TEXT BY FRANCIS RAY RETTINGER
I started driving Uber back in mid-October of 2019, after I had just moved to L.A. Uber allowed me to acquire my own car, chase my dreams and keep the lights on while doing so. When I heard the news that the governor was going to be implementing a mandatory shutdown, I got worried. I feared that less and less people would need rides.
Many of my friends and relatives pleaded with me to stop doing Uber, but Uber implemented new safety and health regulations and financial compensation for those who are diagnosed with COVID-19. Uber-Pool had been suspended, so now we are only allowed to pick up one passenger at a time. The first day of shelter-in-place orders I stayed in my room debating, in fear for my health, but I had no choice. I hit the road and it seemed almost apocalyptic. I went to the airport, and it was a ghost town. After waiting almost two hours for a pick-up, I got my first ride.
Since this is an area of high exposure to COVID-19, I offer my customers hand sanitizer after entering my car, and after I drop them off I wipe down all the door handles. I try my best to take the extra steps, which include wearing a mask and gloves, especially when I help those with luggage or bags. Sometimes I get looks from customers, especially those flying into L.A., when they see me wearing all of that, and even refuse when I offer them hand sanitizer. I have been driving Uber less and less as the days go by and the spread gets worse. However, Uber Eats with new curbside pick-up has been a good adjustment.
TEXT BY TANNER LEIGH
I’d been driving Uber for only two months. I made the decision to join Uber because it allowed me to pay for my own car and gave me more financial freedom outside of my other job. However, when fears of COVID-19 started to become a reality in America in late February, I didn’t really know how to react. I needed to keep driving to pay off my car, but nobody needed a ride. As people started to stay at home, it became almost impossible to make the payments for my car. I was frustrated, upset and worried. I didn’t know how to handle the situation because there was really no way around it.
Uber decided to “help” their drivers by providing financial support to us, but only if we are officially diagnosed with COVID-19. When I tried to call their driver support number to see if they could help my situation in any way, I never got an answer.
Although I was upset at first, I started to realize that Uber itself is not the safest place to be with a highly contagious virus going around. With hundreds of people in and out of my car every week, especially ones who are coming from the airport, I started to put the disease into the perspective of others around me.
I live with my mom, and she has been struggling with a weak immune system ever since she was diagnosed with Reiter’s syndrome when I was younger. It never occurred to me until recently that, although I was young and healthy, I could still transmit that virus to the loved ones around me.
So during the first week of March, I decided to stop driving, to protect my customers and my family members. I am not sure how I will manage through the financial losses, but it’s more than worthwhile to keep those around me safe.