Unsung Heroes: An Uber driver talks how to get the VIP treatment and be a better traveller in 2021

May 28, 2021

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Uber drivers are one of the unsung heroes of the travel world, whether you’re at home or in a new city. You can always count on your local Uber driver to get you from point A to point B safely and without worrying about a metered fare.

Just request a car and you’re on your way.

Many Uber drivers have worked through the pandemic in order to provide transportation to essential workers and get the most vulnerable to their vaccine appointments. And now that things are slowly going back to normal, we’re again relying on these drivers to get us to the airport, to our hotel or anywhere else you may need to travel.

Related: How does Addison Lee compare with Uber?

For more insight into the life of an Uber driver, we’re sitting down with Pittsburgh-based Uber driver Diane Bushman on this edition of Unsung Heroes. Here, you’ll learn a little more about the job and how you can get the VIP treatment the next time you need a ride.

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Unsung hero: Diane Bushman, Uber driver

TPG: How did you get into becoming an Uber driver?

DB: Well, I was an empty nester and I wanted just a little job. I’d been home with my kids for 25 years, so I was reluctant to commit to a job that would demand me being there at fixed times. So flexibility was tremendously important. My daughter had a baby, so I could go and spend a month and a half with her without having to tell anyone. That flexibility was really important.

And also: I love to drive. I always say that I would drive four days instead of fly four hours. So it’s like a little road trip every day, but I get to sleep in my own bed.

TPG: How long have you been an Uber driver?

DB: It’ll be three years in July.

TPG: What does a typical work week look like?

DB: I typically drive three days a week, sometimes four. I usually go out in the afternoon just because that’s what best fits my personal clock. I also find that it’s busier and there’s very little downtime, but currently, there’s never any downtime because I think there’s a nationwide shortage of drivers.

So, I usually go out around 4 pm and usually come home around 9 or 10 pm. I used to drive later, but recently there was an Uber driver killed in Pittsburgh…so that has made me a little bit nervous.

TPG: What is your favorite part of the job?

DB: I love almost everything about it. I wake up every day and think that driving sounds like a good idea. I like driving around and seeing what’s happening in the city and chatting with my passengers. I like feeling like a part of the community. I sometimes see a neighborhood I’ve never been to before, even in 30 years of living in Pittsburgh.

Roberto Clemente bridge (right) and Andy Warhol bridge (left) spanning over the Allegheny river with Pittsburgh skyline on background right before sunset, Pennsylvania, USA

I love the gamification aspect of the app too. It’s like a treasure map I follow to make money. Even though I don’t fully depend on my Uber income — which is another thing that makes it less stressful for me — it’s still fun to make money that way.

Related: Uber wins court battle to continue operating in London

TPG: What is your least favorite part of the job?

DB: You know, I don’t really have that many complaints. I have very few people who aren’t clean, you know, just basic hygiene. And most people are very respectful of my car and of me. It’s just been overall a good experience in most ways.

TPG: What’s something anyone can do to be a better traveler in 2021 and beyond?

DB: If they need to stop somewhere along the way, it doesn’t really bother me, but it probably does bother a lot of drivers. Even though I don’t mind stopping and helping people out in that way, I think a lot of drivers are frustrated with that sort of mentality.

Also, I am personally unable to help people load things or unload things because of a condition with my hip. Most people are very understanding about that. I think many more fit and able Uber drivers would be happy to help though.

TPG: What is something a traveler can do to get the VIP treatment from you?

DB: There are places in Pittsburgh where it’s difficult to pick people up or double-park. If passengers know they live in one of these areas, if they can somehow make that easier and pick a different nearby pickup area, that is helpful.

I picked up a gaggle of college girls recently on a very busy street. I was there double-parked and waited some minutes, and everybody who passed me was mad. So, pick-up spots are one way.

Related: Gatwick Airport fee for passenger drop-offs starting in March

TPG: How does working in the hospitality industry change your idea of travel, or going on vacation?

DB: For me, it makes me realise there are all types of situations that Ubers can be used for. For example, I recently picked up a sample from a veterinary clinic. I took it to Ohio and it was a four-hour round-trip thing. Things like that are now possible — and sometimes practical with Uber.

When traveling to New York in the past, cabs were always an option and a necessity. But Ubers can make all kinds of things possible in other markets. The door-to-door aspect of it, and being able to be picked up in any neighborhood at any time opens up all kinds of possibilities in terms of getting where you need to be.

TPG: If you could go anywhere in the world on a vacation, where would it be and why?

DB: I have an interest in going to Africa right now. That is because of a series of books I read called the ‘The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency’ and it just sounds like such an idyllic place with wonderful people.

Italy also has a piece of my heart since I lived there for a year and a half and it’s always a wonderful place to go.

TPG: Tell us about the best vacation you’ve ever taken, or the best place you’ve ever traveled.

DB: Maybe my tenth anniversary trip to Italy with my husband. We went to Rome and Tuscany and then went down to Pompei.

Bottom line

Diane is an unsung hero who loves her job, and it’s great to see. A little flexibility on the riders’ part in terms of pickup locations can go a long way, especially when in need of a minute or two to get ready or are requesting a ride on a busy street. Follow that advice, be respectful and chances are you’ll get the VIP experience on your next Uber ride.

Safe travels!

Feature photo by Peter Summers/Getty Images)

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