An Ode to My Uber Driver

Wherever you’re going and whatever you’re doing, you’re meeting people.

Lila Baltaxe | Senior Graphic Artist

Maybe you’re out to dinner and you strike up a conversation with the table next to you. They’re kind and warm and apparently approachable, and it typically starts with a commonality. Be it the graphic tee you’re wearing or the dish sitting in front of you, there’s a bonding point — some specific factor that brought you together. 

Perhaps you took up the opportunity for the students’ $9 ticket to a Red Sox game. You’re a Boston University student, and you end up sitting next to a student from Northeastern University at the game on the same killer ticket deal. You find yourselves in a shared moment, singing “Sweet Caroline” as the game reaches the bottom of the seventh inning. Fenway is your shared campus, and for just a few bars and a few beats of the song, the rivalry between universities is no longer there. 

These interactions are so pure, a sign of true humanity showing through separation. Two people cross paths only once in a lifetime, choosing to make the most of every fleeting moment. 

All too frequently, however, there are interactions that are forsaken. Namely, your interactions with an Uber driver. They’re doing you a service, getting you from point A to point B, and looking to make a little bit of extra cash heading into the week. What people don’t realize is that Uber drivers are another opportunity for authentic interaction, an opportunity that isn’t frequently seized. 

A week or so ago, I was out in Cambridge with a friend. We were getting ice cream and exploring the area, trespassing on Harvard University property in exchange for the countless assignments we would need to be completing otherwise. It felt good to get away for a night and get away from the stress and pile-up of due dates and deadlines. Alas, the galavanting had to come to an end eventually, so we ordered our Uber, and we were on our way.

I make it a point to ask my Uber drivers how their day is going, maybe even strike up a conversation about where they’re from or what they do. Those who are receptive to it turn it into a peaceful conversation — something to pass the time on the drive. Sometimes it doesn’t go anywhere, and you just have to respect that, but most of the time you can tell they appreciate your empathy and will engage just as far as you’re willing. But never before had I had an Uber driver as engaging as this one, and never had I met a stranger — Uber driver or not — with such an interesting backstory and eccentric path.

The drive totaled 17 minutes, and each was filled with conversation. He started by asking where we went to school and what we studied, and when I told him I was majoring in journalism, the conversation took flight. He told me about his two daughters and how the younger one of the two was an ambitious writer and aspiring journalist too. He told me about his three wives, and how his children belonged to his first wife from Brazil. His children spoke English, but he was teaching them Portuguese to preserve their Brazilian heritage, despite his second two wives being of different ethnicities.

He came to America from Brazil as a runner, gaining sponsorship for the Boston Marathon in hopes of using the money raised to fund a running camp for youths in Marcolino Moura. He showed me an article written about him in the Boston Globe in 2002, with excitement in his voice and pride in his face. He was a man of many passions, and helping the kids in his native country was only one of them.

Obviously, the conversation didn’t end there. At that point, we were only about halfway through the ride, so there was plenty more time to dig deeper. He circled back to my passion for writing and tied it to his own work in the screenwriting industry. He was working on the script for a short film about the drug and crime scene after dark in Boston, with the purpose of casting his film with people in need of a fresh start.

The ride was coming to an end, and he left me with words of inspiration and encouragement. He told me that I was going to be a good journalist and that I was engaging and curious. Both were qualities that he believed were necessary to produce a good story.

In writing this, I am hoping he is right. A man with so many layers and an interaction so unique and brief will stick with me for the rest of my life. Will I ever see him again? Maybe on billboards when his blockbuster film makes it big. But for now, I cherish his positive words of endorsement and continue to ask my Uber drivers: How was your day?


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