It was a Friday night at work. Before I left the office, I was contemplating which public transport (troski, trotro) to pick to the Oak Plaza hotel. Picking a taxi crossed my mind only a few times but who has all that money from Adabraka to Spintex when there were troskis all over town? That will certainly be against the trotro rules.
Yet, I wasn’t even sure where and how to begin my journey from the office. I head to the sales department to ask for directions from a colleague but little did I know he was a ‘uberian’.
“Oh, lemme just order uber for you. That’ll be easier and cheaper,” he taps his phone and did something weird I had no idea of. Yeah, I’m a ranking member of the trotro fraternity so don’t be surprised this looks all new to me.
“Okay, so that’s his name. Give me your number and he’ll call you when he gets here” he added.
His name was Mark; young and nice looking. His car was cozy and the air condition was just the right temperature. I sat in the front and my colleague, Zoe sat in the back. I was nervous and worried.
It’s 7:30 pm and the program was scheduled to start at 7 pm. I called in to check a few times and was told it had started as scheduled.
“Should I go or return?” I felt puzzled. “But I’d promised to be there?” I thought as I kept watching my phone’s clock. I was confused and the uber driver, on the other hand, had no idea which route was faster.
The traffic was terrible, too terrible. I wasn’t familiar with the route but Zoe’s disbelief about long traffic jam dashed my hopes. I couldn’t believe I was going to be two hours late for a program.
It wasn’t my fault. My colleagues and I had to do a report that kept us all day. But I’d promised to attend this program at all cost and so I had to.
The traffic was moving at snail pace and we eventually had to use all short cuts possible. I was restless, almost telling the driver to take me back.
“Look at the traffic, he’s going to take a fortune!” I said remembering all the complaints some of my friends made about traffic and uber fares. They are like ECG and rain. They just don’t cooperate.
When we eventually got to the mall, I placed a phone call to one of the organizers to be sure I was making the right decision.
“Hello, I’m at the mall. There’s terrible traffic and I’m wondering if I can still make it before the program ends.”
“Well, we’re just about ending but I’ll be leaving here after 10 pm so I can wait for you to hand you the documents if you don’t mind.” I felt quite relieved and decided to carry on.
I got to the venue around 9:30 pm amid packing of chairs and tables. The remaining staffs were nibbling on the leftover snack while I kept calling to locate this organizer. His phone was off.
The uber driver, Mark was worried that the call wasn’t going through. I sat in the car re-dialing and forgot to ask for the fare. When I remembered, I immediately asked him.
“How much is the system charging me please?”
“It’s Gh25 cedis madam” he answered after checking.
“Wow, this is good” I murmured and handed him the money immediately. I dropped off and kept redialing but I noticed he didn’t move the car.
After several tries, the organizer finally picked up and fixed the meeting between his MD and I. In no time, I was done and had to leave.
I got out of the building and stood in the car park puzzled, looking left and right from one end of the main road to the never-ending traffic jam. I wondered how the hell I was going to get myself home to Awoshie.
“Where do I start? Taxi? Naaah. That would cost a pound of flesh, considering that I live worlds apart from this side of town.”
I took a few steps as if I knew where I was going. There he was- the uber driver, he was still around.
“You haven’t left yet?”
“Nope, I just decided to hang for a while if I could get any passenger around. Moreover, the network is quite bad here. You are done so soon?” he asked.
“Yep, now I need to get out of here. It’s getting quite late, where is your final destination?”
“I live at Tabora.”
“Oh wow. I’m at Awoshie, can I hire you back home?”
“Great. You can make the request now.”
“Request? Chai, I don’t have anything on my phone ooo. My colleague ordered with his account. Is there any way we can do without the app or maybe you request for me?”
“Errrm, it doesn’t work that way. You’ll have to request yourself. I don’t want the people to think that I’m trying to cheat the system.”
“Hmmm. Let’s fix something. Just drop me and give me the bill.” I said that quite confidently considering that the initial 25gh was so cool.
“Okay, we can go now. I’ll see what I can do. Moreover, I can close now.”
And then I sat in the car feeling all relaxed. I didn’t want to ask for the amount yet but I was troubled. “Long distance, traffic, no uber” Whew!
“How much would you charge,” I asked few minutes into the ride.
“Errrm, I am going all the way to Lapaz before getting to Tabora so I can continue and drop you at Awoshie so just give me the same fare.”
“You gotta be kidding me” I murmured.
“Is that fine with you?”
“Yeah sure. You are too kind.”
Suddenly, I felt relieved to strike a conversation.
We had a nice time. We talked about a lot of things. The elections. My job as a journalist and the fact that he couldn’t believe he had been listening to my station since morning per a request by a passenger he had picked.
“So you and Zoe read the news?” he asked in amazement.
I smiled and opened up more about my work. I took him through my daily activities and for a moment he said: ” I like the passion of which you speak.”
I kept grinning as the conversation got more interesting about work and uber, nothing about my love life or whether I was dating or married. I got to know that Mark is a banker in one of the leading banks and the uber business was just to pass time and make extra money on his leave.
Eventually, I got home to Awoshie, exhausted, sleepy and hungry. In fact, I was knackered. I needed something to eat and sleep.
I rushed home to check if there was food but found none so I quickly returned to the car where he waited. He wanted to be sure I found something from the kitchen before he left.
“I wish I had grabbed some chops on the way. I feel hungry.”
“What would you like to eat,” he asked.
“I don’t even know. I sometimes eat indomie (a popular brand of noodles) when I have no appetite for food. Maybe I should get that” I said looking at the quiet dark streets.
“Okay, let me go and drop you where you can get some.”
“Really? You want to go all the way back and wait to get indomie?”
I needed to go to the next neighbourhood because I hated the one in mine. Mark didn’t mind driving me there.
Unfortunately, at that particular indomie joint, the lady didn’t show up. I almost gave up.
“There’s one in front over there. Why don’t you try that?” he asked.
“People can be this nice?” I thought.
“I hate getting indomie from just any joint but I have no option. Lemme just try.” I said to him.
We got to the joint but it didn’t attract me much; I ordered anyway and was told to wait a few minutes.
I waited while checking to see if he was getting fed up of me already. I couldn’t see him from where I was standing but before I knew it, he had gotten out of the car to check on me. I was almost done and I alerted him.
Before soon, the woman had bagged the food and we both went back into the car.
“Thank you,” I said.
“Don’t mention” he answered and we drove back home.
When we got back to my gate, I opened my bag and handed him Gh30 cedis for his kindness- an extra five cedis for his time.
“You are too kind, Farida. I enjoyed your company. I have to go now. Will call you when I get home.”
The call came after 11 pm and as grateful as I was, I said a heartfelt “Thank you Mark” as a sign of gratitude for my first uber experience. Having filled my tummy, I finally laid to have a sound sleep. What an uber night!
UPDATE: Mark and I are into investment banking now but that is a story for another day (well, soon) 🙂