Rideshare Relationships: One Name at a Time

After we arrived at her hotel, we unloaded her baggage, said goodbye, and she went inside. I closed out the ride and moved on to my next rideshare adventure.

Within 20 minutes, I received another ride request. The pick-up was from the same airport.

And the name was the same never-before-seen-four-syllable name of the person I just dropped off at the hotel.

Strange.

So, as I drove to the airport for the pick-up, my mind was racing.

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My “Rideshare by Robert” blog continues with new stories based on my published book, “Rideshare by Robert: Every Ride’s a Short Story.” The book, and the blog, are short stories about rides, observations, revelations, and reflections on the rideshare experience. Humorous and informational. I hope you will find the writings filled with compassion and love for the human family.

So, climb in, buckle up, and enjoy the ride.

Welcome to “Rideshare by Robert.”

A place where anything can happen and usually does.

Names & Games

Over nearly eight years as a rideshare driver, with about 40,000 people in my car as of this writing, I’ve been fascinated with names. I drive in an area of the country that is multi-ethnic, including people from across the globe working here, attending U.S. universities, or simply visiting.

I’m constantly amazed at the array, and creativity for that matter, of riders’ names.

Specifically, family names, or given names, not the contrived names of action heroes, celebrity wannabee names, or random letter or number combinations used to disguise the actual rider names.

For example, “Lil 54RBYAHYAHYAH”

Don’t try to look it up, it’s not a real rider’s name.

I like to have a little fun, and in some cases, focus on the person’s name to create a nice space. If it’s an unusual name like Jerophinolia (again, a made-up name), I might start the conversation with something like,” Good morning, Jerophinolia, welcome to Monday. Guess what? You’re the first Jerophinolia of the day!” I deliver the message in a happy, excited voice and wait for the response.

“Huh?”

That reaction is usually not a good sign that an actual engagement is underway. Depending on the tone of voice, body language, or sense that the person even desires a conversation I either default to the popular catchphrase response that comedian Gilda Radner’s character, Emily Litella, from Season One of Saturday Night Live would continually pronounce,

“Never mind.”

At that point, I might repeat myself.

If I repeat myself and it elicits the same response, the initial conversation starter is put to rest, and I go another route.

Sometimes the other route is silence.

Conversely, as the driving day unfolds, I will find that I’m about to pick up my third Susan of the day.

“Good afternoon, Susan. You’re the third Susan of the day that I’ve picked up!”

Sometimes the person may jump right in with an up-tempo response “Great, what do I win?”

To which, I may respond, “Absolutely nothing, but a safe and enjoyable ride.” Or I may answer their question by saying, “You’ve won a unique ride with ‘Rideshare by Robert” and the conversation moves towards discussing my experience as a driver, author, and writer.

I always ask experienced rideshare riders if they have any favorite rider stories to share. I listen to wonderful stories about other drivers from people in the backseat of my car. I also augment other driver stories by introducing myself to other drivers and inquiring about how they got into the gig economy as a driver, how long they’ve been driving, and if they have any stories to share.

Always mining for stories.

Names from other countries will drive me (excuse the phrase) to do some research on where the name originated, the meaning, and things of that nature. Most riders are willing to share the information and are honored that you honor their name.

The nice part of gaining this type of knowledge is the ability to find new ways to communicate with your clients.

If you know a certain name, let’s say Deepak, you learn it’s Indian, of Sanskrit origin, and means “inflaming or exciting,” then you can jump right in by sharing this knowledge with your next Deepak, or similar name. Again, I have found these types of conversations very encouraging and honoring with different cultures.

Of course, when a “Robert” jumps in the car, or if the rider has the same name as my wife or children, all bets are off.

Immediate connection and a great ride in most cases.

The names are the icebreaker for conversation.

I wrote a funny story you can read in my book, “Rideshare by Robert,” about a guy named Jesus who hopped in my car in shorts, a tee shirt, and colorful tattoos from head to toe.

“Could this be the one?”

I once picked up a woman from the Middle East at the airport. She was heading into the city, and we had a pleasant conversation along-the-way. My welcoming comments, and conversation starters, from people arriving at an airport are generally, “Good morning (name), how was your flight?”

Now, in this case, after years of driving, in fact, in all my life, I’ve never seen this name before. When her name popped up on my rideshare app prior to the pick-up, I had to take note of the four-syllable name and try to pronounce it before she got into my car.

Ultimately, after we loaded her luggage into the trunk and she got inside the vehicle, I asked her how her name was pronounced. She told me, laughed, and explained that it’s a very uncommon name in her country. I also laughed and told her I’d never seen the name before and she went on to provide a little history of her family, the region of the country where she grew up, and the origin of her name.

After we arrived at her hotel, we unloaded her baggage, said goodbye, and she went inside. I closed out the ride and moved on to my next rideshare adventure.

Within 20 minutes, I received another ride request. The pick-up was from the same airport.

And the name was the same never-before-seen-four-syllable name of the person I just dropped off at the hotel.

Strange.

So, as I drove to the airport for the pick-up, my mind was racing.

How could this be? Did she forget something at the airport and set up another ride back from the hotel? Is it the same person or someone else by the same name?

Impossible.

Well, lo and behold, when I arrived at the airport, and the person stepped out from the baggage claim area, it was a completely different person with the same name.

Since I knew how to pronounce it, I said hello and she commended me on saying her name correctly. I told her about my experience from earlier and she listened with wide-eyed wonder. We both laughed. She never met another person by the same name.

I took her to a different hotel in the city and dropped her off.

As so, another rideshare mystery.

I may never know the rest of the story. As with most rides, the story is open-ended. Sometimes, I have the great joy of driving the same person again after months or years, and like old friends, we pick up where we left off.

“How did things go with your wife’s surgery?” “You look great. I guess getting away from me for a while helped tremendously!” “Did your daughter get into her school of choice?” “So, your puppy must be around 2 years old now.”

Building relationships one name at a time.

 

Disclaimer

I have made every attempt to provide anonymity to all individuals portrayed in this blog. The names have been changed to protect the innocent. And, in some cases, the not-so-innocent. I have substituted the characteristics of individuals in my writings to further my attempt to maintain anonymity. Conversations and other details are based on my best recollection and notes. Although I have spent time driving with many celebrities and public figures over the years, I have intentionally omitted their names, and their rides, in my writings. Actual locales, along with other details such as when and where the rides occurred, have been modified to maintain my objective of rider privacy and anonymity.

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