Ah, so I was quite fortunate and got my real hearing aid back sooner than I’d thought would happen. The call came in at around 11:20, just as my head began inching inexorably toward that sharp cutout that holds my light stick box as I fill it.
And fill them I was! I had to work quickly and keep thinking about any and everything in order to keep the brain working. And the harder I worked, the more aggressively they pumped material into the bins.
Anyway, at lunch time I knew I’d need to place a call to my supervisor and tell him I’d be exiting at 1 PM in order to retrieve the aids. Then, I made my way down that long, narrow corridor with its unusually textured floors to the front of the building.
In the receptionist’s office, I pulled out my iPhone to attempt summoning the ride via the Uber app. I hadn’t known how it would go, but I actually found it pretty cool. The app uses your GPS to give an approximate address, which you can either confirm or alter to read the actual address. I should have done the latter, but in the end it didn’t end up making much difference.
You can also get it to calculate your approximate fare. It said mine would be $16. Nice.
Once a driver is requested and confirmed, it gives you the driver’s name, license plate number, and make of automible, as well as an estimated time of arrival. I found that last to be the best part, for sure. Once it went to 0, the app sent a notification and the driver called to make sure he knew where I was. After a few seconds of sorting, he managed to find me. Oh, and because he didn’t know initially that I was blind, he’d just sat there for about two minutes before I tried calling his cell.
The vehicle was comfortable, and it felt and smelled up to standards. This guy was from Ethiopia, enjoying to talk about where I’d come from, what kind of schooling I’d had and the like. He said one of his favorite things about the US is that we get greater choice in which types of things we’ll study in school, whereas over there, according to him, the government dictates which topics you must learn about. “I don’t understand why more people don’t fully take advantage of this!” he said.
He located the building easily enough, and I hopped out and went inside. I launched the app, and it said I had been charged $21.45. That’s odd, as from what I’d understood, my first five rides were to be free. It isn’t a big deal though, as that is still cheaper than the amount a cab would usually cost. I also loved the convenience of the whole thing.
The return ride was also provided by a foreign person. I am uncertain from where he may have come, as he said little the entire way other than asking where I was going. He already knew where my apartment complex was and so I got home quickly and easily, also in a comfortable van. They didn’t in fact bill for this ride, which was nice.
So on the whole, I’d have to say I liked the service. It takes away a lot of the anxiety, again for me as a blind traveler, regarding when they might arrive and if I’ll miss them. I’ll have to use it a few more times to see if there’s always a noticeable difference between the quoted fare and what they actually charge, but even so I still liked not having to engage in any cash transactions. Finally, I appreciated that the app asks you to leave feedback on each trip you take. I suppose this could be used to weed out any bad actors, should there be any.
And those are some of my thoughts. Kudos to whomever came up with this idea. It is yet one more way that I can reap some major benefits from my third hand, the iPhone. And it is a potentially powerful tool to enhance independence, and decrease the need for me to try frantically to find drivers when I need to get somewhere quickly. I hope it continues to be successful.