|The New Normal|
It did not come without a *great* deal of hesitation. I'm the breadwinner for my family and currently on at will contract for a tech company, which means that my health benefits are mostly vapor. My wife and children have risk factors that make their continued health far from a given. Our financial situation is better than a lot of people, and I'm very grateful to be working during the recession. But if the contract is terminated -- and it's at-will, with budget cuts announced for other aspects of the program this week -- we are f*****.
Rideshare won't solve any of that, of course. But supplemental income may help us to get the credit card level down a little more, especially if we're lucky with car repair and maintenance. My Honda has taken over 15K riders to where they wanted to go, and has made me over six figures in three years of doing this. Without this income, we would be in a much worse place than we are right now.
I haven't been hesitant to do the side work just for health reasons. I've also been more than a little cynical that there would be any demand. Most of my work pre-pandemic was college students (gone), pick ups from train stations (yeah, that should be gone too), grabs from bars in late night (closed)... so I kind of doubted there would be any pings.
In the two months since I've made a pick up, there have been laws passed in New Jersey that require me to sticker my car with my photo on the back rear windows. This is more than a little irritating, frankly; outing myself as a driver when I am not, and giving my name to anyone who sees my car is more than a trifling indignity, but so be it. I also removed anything from the car that would inspire additional touches, so good bye to the water bottles, cough drops and breath mints that used to be in the ride, along with the courtesy trash can. That last one wouldn't have worked anyway, because the latest word is that you should drive with the windows down to increase ventilation and lower your risk, and contents would leave the liner. Needless to say, I'm also going to say no if people ask if they can charge their phone now, too.
Removing all of the side stuff is likely going to harm my rating and definiely my potential for tips, but during a pandemic, my guess is ratings are going to stay high enough as is. People who need rides aren't going to limit their choices so much, and if you give a driver three stars or less, you're out of their lives for good.
A final once over from the car wash, and a wipedown with Clorox wipes that we had in the house pre-pandemic, finished the car prep in about a half hour.
Now that the car was prepped, it was time for myself. A friend of my eldest gifted her with a small box of N95 masks, so that's my base level. My wife has made fabric masks, that goes on top. The eldest started work this week in a plant that shifted to produce face sheilds, and nabbed me one. Yellow rubber gloves are my permanent go-to for shopping trips. It's hard to use the phone with those, so I saved them for between trip pick ups, when I'd wipe down places the last passenger might have touched. No one's allowed to sit in the front seat anymore, and shared rides are also out. I grabbed a return water cooler jug for the Home Depot, and turned on Uber. I thought I'd switch on both that and Lyft and drive to the store, and see if I got lucky enough to get a ride or two to pay for sundries today.
I never got to the Depot.
So... good news and bad news, really.
First, the good news. Eight rides and $81 in three hours is a reasonable return on investment for the hustle, even pre-pandemic. I didn't run into anyone actively rude, or anyone that made me very afraid for my health. I spent the entire time either driving someone or en route to driving someone, and $12 of my take was surge. I took 9 out of 10 ride offers, only got one cancel, and didn't have any incidents of real note. $81 might not sound like a lot to you, or enough to run any kind of health risk, but this is pretty much my only way to add income right now. And we need to add income.
Now, the bad. Less than half of my riders wore masks, and only one person wore gloves. Conversation through the PPE is pretty much a non-starter, and the number of people walking the streets without a mask on a nice Saturday was even lower than the percentage of people masked up in my car. My area is also top 10 in the country in terms of per capita virus impact, so questioning this decision is something I can do whenever I want.
Driving with PPE eventually gave me a tension headache, and the lack of access to my mouth also meant I didn't take a drink or use a cough drop while driving. With the world mostly closed, so are public restrooms, so I don't know if I'm going to be able to take much in the way of long rides, which is generally where the hustle does better on per hourly income rates. My fares were almost all from poor neighborhoods, and one of them, I think, just pounded a bong for 35 minutes while I was thankful that the new normal is a lot of ventilation.
As I write this, I'm looking over my finances, and adding would help. I'm also feeling a slight something in the back of my throat, which is almost certainly indigestion from dinner or seasonal allergies, but also could be yeah I should think of something else now.
Tomorrow, in all likelihood, I'm going to get back in the car and try to get to the Depot again.
I'll also, in all likelihood, turn on the apps.
Wish me luck. I need it.