3 thoughts after finishing Ulysses this week:

(Non-diegetic music tells the story by evoking emotional contexts. Since it isn’t heard by characters, it’s the story-teller’s voice, evoking feelings about the images and action that shape our perceptions. Each frame in a modern cinema narrative has correlated sounds the viewer expects to hear in the situation . Non-diegetic music creates the emotional verisimilitude of reality that viewers imagine.)

What I’ve enjoyed most about ubering is conversations with and observations of riders and occasional others along the way. I engage with all of them to the extent they’re open to it: riders, drivers, doormen, police, baristas at Starbucks, staff at the delis, whomever. Some of the observations awaken riders picked up at SAN, visitors as well as residents, to things they hadn’t noticed and are commonly taken for granted, like the people living in the streets. Their curiosity awakens, which irritate some who do their best to ignore things like the people living in the streets. I think I’m also sort of prescient–I know how old people are and where they come from. But I judge them only by their behavior.

What I most don’t like about ubering is when I feel taken for granted, like a part of the car–the postman. Uber sets this up in the way ridesharing is promoted. It’s a dichotomy. They tell riders that they needn’t carry cash–that it’s all on the card they use to hail a driver. But there’s no tipping option and the same riders who prefer to feel they needn’t tip drivers are often too demanding. Anyone with an elementary knowledge of math could figure out that the fare they’re paying for the use of the car and driver for a 20 minute ride doesn’t equal minimum wage. They know the driver’s expense for the trip: fuel, car lease, maintenance and insurance must come out of that fare. They smile and say, thank you soooo much for the ride, I really appreciate it. Have a great day! That’s about 95% of riders. The other 5% give the driver a tip.

Uber took the tip option off its app after they were sued by drivers for allegedly stealing part of drivers’ tips. Uber’s management team doesn’t seem to understand or doesn’t care that removing the tip option created an exploitive situation, like leaving a restaurant without tipping the wait staff. Riders say things like, “I thought the tip is included?” Really? You think Uber is taking 25% of the fare and somehow then tipping drivers? How much was the fare? $5? $4?

Some riders are rude by nature and some by custom. Asian riders are polite and condescending. They are sometimes uncomfortable to learn their driver is someone they should respect, it makes them feel uncertain.  I’ve asked rude riders to call another car. A week ago, I pulled over and said to two drunk men, “get out of the car. Now.” One cursed me as he slammed the car door but I felt safer with them out of the car. More experience of riders is wonderful than not, Taking scented attractive women to their rendez-vous is fascinating .

The girl, who sang a song she’d made up, her perfect a cappella style, as we passed through San Pasqual Valley to the wild animal park, brought tears to my eyes. Watching her walk away, waving, I felt frozen in the act of uber-driver. I wanted to go with her.

A second thought today was about a letter I received from B today.  Two years ago, it offended him when I pointed out that courses in his department were published with different catalog numbers for undergraduate and graduate levels and that they were poorly written and full of mistakes. I didn’t realize they were his work. I also mentioned that some teachers in his department were remarkably uninterested, unknowledgeable or incompetent at teaching and I didn’t realize he only hires his friends, regardless of qualifications. The “teachers” know the courses are absurd in a graduate school.

It was not in my best interests to show him, with specific examples, how these courses were at secondary school level, with lousy writing and misinformation, sometimes self-contradicting. I’d paid $2,600 per class for these courses and it irritated me. It must have been upsetting for B when I wrote about it in the letter to the accrediting board. Two of his teachers threatened me when I questioning their facts. They told me that questioning a teacher isn’t permitted or polite–that students shouldn’t ask questions.

$2.600/3 unit class is a hefty price and represents 50% of the FAFSA loan allocation. I thought about this when I found myself answering exams with answers I knew to be incorrect. Then I learned that the former experience of  the school’s online course administrator was that the had been a police commander in Hayward.  I tried to imagine exactly how that experience prepares someone for this job. What sort of outfit is this school anyway?  No one at the top cares about the quality of courseware or teachers? In any case, a result of the documentation I sent to B about course errors was that his assistant gave a phone number and told me to call a composition professor and when I left a friendly message, B and M, the dean of the school accused of harassment–long distance by voicemail message.

Another thing I don’t like about ubering is the third thought for the day: the philosophy of Uber’s management,  policies and practices, is revealed in Uber’s quest for a driver-less car. In their superstitious belief in technology, they see drivers as unnecessary, inconvenient and incompetent; we’re a dangerous nuisance of automotive mobility. Though I well understand this view after managing in traffic 50 hours/week. Drivers who aren’t able to achieve close to 100% alertness in a dynamic and unpredictable situations either make trips take longer or they get hit. Driverless cars are not a real option. Uber’s religious belief in technology rather than a rational understanding, leads Uber to treat drivers as disposable and expendable, while professing to appreciate them. Uber appreciates that drivers are paying for 99.9% of the assets for delivering service. Uber’s policies show zero interest in retaining drivers, their actions show  they don’t want drivers to have a say in determining fair rates.  The complexity Uber adds to the program that sends ride requests allows them to favor drivers who rent or lease cars from Uber or to drivers whom were enrolled with the promise of $1000 from their first 75 trips. If the driver earns $300 from these trips, Uber makes up the difference. This cost is amply covered by taking 25% of fares while contributing less than 1% of the cost of providing rides.

The driver-less car is nonsense without changing the social and practical context in which driverless cars are used. But despite the thousands of people on the streets, depressed economies of rural areas, rising sea level, catastrophic events from climate change, millennials, influenced by the Star Wars franchise, video games, iPhones and virtual reality believe that technology will make everything ok, that there’s a tech solution to every problem. They believe in the possibility of space travel and extra-terrestrial life rather than managing planetary resources as a social reality. No one really believe the superstition that urban technology, which does permit population growth and warfare is a solution but it pays well and they’d rather do that than sleep on the streets. Climate change suggests there are limits, however, and we’re meeting them.

Will Mercedes, Toyota, Ford, Chrysler, Kia, Etc. and Tesla abandon their lines related to personal freedom? No. They will incorporate technology learned in robotic car experiments. The idea of lock stepping vehicles is technical child’s play but will you sit in a steel cage moving in a river of steel cages alone or with someone you’d rather not see? Buzzed perhaps? Meditating? Listening to your favorite music? Do you want to get out now? Do you have to pee? Feeling sick? Bored? Where’s the app for that?