Opting out of ‘Quiet Mode’ in Uber
From a former driver’s perspective: Why ride-sharing services got this one wrong
My parents love to tell the story about the day I climbed into their car in kindergarten, took one look at them and said, “Don’t talk.” That tickles them to no end, especially my father. It was rude. I’m amazed I got away with it. But maybe they let me slide because I was little and cute and at that “adorable pouty stage” of life.
As an adult though, you couldn’t pay me to get in someone’s car and tell him/her to not talk. That’s why I’ll never push “Quiet Mode” in an Uber. Here are my reasons.
- Drivers don’t seem to get a say in having “Quiet Mode.”
I was an Uber and Lyft driver for approximately three months and more than 100 rides. A group of people getting in my car with a dead animal hidden in a garbage bag was the final straw for me. I think sometimes people forget that the driver is an actual human being too. I have driven around plenty of chatty passengers, who wanted to hang out in the passenger seat or talk the whole way to the airport. I enjoyed (almost) every last one of them. I also zoned out to avoid hearing group conversations and karaoke moments to the radio. Still, I wouldn’t even consider the idea of telling any of my passengers to be quiet (unless someone was offensive, which never happened). I enjoy silence when it’s a mutual right. For example, when Metra implemented the “Quiet Car” on trains, conductors could also enjoy solitude on those cars too when all funds were collected. But the same passengers who enjoy giving boring diatribes on their phones in the backseat and love to side-seat drive should never have the audacity to tell anyone to be quiet.
2. Drivers should feel comfortable with you in their cars.
That doesn’t mean drivers should be able to quiz you about your political opinions or what you think of every single social justice issue during your commute. But ride-sharing drivers aren’t your peons. And if you get in their cars acting sketchy, you can make them feel equally uncomfortable. I distinctly recall a young lady climbing behind the driver’s seat of my car, putting a hood over her head and demanding I turn the air conditioning down. I looked in my rear view mirror and she sunk down in the seat so I couldn’t see her. When I got close to her destination, she mumbled “This is close enough” and scrambled out of the car, scurrying away and barely closing my back door. You cannot be this weird in someone else’s car. Have this air of superiority or awkwardness with your parents or friends. Have basic manners with strangers transporting you from Point A to Point B. If all else fails, at least have the courtesy to say “Good morning/afternoon/evening” before you decide you want to act like you robbed a bank.
3. Remember life before 2019 when people communicated with each other.
I am a regular passenger in Via. I’ve actually used Via far more often than Uber and Lyft combined. I have listened to drivers talk about everything from independent contracting to “the Cheetos at the White House.” I have challenged their movie tastes and enjoyed off-key duets of our favorite songs. I have not enjoyed conversations with an ex-cop who wanted to tell me about why he became a driver so he wouldn’t “kill my ex-wife” and how he wanted to “pursue my acting dreams when people aren’t bugging me for rides.” I have had some colorful drivers and passengers. I have had some quiet drivers and passengers. And I have had some of the friendliest, most amazing drivers and passengers, too. And I survived them all. I was born before the days when all we did was stare at hand-held devices and plug earphones in to avoid all human contact, only to run home to sit on social media for hours to be social.
4. Hints work with most drivers: Fake sleep, put in earphones, and more.
There are many times when I flat-out just do not want to talk, and I’m saying that as a member of Toastmasters and a co-host of Do Not Submit. I usually love to hear people tell a good story or speech. But even the most talkative person sometimes wants the rest of the world to just shut up. As both a former driver and occasional passenger, subtle hints like getting in a car with headphones on or immediately falling asleep or texting away always worked for me. I’ve furrowed my brow like I was in deep discussion when I was really just playing “Hanging with Friends.” Drivers observed me and chilled out. I’ve observed passengers do this and turned my Uber-Safe Spotify playlist up. Our eyes, ears and instincts work — for the most part.
5. I’m cheap.
I’m way too frugal to pay for an Uber Black or Uber Black SUV premium ride simply to get someone to be quiet. (I am, however, intrigued by those Cargo Boxes.) But I’m not afraid to speak up and say, “Man, it’s nice to get out of the office and have some peace and quiet. Honk when I’m close to home.” I’ve gone to “fake” sleep. I’ve typed away on my phone. I’ve even messed around on a laptop. And I did all of the above for $0.00.
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