Writing as a profession has never been the most secure career path. In fact, “creatives” (wretched corporate speak) of all phyla (artists, musicians, actors and even copywriters) often must supplement their incomes with service industry jobs far from their chosen field.
To keep this sob story short, your gentle narrator has been writing professionally for over 16 years and, while freelancing for any number of publications, he procured just one desk job on the strength of his writing (ASCAP, seven years)—a data integrity and quality assurance position. Shortly after the economy tanked in 2008, that cushy (but dead-end) gig evaporated; since then, the order of the day has been scrambling and cobbling together an income.
The advent of the so-called sharing economy has allowed forlorned job-seekers to obtain jobs with Uber or Zoomer where no resume is needed: just a four-door (in Uber’s case) and a smartphone. These are service jobs, and with them come the mercurial moods of the public.
Ann Arbor is generally a wonderful place, but the University of Michigan matriculates many a son/daughter of wealthy oligarchs (focus squarely on Long Island/NYC/North Jersey with a special shoutout to the Detroit burbs). Unfortunately, these progeny of opulence often act like entitled twits, especially when dealing with waiters, cab drivers, delivery drivers, etc. A prime recent example was this lovely little scholar who, while unworthy of column inches, happens to be the son of a notorious New York City slum lord (go figure).
It’s not just the kids who act like privileged philistines. There is an air of elitism that runs through Washtenaw County, one of the wealthiest in Michigan. This is a liberal, artist-friendly community, but money does something to people, and there’s plenty of wealth and disconnect to go around in the Ace Deuce (who could forget this so-called civil servant).
The Ann Arbor/nation-wide affluenza epidemic could be written off to the folly of youth/undeveloped frontal lobes; who among us, due to sheer naivete, didn’t do something idiotic in our early adulthood? However, Greek life at universities does foster a solipsistic worldview—sorry frat guys and gals, there are many among you that give your house a bad name.
So this particular writer Ubers and Zoomers in his spare time; a Bachelor’s in English from the University in tow. To be fair, some young Wolverines are beautiful people, full of vitality and spirit, generally aware that treating your fellow humans with respect is a requirement and not an occasional practice. We all have a bad day and can come off rude to a cashier, waiter or fellow motorist, but having shuttled Ann Arborites around for three months now (and delivered food for eight months), I’ve noticed an alarming trend of disrespect, primarily among (but not exclusive to) undergraduates.
From the drunk sorority sister dropping an “okay, Uber” while I was talking to another rider, to the drunk student in cap and gown who cranked up my stereo without asking then slammed my door for good measure, to the businessman who treated my car as a trash receptacle: Newsflash: there are some despicable people out there.
Then there’s the cheapskates that still aren’t aware that delivery drivers also work off tips, just like waiters and waitresses (10 percent is acceptable, but 15-20 should be the standard considering the wear and tear these drivers put on their cars to bring you your precious Zingerman’s matzah ball soup).
Uber does allow a driver to hear some good stories, obvious fodder for any scribe. Sour grapes can turn to fine wine with discipline and hard work, but in America, warriors often die for want of slaying the dragon. If only the dragon knew how awful he could be, perhaps there would be less of a sense of entitlement in our American kingdom.