My Weirdest Uber Fare

Posted by tobymuresianu on Feb 19, 2014 in Stories |

I occasionally drive for Uber in Los Angeles. If you’re not familiar, it’s a service that allows people to use their cars as inexpensive cabs (also, ask me for a referral).

I posted the story of my weirdest ride on facebook and it got a good response, so thought I would share it here as well.

The request came around midnight on a Monday. I pulled up outside a bar and three people – a hipster girl, a black hipster, and a tough looking guy – piled in, blurting out that some people had stolen the tough guy’s phone. They were following it through an app and would give me cash on top of the fare to track them down.

I didn’t have much experience as a bounty hunter but it seemed interesting and I started the ride, before immediately thinking of the more practical questions associated with tracking down criminals.

Had they called the police? Yes, they’d been blown off and told they ˜could file a case in the morning”.
Had they tried negotiating? Yes, some guy with an accent answered their call, but then hung up and didn’t answer again.
Were these actual criminals who might have guns? They were vague on this question when we converged on the dot about a mile away.

The street was deserted except for a guy running with a duffel bag while wearing a beat-up letterman-style jacket and jeans. He happened to be black. A collective wave of nausea swept the car when we realized what was about to happen.

“I feel like this is kind of racist, but…” said the girl.
Awkward “Ums” and “Ahs” from the other two.
“Pull up” said Tough Guy, rolling down his window. I pulled up beside the running man and he stopped.

“Do you have my phone?” asked Tough Guy.
“What?” the running guy replied in a thick African accent.
“You have my iPhone.”
“I do not know what you are talking about! Why are you accusing me? Is it because I am black?”

Tough Guy started getting out of the car. The black hipster leaned out of the window and started saying “Not a black thing man. Not a black thing!” probably seven times.

The African guy got increasingly angry, going through his pockets.

“I do not have your phone, look! This is my phone, it is a blackberry. You want to search me? GO ahead!”

He took off his jacket and angrily shoved it at Tough Guy, who didn’t take it. He started to unzip his duffel but didn’t finish as they argued.

The hipster girl had mentioned earlier there was a button in the app that caused it to beep loudly when pressed.

“Press the noise button,” I told her. She pressed it. Nothing happened. She called the phone. Nothing happened.

“He doesn’t have it. Let’s go!” She yelled to Tough Guy. He was still glaring at the African guy. There was palpable tension in the air as everyone waited to see if they would fight.

“Let’s go!” She yelled again. Tough Guy didn’t react. I let the car roll forward. He got back in the car and I drove off.

“The dot’s moving!” the girl said. “It’s up here, on the right!”

I stopped a half mile or so ahead, at the entrance to a community college parking lot where the week beforehand there had been a shooting over a drug deal. I told them I wasn’t going in there. They started to insist, citing the fact that I’d be paid. I was weighing my expected Uber wages against the cost of a lawyer/ambulance when in my rear-view I noticed the African guy running towards us, with a new, muscle-bound guy. I peeled out.

They broke into discussion of various theories for what was going on when the girl said the dot was at a 7-11 up ahead; we agreed this would be the last stop. I pulled into the lot. They went through the store looking to see if they recognized anyone or trying to suss out whether people there knew anything. I watched the pantomime through the glass window as a strangers got irate and defensive.

Two cops pulled up for coffee and the girl explained the situation. “Nah, those apps only give you a perimeter.” one said. “We don’t track those things down, you need a detective. You can file a case in the morning. Or we’ll be around and if you can get them to make an exchange, call 911 and we’ll respond.”

The thieves were still not picking up the phone. The girl had me drive to one more place the dot moved to, a block away, a residential complex. I told them I was done and would drive them home. The dot started moving again. I don’t know why it never occurred to anyone that the app could just be a piece of garbage and completely inaccurate (it wasn’t the built-in Apple one).

I drove them home. They thanked me profusely but didn’t pay me extra. The final bill was like ~$27 for 35 minutes which I think is way less than Starsky or Hutch earned per hour, even adjusted for inflation.

I didn’t really think about it more until two days later I surmised from the rating system that they rated me 3 stars, below average.

If I ever see them again, *I* am going to steal their phone. And tie it to a pigeon.

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