Driving Uber even in my Dreams

Uber has sent me annoying little reminders. “Did you know you did 9 trips today? Do one more to make it 10,” or “Are you sure you want to go offline? You are making less money this week than the same time last week.” My heart leaped into my throat every time. Was working 2-3 hours enough? Should I be working 10 hours a day? These questions haunted me as I drove.

Each time the circle on the Uber app lit up in blue, I tapped it. Each tap connected me to rider. The navigation would start and I would begin craning my neck for the next place to turn around. These pop-ups seemed inexhaustible, often coming less than a minute after I dropped off my previous rider. Uber makes it even easier to tap by offering you another blue circle just as you finish dropping off the previous rider. During busy times, you can be driving almost constantly. Part of me thought this pace was exciting. It was like playing a game, where your progress is marked by the dollar tally for the day or week.

But this excitement overpowered my other needs. It shouted louder than the pain in my lower back or the pressure in my bladder. Despite my commitment to writing breaks, I had a hard time sitting down to write. Each moment of my break was a lost dollar that my mind constantly tallied. The magnetic draw of the car would grow stronger, until I put down my coffee and headed outside.

The small “decline” button in the left corner remained untouched for the entire day (except when I was filing a report about a now-show rider). My left index finger moved of its own accord. Sometimes I would tap it without even noticing. Following the blue line to the next pick-up or drop-off was the extent of my world.

Both of my first two days of Uber driving ended with me on the couch watching TV, comatose, for nearly two hours. I also dreamed of following blue lines that night.

There is something intrinsically wrong with this setup – and it’s not the Uber app.

I asked my life coach Noe for some insight. He was interested in what seemed like a minor detail to me, my aching lower back. To me, it seemed like a simply by-product of spending so much time in the car. The seat of my boyfriend’s car is notoriously uncomfortable. My mind was preoccupied with the variables of my salary – how much I could make and when, and what it meant. But I eventually let go of the math and listened to Noe.

According to Noe, your lower back is emotionally related to issues with supporting yourself. In the end, this did explain the math. Noe used the term “support” generically, like it could mean emotionally or physically. I heard it as monetary “support” because that is what it meant to me. All of this math was an attempt to feel like I was successfully supporting myself.

That seemed like a fair assessment. But I didn’t figure out the source of this need to support myself until I dug deeper.

The words “by myself” kept running through my head as I talked with Noe. Those words were always important to me, even before I could say them correctly. My mom loves to tell the stories of my two-year old declarations of independence “all by self.”

Apparently, I haven’t changed.

My lower back has felt the brunt of my need to do it “all by self.” I’m so determined to support myself without any help that it’s cramping in pain. Is it too much pressure? In some ways, I am proud of my independence. I don’t want to completely change. I rationally know that my boyfriend would spring for rent if I needed it. But my back aches at the thought and it feels icky to me. Yet my time behind the wheel hasn’t been making me feel stronger either. Rather than be happy about my money-making, I crashed on the couch.

Why is being independent exhausting rather than fulfilling?

I suspect that it comes down to the source of the need. A love of being independent is energizing. A fear that you can’t be anything but (independent) is exhausting. Fear is flight or fight, right? Tapping the button is a constant flight for me. I need to keep going to escape the idea that I can’t do something by myself.

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