. Yep. The cartoon car had stopped. I could see he was at SA on Highway 47 & Bunker Lake Blvd. I text him back: “Ok. That’s fine.” A few minutes later I got another text indicating he was on the move. It was pleasant sunny day, in the mid 70’s, so I settled myself on a sidewalk bench outside Serums watching patrons entering and exiting Anoka’s historic restaurants. And I watched my Uber guy make his way down Highway 47.
Within eleven minutes of clicking the App my Uber ride had arrived. A 2015 Gun metal gray Toyota Venza. A mid-30s, Asian guy named Chao was at the wheel. I signaled him as I approached–‘front seat or back seat’? His response? ‘You choose’. I hopped in the front seat. Off we went and I immediately started peppering him with questions. “You do this part-time or full-time?” (‘part-time but work this more than my other part-time job’), “Is there a standard for vehicles that can be used?” (‘yes, newer vehicles subject to regular inspections’), “The person who owns Uber is probably doing ok?” (‘yes, he is a billionaire’), “I suppose regular cab drivers hate you Uber guys?” (Yes, some do. Others drive for Uber as well.”) About halfway home the driver then asks me: “have you used your free Uber coupon?” Uh, what free coupon? He told me to hang tight. When he pulled into my driveway a short time later, he pulled out his phone & retrieved a code. “Here”, he said, “it’s your first time using Uber. This is a $15 off coupon. You can use it today and the ride is free.” Wow. Impressive. I figured a tip like that certainly deserved a tip. He appeared grateful for it. His parting words were “you will get an email from Uber to rate me. Hope you rate me well. And tell your friends about using Uber.” Well, for sure. Five stars for him and consider yourself told–friend.