I’m currently studying abroad in Amsterdam (aka “the city of lights”), and as you can probably imagine, I’ve already grown a ton. I’ve pretty much immersed myself in this new and exciting place, and I’ve learned that there are a lot of differences between American and Dutch culture. For example, I would say hamburgers are actually more prominent here than they are in the United States. Who knew? I did. Definitely not you, though.
One huge difference is the transportation culture. Everyone rides bikes here, even when they’re drunk or high, which is pretty devastating to Uber’s business model. Dutch people so far have loved talking about how much they bike (they don’t seem to have a very rich culture), meaning they do it even when it’s cold and raining. From what I’ve gathered, Uber is used mostly by tourists, whose stay is too short for them to get a bike. An American export, used mostly by Americans—very much not the spirit of what study abroad is all about.
-Charlie Bardey, Foreign Correspondent
Death cab for cutie
Delivering a metaphorical slap in the face to the chain of cab drivers lined up ten steps in front of me, I shamelessly whip out my phone and pull up my Uber app. Am I proud of the fact that I’m willing to wait six minutes outside of Union Station at 11:56 p.m. on a Tuesday night if it means not having to pay a tip? Hmmm…
It’s minute three out of six, and I’m approached by a kindred night-commuter: “You wouldn’t happen to have a smoke, would you?” “No, sorry. Have a good night though.” The Tobacco-Free Yale Let’s Clear The Air water bottle in my backpack has never felt heavier.
Enter: my knight in shining Toyota Highlander.
“Hello, Magdalena!!!” The three exclamation points that beg to be inferred from his voice say it all–we’ve got a chatter. “Where are you headed tonight?”
“The corner of Elm and York, please.”
“Elm and York—so right by Box 16?” He may have been 47 numbers off in the name, but this guy had found a pretty damn direct route to my heart. “Yep, right in that area.”
“Hold on, I can’t take this call. That’s my friend calling me. But I can’t answer.”
“Oh, no worries. Feel free to take it! It might be important.”
“No, you’re here. My friend can wait. This is your time.” Whoever said chivalry was dead clearly hadn’t met my Uber driver. Then again, whoever said chivalry is dead probably didn’t go out of their way to avoid tipping a cab driver.
We shared a nice bit of small talk. He asked me what I’m studying. I said biomedical engineering. He asked me if I would make him a bionic arm in the future. I said of course (hmmm…). He told me about a movie he recently watched where aliens invaded our planet and we engaged in massive warfare against them. He shared his theory that we are actually the aliens and that we live in a glass box with other more advanced species looking in at us. I realized he wasn’t kidding about the bionic arm.
I choose you
Uber drivers are like legendary Pokémon. Not the ones like Lugia or Mewtwo that you follow through a cave, saving the game right before battling them so you can turn it off and on if you accidentally kill instead of catch them. I’m talking Raikou and Entei (even Chansey, if we’re pushing it). These are the Pokémon that show up for a fleeting moment, interact with you, alter your life in some way, and then leave—maybe never to return again. You get one chance with these guys and then it’s over.
Sounds just like Uber drivers, right? They show up, take you somewhere, maybe you chat, maybe you don’t, and then they leave. You never expect to hear from them again. I imagine that each of my Uber drivers evaporates into a mist of royal pine air freshener as soon as my ride ends. They’re for me and me alone.
This fantasy of mine came crashing down when I got a text from a friend over the summer: “Dude, I’m in an Uber with your Uber driver from earlier.” I mean what are the chances? I asked, “Is it Steve?” My friend replied, “It’s Steve.” Now I know the truth, and I can’t say I’m happier for it. Treat each Uber ride like it’s your first and your last. I know Steve appreciated it. Gotta catch ‘em all.