As he typed his what’s app message. I looked over his shoulder. I wanted to ask him not to do this whilst he had a passenger. Whilst he should be focused on the road ahead. I decided not to. The last driver had told me I only had a 3.8 score. I was busy looking for my keys which I had lost once already that week.
I looked up and agreed vaguely with him.
Do you understand what this means?
I don’t…sorry…what? I continued to search for my keys. I had no idea what the protocol was if keys were left in these Uber taxis and I didn’t want to find out today.
You have a 3.8. score. As a friend, I have to tell you that your Uber account won’t work in the states or the UK with a score of less than 4.00
Score? What do you mean? Friend???
The drivers score you when you ride in their cars
I stopped. He now had my full attention.
That night I had been so scared. I had been in the country for less than a month and had been using the buses. It was easy, cheap and no matter what the bus driver thought of me, we all paid the same fare. Taxis’ were a whole different story and with no idea of the city layout, public transportation became my preferred method of travel. It was a fact that the bus drivers did not always stick to the route yet the fare would not change. With a taxi driver, them going off route could make a big difference. Questioning a taxi driver over a 10 ringgit fare which had gone past 35 ringgits. resulted in my being thrown out! I learned then that Malaysian taxi drivers do not like to be challenged. Granted, this was before I discovered Uber and Grab.
Taking the buses, and then walking had meant another challenge as I was stopped by the police on the days when I wore my Nigerian or Ghanaian head wraps. A long-held cultural, fashion and personal style that I had no intention of giving up became an excuse for the police to interrogate me. It was a pain I had experienced many times in a country with its numerous overt prejudices. Once they heard my UK accent, they always stopped asking for my passport or what job I was doing there. It seemed that none of that mattered once they established that I was English. I learned quickly that life was a matter of ongoing negotiations in this new space.
The driver messaged to say ‘I am here’ but I couldn’t see him or the green car described on the app. There were so many cars pulling up but definitely no green one. Here where? Around the corner came his response. I was tense and didn’t want to walk around the corner into a dark road. I so wished I had canceled and just gone home after work! I messaged asking him to come to the KFC where the road was well lit. He replied ‘Just two minutes around the corner’. I could feel my anxiety levels risings and by the time I found and sat down in the car. I was a nervous shaking wreck. My evening activities were limited and I realized how vulnerable I felt out by myself once the sun had set. The show I was going to see needed to be good! It was a recommendation from my friend in the UK which I was so wishing I had passed on.
Why didn’t you come to the KFC? I asked on entering the small car.
One way. One way! was his response.
So you could have come up the one way, I retorted in a less than pleasant tone.
It was a ‘you’re in the car now, so shut the fuck up ok!
What do you mean? I asked responding to my interpretation of what I had heard.
He didn’t answer.
The journey took around five minutes and I imagined a horrible ending. What did Uber drivers do with angry or anxious customers? We pulled into the mall carpark.
Let me out I said once I recognized where I was.
What here? His English returned and he was annoyed for he was about to park
Yes, right here! I said, paying him and slamming the door behind me. I headed towards the Library where the performance was scheduled to take place.
You need see doctor! You are mad. Shouldn’t be allowed on the street was the SMS which came through. It took a few minutes before I connected that this was the driver. On that night, he may have been closer to the truth than I dare to admit. But regardless, what right did he have to send me that message! I reckon that we are all mad anyhow. It just depended on who labeled it as madness or as creativity or genius. Jack Nicolson in One flew over the cuckoo’s nest was just a great critique of the hypocrisy that exists around madness and remains a favorite movie of mine.
I contacted Uber who assured me they would warn him not to do this again.
They could not, however, ask him to apologize.
Yes, you need to keep your score above 4.
I felt straight jacketed after that. As I leave the Uber or Grab rides now, they all say, give me high scores. Even when drivers speak on their phones, answer what’s app messages and get me lost (with the GPS directing them) I still leave them the highest score. They are under pressure to maintain a high score as are the passengers to receive them.
The world of constant feedback and monitoring has escalated. I hear young people talking about how many ‘likes’ or views they have received on social media. The pressure to be popular, to be always smiling and having a great life is on full throttle. So many school teachers judge their new students on what previous teachers have written. I know that there isn’t always time to get to know all of their students so they rely on other’s judgments. Teachers, Taxi drivers, and users of social media are all affected by other peoples comments. Social media responses have resulted in Adults and Children committing suicide as the pressure creates unnatural expectations based on these totally subjective views.
I ask myself if real stories exist anymore with all of this pressure? It seems they are rare. I decided that I may just need this account somewhere else where I live or travel to. There are also alternative means of transportation which I am not ruling out. For now, though, my score has gone up to 4.5!