“I Ubered to the airport for an hour, and it was just me and the driver,” Nathan Harper (20C) said. “I don’t think we said a word.”
Harper’s experience is not an isolated case. People fail to realize that the stories of an Uber or a Lyft driver are often rich, whether it be tales of how they once picked up five teenagers coming back from a mansion orgy, as my Lyft driver in Philadelphia once said, or how they are writing a book about health care policy, as another driver narrated to me on my way to the airport.
That being said, this treasure trove of conversation cannot be mined if there is no communication between the driver and the passenger. The driver, perhaps unable to gauge how talkative or friendly the passenger is, often remains silent. In return, the passenger might stay silent in fear of appearing (ironically) too awkward.
In order to mine those nuggets of social activity, the passenger has to not only be willing to ask questions, but also remain receptive to the driver’s questions in return. So, put down your smartphone for a bit. While the topic itself does not need to be particularly creative, it is rather how you speak about it that makes the conversation interesting. Here are a list of potential conversation topics for your next Uber or Lyft journey.
Some experiences have had passengers that have been so intolerable that they make your spewing friend coming back from a night at Maggie’s look cute.
One of my drivers picked up a woman who had just broken up with her boyfriend and started sobbing uncontrollably at the start of a 40-minute ride home, forcing the driver to act as a Dr. Phil-type figure and console the weeping woman. Another driver that I had spoke about how a passenger of hers came into the car completely smothered in blood and had a black eye. The bruised passenger would eventually vomit in the middle of the journey, sullying the poor driver’s beautiful Mercedes and prompting her to detour to the hospital.
Talking about those anecdotes through such a simple prompt can open up a more lively conversation, be it about your respective life stories or other funny anecdotes that you or your driver might share.
Lifestyle and Other Jobs
On the topic of anecdotes, getting to know what the driver does on the side or what they have done in the past can be eye opening. After a passenger brought up their love of Chick-fil-A, the driver explained how he used to be a paramedic and once brought back to life, out of sheer coincidence, the son of one of the most important people who works for Chick-fil-A, and shared that the driver still sends him mail. Asking vague questions about food, music and movies can lead to organic conversations that might spawn a more detailed discussion of your respective lives.
Workload and School
If you have a particularly chatty driver you can always speak to them about your day rather than just asking random questions. Be it discussing your extracurricular activities or your inevitable endless workload, discussing these topics can produce good results in terms of fruitful conversation. Lacey Campbell (20C) described a situation in which she had a philosophy paper due the next day and her Uber driver gave her the confidence to get it done.
“[My driver] was extremely motivational and she wanted to know about my life and what I was doing,” Campbell said. “This lead to more conversation about how she used to work in the film industry and how she studied a little bit of philosophy in college.”
Speaking casually to the driver about your life can lead to great two-sided conversations that allow you to get to know your driver. At the end of the ride, you may even feel a little bit sad that you probably won’t see the driver again, like you’re saying goodbye to a friend.
Overall, ride-hailing drivers should be thought of as more than just a means of getting from point A to point B. Individual drivers have such a rich trove of stories to tell, and often very interesting lives about which you simply will never know about if you remain silent. Readers, I implore you to keep Facebook Messenger off the next time you ride a cab. Converse with whoever is driving you because for all you know the interesting conversations you could have might really “Lyft” up an otherwise mediocre day.