The first time I fell in love in an Uber Pool, I was on my way to a farmer’s market. The object of my affections wore a man bun, which was enough to give me hope that he, too, was en route to the California Avenue market. We rode in near-complete silence for a few long miles, and I imagined that we would make polite small talk on our way to the Cone Food tent. I mentally stocked up on conversation starters in preparation for the big event, but when the car pulled over to the side of the market my fellow passenger made no move to exit the vehicle. I watched from the sidewalk as he swerved down an adjacent street and I lost him forever.
Two weeks later, my friend and I caught an Uber Pool from her Berkeley dorm room to the BART station. I was seated directly behind the passenger seat, which didn’t allow for much observation of the front seat passenger’s physical appearance, but our arrival clearly interrupted his animated discussion with the driver about Biblical history. Even with minimal knowledge of religious studies, I was enthralled by the passenger’s passionate opinions. I felt a twinge of jealousy when my friend managed to whip out some convenient Biblical history knowledge and make a series of intelligent-sounding contributions. By the time we parted ways at the station I hadn’t gotten a word in edgewise, and my denim-jacketed potential love interest left me with nothing but regret for my lack of passion for the many nuances of Mary Magdalene.
A quick glance through the Missed Connections section of Craigslist tells me that my tendency to crush on complete strangers in my Uber is fairly common. Some passengers regret not keeping in touch with other riders headed to different destinations. Often, passengers lament not having worked up the courage to make a move on their driver. Bound by what I can only imagine are fairly strict guidelines concerning driver-rider behavior, many drivers are powerless to act on their interest in a passenger.
I haven’t put my finger on what it is about Uber Pools that induces this evidently common intra-Uber attraction – I spend lots of time in plenty of public spaces, including other methods of public transportation like buses and trains, but it’s my Uber Pool co-riders who always seem to leave their mark on me. Maybe it’s the pressure to make some sort of conversation, however forced. Maybe it’s a continuation of childhood car-ride behavior – where I used to make up backstories for the occupants of passing cars on long road trips, now I conjure up daydreams about happy futures with my co-passengers and drivers. Whatever the reason, one thing is certain: my impulse to invent brief, fleeting feelings for the people with whom I share Ubers isn’t going anywhere – unlike my love interests, who are all going straight down the street to their own destinations, lost but not forgotten.
Contact Jackie O’Neil at jroneil ‘at’ stanford.edu.