In the last 7 months that I spent travelling across the city to reach my workplace, I have only relied on Uber and Ola. It sucks that I will be thirty-frigging-three in another 5 days, and I still don’t drive. Yes, I did learn, and even did a post about it. But I never really took to the road, So my workday begins with Uber, and ends with Uber or Ola, whichever had a lower surcharge.
You’d think it is simple, and it is, if you compare it with haggling with annoying auto-walas who don’t even blink while asking you for a straight double of what an UberGo would for the same distance. But standalone, when the cab is a daily chore, and an expensive one, there is a bit more pain to it. Not in the mornings, my place is bang in the center of all the offices in Hyderabad (except mine, Oh lord, the irony. I actually have had multiple cab drivers assume I was in a night shift because what else explains going from the center of the city to the suburbs which is full of offices in the late evening?), and this ensured there were always cabs available, and at the regular rate. Uber is by far the most economical option, so I’m out and about in 5 minutes from when I decide I have watched enough Masterchef Australia for the morning.
But evenings are a different ball game. You see, evenings are ‘peak hour’, and this peak ‘hour’ usually lasts for about 5 hours. Now another thing, which you can know only if you are a daily regular, is that peak hours are a farce in general. For example, I usually aim at leaving by 7:30 PM. To be able to do that, I need to start alt+tab-ing between Ola and Uber at 7:00 PM. You would assume that the traffic flow at 7:00 PM on a Monday wouldn’t be too different from a Tuesday but this does not apply. Also, Uber might be running at 3X, and Ola might be going at flat rate. Also, there is heavy fluctuation within the peak hour itself. As one Uber driver very helpfully told me, the surcharge goes from zero to 4x, in cycles – 15 minute cycles. The only problem is that this is not in any sequence, so it might go 1.2x to 3x to 1.8x to regular to 4x, which basically means it might hit flat rate any time. So all you need to do is stare at your screen for 15 minutes straight, so you can click Request UberGo the moment the lightning sign disappears. And if you miss it, you either pay a lot, or decide to stay back at work. Forever.
With Ola, the surcharges aren’t that high, I haven’t seen them higher than 1.8x, but it is in general more expensive. Plus Ola drivers have been very famous for calling me 10 minutes after the booking is confirmed, not moving from where they are on the GPS, and conveniently stating that they are too far to come. Basically, pissing me off and making me avoid them like plague until Uber decides to act extra pricey, literally.
But once I have boarded, life’s an air-conditioned breeze. And if I discount the time I waste on road, it is actually quite therapeutic, looking through the windows at the bright lights and stores lined up, while there’s A.R.Rahman playing in the background. I sometimes also have cab drivers who are interested in sharing a wee bit more about their personal life. Like I have met this guy who drove cabs in Wisconsin for 11 years, before deciding to come back home when it was clear he was not getting a permanent resident status in the US. And built a three storied bungalow in the heart of the city with the money he saved over the years, and is pretty set for life. Only, he decided to continue driving a cab, because that’s what he has done all his life.
Then there was this guy who was waiting for a court litigation to be over, so he and his wife would get legal ownership of a piece of land in a pretty posh area, which would mean he would have enough to retire and return to his hometown for good. He also mentioned a daughter, who was a Masters in Sciences and was very keen on working for NASA.
Then just yesterday, there was this guy, who while we were slowly plodding through a pretty cramped rode, accidently nicked a bike on the side – the mistake not really either party’s. The rider was a middle-aged man and his wife was with him. He was visibly angry and mouthing abuses, and as we overtook them, I hoped there wouldn’t be trouble. But unfortunately, the driver started slowing down and parked to the side. I asked him why he wanted to unnecessarily fight for no reason, assuming he had seen the man growl. He said ‘Madam, Sorry bol deta hoon. Uncle gussa rahenge nahi toh’. I was pleasantly shocked, and as expected the biker came up and started screaming, his wife trying hard to pacify him. And the driver, for no clear fault of his said ‘Uncle, galti ho gayi, sorry, aap gussa mat ho.’ Uncle left pacified, and I was left with a big smile on my face.
And while these one off incidents make me feel that the whole cab ride business isn’t all that bad, I think it’s enough. Not the wisest of decisions when you are shelling out close to 400 bucks every day just on travel. The thought I would have an additional 2k to spend on stuff I don’t need, makes me want to get done with this for good. And fortunately, I am, in a week and a half.
For now, I will get back to my search for a cab and hope I am home before 10.