My name is Hannah. And I am an Uber addict. It all began, as wickedness often does, with cocktails. A friend slurred not to worry about getting home, because there was this new app. She had a code that gave us a free ride. Drink up. It’s fine. In a parallel story of drug addiction, this friend, my initial enabler, would now be clean-cut and getting a college degree, while I remain slumped over a toilet bowl, digging for a vein. In reality, it’s over a year and a half later, and I’m getting an Uber car at least once a day. My friends have taken to calling me Holly Golightly, after Truman Capote’s heroine, and her fondness for cabs.
One becomes accustomed, then one needs a greater hit just to feel normal. Whereas at the beginning of this road I would never order anything but an UberX – the firm’s economy service – I now find myself eschewing the Prius. I’ll take an UberExec, thanks. There will be a mild twinge of disappointment if a Mercedes E-Class pulls up, rather than an S-Class. Woe betide the driver if he (and it is always a he) doesn’t stock water and a copy of Vogue. I never even buy Vogue. If he doesn’t get out to open the door for me? Hmm. A tinge of annoyance. This is the kind of attitude and sense of entitlement in a person that would, pre-Uber, have made me despise them.
I find I’m lying to my friends. Either because when arranging to meet I tell them I am en route, when actually I am still in bed counting on an Uber to pick me up. Or because, when they ask if I’ve “given up” the app, I will say I have “cut down”, having done nothing of the sort.
I’m a mess. I’m getting no exercise and not walking, so my legs are atrophying. But I’m drinking much more alcohol, as I don’t worry about getting home, so my liver feels like it’s been run over. My time management – never brilliant – has melted like a Dalí clock. I barely even noticed the tube strike in London. Rudeness, a trait I abhor, comes tumbling from the glove compartment of my personality. Why does this guy not know where he is going? Why is he talking to me? I am clearly sending an email. Who even listens to Smooth FM?
Nothing I read about the company is good, and yet here I am, helping to drive its staggering profits; turning a blind eye to the protests of London’s black-cab drivers; telling myself that Uber employees, sorry, contractors, prefer to be self-employed than at the behest of evil mini-cab controllers; that they get a good deal for the £50-70 Uber sends them whenever a punter pukes in their vehicle. Is this how coked-up City boys assuage their guilt over Colombian child drug mules? Or smokers block out the aggressive sales tactics of Philip Morris?
My intention in this column is not to belittle the experience of genuine drug addiction or alcoholism, but to provide living proof that an over-reliance on tech – to become altered to the ease of things, which new tech facilitates – can skew values and realities. Maybe you don’t agree with the streaming revenues artists earn from Spotify, but who now can go back to bulging hard drives and cluttered CD racks? You didn’t agree with Google’s acquiescence to Chinese censorshiplaws in 2013, but man, Gmail is such a good email client.
I am a selfish, idle person – and an Uber car my trusty steed.
By Hannah Jane Parkinson