Friday, August 22, 2014

Uber Cool

S. R. Karfelt

On a recent trip to Nashville I just couldn’t bring myself to rent a car with the over $1,000 price tag attached to it. Car rental prices fluctuate wildly, but that was just a bit too wild for me. I’ve actually purchased vehicles for half that price. That grand wasn’t for a cool car either, that price was for a Matchbox sized vehicle for nine days.

More often than not I don’t even bother renting a car unless it’s a driving city like Orlando, or if I have to drive from San Francisco to L.A., or cruise through the desert in a convertible. (Okay, I did that once, but I’m still living off that high.) A lot of cities have good public transportation (Portland, OR—you rock) or are excellent walking cities (Santa Fe, NM) at least if you’re attending a conference they are. Because then you don’t have much time to explore outside the city anyway.

But sometimes you simply need a car that doesn't cost $1,000!

After examining maps of Nashville I determined that I could get around via shuttle and taxi, or occasionally bumming a ride with friends. Then in the first five days my schedule required me to change hotels four times. (You do not want to do that unless you want to spend a good portion of your sleeping time repacking everything.) I was quickly regretting the lack of a vehicle. Only one of my hotels offered shuttle service, and getting a taxi was a bit of a challenge when I stayed with a friend in the suburbs.

This Uber driver is a writer too!
Um, and a musician, it was Nashville!
Someone recommended I try Uber. “What is Uber?” I cluelessly asked. Please keep in mind I don’t get out much. Seriously, I’m a writer. Most of my time is spent drinking iced tea and writing in an alternate universe (my head). Somehow I’d managed to bounce around the conference circuit without hearing of them. But here’s the low down on Uber, it’s a transportation company and my dream come true. You install an app on your Smartphone, plug in your personal information, and when you need a ride you click the app. Using GPS capability a car appears for you.


The longest I had to wait for an Uber was five minutes.

After you click the app for a car, you see a map of the area on your phone and the location of the inbound vehicle. You want to be in the elevator leaving the hotel when you click for a car, usually it took two minutes. A picture of your driver appears with her name, and the license plate of the vehicle. You can insert your picture in there too, to help them locate you. My drivers called my cell about the time I could see their car, so they could find me easier.

It was magic.

The cost? The first ride is free. Really. They know you’ll soon be hooked. I had some rides that were $5-$7. The most expensive one was $45, it was a long haul out to the airport from my last hotel. Grand total for my entire trip? About $150, way less than the $1,000 rental car. The charge goes automatically to your credit card too, so you don’t have to worry about keeping cash on hand like you do for taxis. Oh, and don’t call Ubers taxis. My first driver corrected me on that.

Mary took me to the airport
There’s another company called Lyft that offers the same type of service. They’re the ones with the pink moustaches on the cars. I didn’t have a chance to try them. The Uber vehicles were very nice, spotlessly clean, and the drivers were extremely helpful. I highly recommend them. Of all the apps that I have on my phone, hands down this is the only one that has actually simplified my life.

What do you think? Are you into it? Going to try them? And more importantly, do you have an app that has simplified your life? Because it couldn't possibly be cooler than Uber. 


  1. Wow! This sounds amazing. At first I thought you took a selfie with Josh Groban and wanted to say, "Why aren't you kissing his face in this picture?"

    I'm definitely keeping this in the back of my head.

  2. Well, Katie, I've noticed that many Uber drivers are professionals moonlighting to pay off student loans et al. So maybe Josh Groban is one. Right? That would make an excellent short story, wouldn't it?