On a slow day at the airport, sometimes the taxi queue would look like a scene from The Walking Dead. Bored, zombie-like cabdrivers saunter up and down the line, chain-smoking cigarettes, desperate for something...anything to do or talk about. You can't leave to even go get lunch because you'd give up your position in the line.
Back when we owned taxis, sometimes Terry and I would go down to the Navy base on a weekday...and sit. Not a lot of people leave the base during the week, unless they've graduated from the NATTC (Naval Aviation Technical Training Command) and are headed to the airport and their next duty station. Classes are staggered and the course lengths vary depending on what the individual sailors and Marines are being trained for. If a big class (like 50 or so kids) has graduated, a cabdriver might make three back-to-back $35 trips to the airport.
But if there are no graduating classes that day (the Navy does not publish a schedule), then nobody might leave the base. Frustrated cabdrivers like Terry and me might sit all day long without a single ride. It has happened. I'd make the half-hour drive from my house down to the base, get there at eight a.m., hang around until two p.m., and finally give up and go home. What was my hourly pay for that day? Zilch-o-rama.
Of course we usually make it up on the weekend. If the Navy and Marine kids have gotten paid and if the weather is warm and sunny, then you'll be working non-stop as every one of the 4,000 NATTC students wants to be off-base. Ninety-nine percent of them don't own cars. It was not unusual to make $200 or more in an eight-hour day. So you say to yourself, “Yay, I'm making $25 per hour!” But you'd be neglecting the day you made nothing. Or the day you worked twelve or fourteen hours and only grossed $100. I never averaged out my hourly pay as a cabdriver, but I know it wasn't much
...Just as my hourly pay with Uber is not much. (I feel kind of badly for people who depend on Uber for their entire income. And many do. I think Uber always intended for it to be a "side-hustle" - something you do in addition to your full-time gig.)
On the other hand, what else do I have to do? I could stay home and play on Facebook all day. And yes, there are always things around the house that need to be done. There are tons of ways a productive person (in other words, someone who is not me) could spend their free time. On bad-weather days I could (and should!) be practicing my guitar or working on the book I've finally decided to write. On nice days I could (and should!) be out riding my motorcycle. But I choose to spend my spare time sitting in a car doing crossword puzzles while waiting for the elusive ping! that means someone needs my services.
And what about the time that I spend, not in my car but at home with the Uber app on? I'm technically “working,” in that I am waiting on trips, but if you're in your own house doing nothing but “waiting for the phone to ring” so to speak, are you really working?
The sitting-around-all-day can be mentally fatiguing. It can put you into a mind-numbing stupor. You have to keep your mind occupied or it can drive you crazy. Terry and I have our own individual methods of doing that: He likes to read and write; I like to nap. (No, in all seriousness, I read and I write. And I nap.)
If I had a family, being a cabdriver would suck. Because while you can “make your own hours,” you really do have to be out there where the trips are – meaning the airport during the week and on the Navy base on weekends. You pretty much live in your cab.
With Uber I can make as much during the week as I used to in my cab on weekends. Plus, I can sit in my house and get Uber trips, something I couldn't do with the taxi. With Uber, I can come home between trips and still be "on the clock." Do I love Uber? Oh yeah! But I don't pretend that it's a high-paying job, or even that it provides a good hourly monetary return for the time invested.
Fortunately, at the moment the one thing I have a lot of is time.