Well I did it, I am no longer an Uber Virgin. You heard me right, I just took my first Uber ride. I flew down to Phoenix, mainly to attend a concert. One of my oldest son’s favorite bands is Guns N Roses and so he invited me to attend with him.
Check out the Godfather theme here, Slash style
I don’t like to lean on my son for my airport transportation; he has a job, after all. Typically I would walk outside of Terminal 4, (Southwest Airlines), and head over to the Super Shuttle curb. I know the fare, it’s always $34 from the airport to Gilbert where our house is. This time I thought I’d look into Uber. Just about anyone I know has tried it and bragged about how easy it is. The AP was already on my phone so it was just a matter of registering and completing a profile. Wow, then it automatically showed me how close a driver was and with a click of a button, I was able to see an estimate. Even the top end of the range was cheaper than my normal shuttle charge so I said to myself – what the heck, let’s give it a try.
In less than 5 minutes, here came my silver Volkswagen Jetta Sportswagen driven by the young Russian immigrant Viatcheslav. I asked him what the protocol was, do I sit in back or front? He said anywhere I want, so I jumped into the front. The only bag I travel with to Phoenix is my Yamaha Fox backpack, carrying my iPad, Franklin calendar (yes, I’m still old school there) and any books I’m reading at the time.
I was curious about the Uber process so I asked a few questions about how it worked as a driver. This led me into a history lesson for the young lad. I covered expensive gasoline of the late 70’s and the days before cell phones and GPS. He found that fascinating – how did taxi drivers make it? He asked why I was here and that’s when I shared I was here to see Guns N Roses.
– What? You are buying guns?
No, no, no….it’s a rock band. You’ve never heard of them? (Wow, now I feel old! Ok, time to change the subject).
Traffic was very light since it was not yet the heavy commuting hour so we got to our house in very short time and the total bill was $20 and some change. Nice, a 40% reduction vs what I had been paying and the accommodations were better and faster. Maybe being an Uber driver would not be so bad. Perhaps you didn’t know that I have some taxiing experience…..
Our youngest son attended a private liberal arts school for the middle and high school years. I will one day write about why this became a necessary move but for this here story, I jump forward into high school; 10th grade. Our son attended the Waldorf school system. For those of you unfamiliar with Waldorf, I’d recommend this link. Overall, it’s a very good system though I’d comment that the poor economy is having an influence.
The most significant aspect of Waldorf that stood out for me was the sense of community. Class sizes are small, methods employed by all the teachers are proscribed by the Waldorf system and the involvement by the parents is expected. This is not a place you dump your kids off to for 8 hours a day without having to think about them until the end of the day. So like all good parents, Kim and I volunteered our time as we could. I particularly liked volunteering as a parent driver when one was needed. I consider myself a safe driver, (dad lets me drive on Saturday – sorry, could not resist the Rainman comment).
Are you a cool parent? While growing up on Prytania, all us kids knew which parents were fun to be around and which ones were not. Those who were fun or those who spoke to us as adults, (or at least not like little children), ended up being the houses we kids liked to hang around. Mathews, Jones, (Kate) McMahan (we were all scared of Russ), and our house – those were our favorite spots if we weren’t in the alley.
So when the notice went out from Sacramento Waldorf asking for drivers for a San Francisco day trip, yours truly was one of the first to raise his hand. We have a solid Acura MDX, (death crash tested), that can seat 7 comfortably and besides, I wouldn’t mind a day away from the office. The day trip was an opportunity to view some of the Tutankhamen treasures and I’d always wanted to see those.
In fact, I own a complete King Tut solid gold stamp collection from the late 70’s. I’m certain I paid too much for those thin stamps but at the time I thought they were gorgeous, (and maybe now they’re worth more than what I paid).
At the time of this planned trip, there was a little known program on television called Cash Cab. A guy drove around NY City in a cab, picked up folks hailing him and then he played a question and answer game with them during their cab ride. As they answered questions, they earned cash. If they got 3 strikes, they lost their cash and got dumped on the street. Otherwise if they made it to their destination without the three strikes then they kept the money and got a free cab ride. I decided my van kids were going to get a Cash Cab day with a special finish.
The kids had been studying their Egyptian history beforehand so I came prepared with questions and dollars……with a twist! I had burned a copy of Steve Martin’s King Tut song onto a cd. After perhaps the first 30 minutes of driving, the kids’ excitement of being away from school, had died down. I had not yet told them about our game. My son was with me in our van and I saw his eyes roll when I announced that I had a special song I wanted them to listen to. I hadn’t told Tim of my surprise either and I’m sure he thought it was just another ‘Dad trying to be cool’ moment. I popped in the cd and cranked up the volume.
I had 5 kids with me that day. We were about to find out who listened to the song and who shrugged it off as some old guy trying to be cute.
Me -OK Kids – You’re in the Cash Cab!!!
And with that, the loud babbling turned down but only slightly.
Me – First question is worth a buck – Where was King Tut born?
Several yelled out the textbook response (somewhere in Egypt), but there was one in the back who listened to the song. She yelled out – ARIZONA!
Me – that’s right! Pass this dollar back to the attentive one in the rear.
NOW I have their complete attention, nothing shouts as loudly as the sound of Presidents on green paper! I heard someone in the back whisper, ‘crap we should have listened to that’.
Me – next question – to where did King Tut move?
Two kids yelled out BABYLONIA! Ok, who got that first? You just won a buck. Here pass this dollar back to the boy on the right.
I gave them ten questions, one of them was worth two dollars. The kids seemed to have a great time with that, (even my son Tim), and everyone won at least a dollar. As we began to pull into San Francisco I told the kids to pay attention to all the tour details because we were going to have another Cash Cab game on the way home but this time the questions would all be about points relevant to the exhibits. Before getting out of the car I heard one of the boys ask my son – Tim, do we have to give these dollars back to your dad?
Quick Side Note here
That last question helps to emphasize a point. These were good kids. They didn’t all just stuff the bills into their pockets. They were ready to hand them back if asked. If for nothing else, I am glad I was able to give my son a gift of community. I have never seen a school system so full of love and caring kids. Many times when picking up our son at school I’d hear one kid yell to another – I love you! And another yell back – I love you more! I’m not sure if they all yet realize just how special this gift was….but someday they will.
Me – I heard that, no – the dollars are yours, that was the prize money. Be ready to win more in the ride back to school at the end of the day.
I think there were five of us van drivers, a couple of teachers and three parents. The trip was all plotted out. We visited a couple of famous cultural landmarks, the Egyptian exhibit and had a nice meal at the Pier before heading back to the school in Fair Oaks. (If memory serves me right, we visited the Palace of Fine Arts Theater, the De Young Museum and the Academy of Sciences).
The day was great. The kids were well behaved and had a great time. We parents did pretty ok too. All that was left was the drive home.
The drive home was even better than the drive there. I started up the Cash Cab after we got back safely onto the highway. I threw them a couple of softball questions to get them going, but then loaded them up with a few good questions to see if they were paying attention to the exhibits. One of the girls under my watch was named Iris, (pronounced eris), and I had seen a painting or small bust of Iris from the Greek myths. When I popped my Iris question no one knew the answer so I had to give out a clue.
Me – ok, one of the girls in the Cash Cab has the same name as this lady.
Three of them yelled out Iris at the same time so I awarded that prize to Iris herself – seemed only fair.
The kids yelled for the King Tut song twice during the ride back to the school, loud of course. Now when he was a young man, he never thought he’d see people stand in line to see the boy king – King Tut.
What a great time those kids had. The Waldorf school is located near the American River, at the end of a dead end drive, situated on its own campus. After going through an entrance gate, the road heads slightly downhill towards the parking lots and buildings. When we got to the very top of the entrance, the kids wanted Martin’s King Tut again played at full blast with the windows rolled down. I obliged and the kids all stuck their heads out the windows as we approached the other vehicles, all of them singing the song.
My wife affectionately referred to Waldorf as the hippie school; it was a great fit for our son. I’m glad that we worked hard all our lives and could therefore afford to provide this experience to our son. The millennials all seem to be more focused against doing, not having. Maybe that’s not such a bad thing? To this day, his best friends are kids he went to school with and still hangs out with several of them. When we could, my wife and I have tried to volunteer our time for the kids, (like the time Kim spent a whole week as a nurse at a camp for kids in Louisiana).
I had a great time putting on the Cash Cab for the kids and I hope I helped to make a special memory for them. It was special for me. How’d you get so funky? (Funky Tut) Did you do the monkey? Born in Arizona, moved to Babylonia (King Tut).