Taking an Uber Pool in L.A. is a lot like stepping up to the Big Wheel on The Price Is Right. You might hit 100 on the first try and score a hug from Bob Barker (or, eh, Drew Carey) — but it’s unlikely. The Uber Pool equivalent is taking a trip that doesn't involve picking up any other riders — which is rare. I spent a week riding around in Uber Pools — mostly sober, occasionally less sober — talking to other passengers, and asking the drivers about their experiences with Uber Pool. (To spice things up, I also tried Lyft Line, which is the exact same concept, except with a pink mustache.) The consensus seems to be, if you hit the jackpot and don’t get any other riders, it’s just a cheaper way to get around. But as more than one driver explained to me, if you go from Eagle Rock to LAX, there’s a chance that you’ll pick up and drop off several passengers along the way and end up missing your flight because the ride took four hours. It all depends where you’re going, what day it is and what kind of Uber Pool hand the fates deal. Here are 10 very real things that can happen when you share your ride-share ...
Hey, look at that! My first ride on this experiment had no additional passengers. It ended up just being my roommate and me trying to apply eyeliner on our ride to Koreatown, while the driver blasted a Gnarls Barkley song that rose to popularity before Uber existed. (My roommate emerged looking flawless; I got out looking like a toddler had drawn on my eyes with a black Crayola marker.) The less distance you’re covering (in our case, we were going from Echo Park to Koreatown), the less likely you are to have additional passengers, simply because there isn’t much opportunity for someone to crash your party of one. Or two.
2. You’ll be forced to listen to shitty bros talk about who they’re trying to bone later.
You can order an Uber Pool or a Lyft Line by yourself or with one other person, which means you can end up with a pair when you’re riding solo and be stuck listening to their conversation for the duration of your trip. If you choose to ride after 10 p.m. on a Thursday, Friday or Saturday, and you have the same kind of luck I do, you will end up with two 20-something bros, who are (almost) universally the worst riding companions. In my Uber, one was showing the other the Instagram of a girl he was hoping to meet up with later that night. The following is a rough recount of a scene from my ride:
Bro #1: *scrolls through pictures* “She works for Budweiser, and just look at her. She’s BAD.”
Bro #2 (the late bloomer, clearly): “Oh, that’s her friend? She’s hot too!”
Girl riding in the front seat, feeling miserable about this conversation: *silence.*
3. You will bond by sharing your Uber Pool horror stories.
There’s a clear pattern in driver-passenger go-to topics. The options are a.) discussing how the driver’s shift is going; b.) discussing Uber pricing and how much the driver takes home from each ride; and c.) talking shit about previous ride-share experiences. My sixth driver confided in me that he'd had a woman curse him out when, 15 minutes into the ride, she learned that she was in a pool instead of the UberX she thought she'd ordered. Other horror stories aren’t quite as horrific. My fourth driver told me the biggest Uber Pool challenge he faced regularly was keeping everyone happy about the temperature in the car. He often ended up with four people going four different places, and often had to mediate air conditioning–versus-windows squabbles.
4. You’ll end up on an accidental double date.
On a Saturday night, my boyfriend and I ended up riding with another couple, and it felt a little too much like a setup — and there definitely wasn’t going to be a second date. (No hard feelings, of course; both sides felt the incompatibility.) Nonetheless, we pleasantly swapped Koreatown karaoke recommendations (they were going to Brass Monkey, but we’d never been; clearly, we weren’t adventurous enough for them), and then went our separate ways. No one was friended on Facebook after the fact.
5. You’ll witness someone pressure the driver into not picking up another person.
The drivers are not allowed to ignore a pool request; if they do choose to skip out on someone, they'll get an email from Uber immediately, and it can affect their score as a driver. However, the people who order Uber Pools hoping that it’ll be an on-the-cheap solo ride can get really antsy when the driver gets pinged, and will occasionally threaten to get out of the car if another person is picked up. My personal thought is, for an extra $5, you can spare yourself having to witness this exchange.
6. You’ll get the down-low on the specifics of how much Uber drivers make.
In my experience, a lot of people are curious about this and, as it turns out, a lot of drivers want to talk about it. With a few, I discussed the profits specifically for Uber Pool: For any ride, the driver gets what we pay, minus 20 percent; for two rides, the driver gets both tabs, again, minus 20 percent.
7. You’ll start pointing out L.A. landmarks that were used in movies because you can’t think of anything more original to say.
In the realm of L.A. small talk in moving vehicles, pointing out landmarks is honestly one of your only options. After a four-minute silence, the man I was sharing my ninth ride with told me the tunnel we were in (near Figueroa Street) was in The Terminator. I then chimed in that Good Luck Bar in Los Feliz was recently in Hail, Caesar! — and a friendship was born.
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8. Your driver will bust out his go-to obscure conversation topic of the day.
On my last Kevin Hart–style ride along, the driver lead me and my one pool-mate in a very open discussion about the existence of ghosts. He asked us whether or not you’d know if you were a ghost if you were one (duh, yes), and whether there is value in looking for ghosts. Personally, I said no to the second question. The driver disagreed, but confirmed that he has yet to have a ghost in his car.
9. You’ll end up on a ride with someone you know.
This has never happened to me, but while riding with a woman in her 20s, she told me she’d once ended up in an Uber Pool with the date she was on her way to meet. She was on her way to the bar to see him, the Uber stopped to pick up the second passenger and her date got in. So beware. That extra five minutes you needed to psych yourself up for the date could be ripped from your sweaty hands. Moral: If you’re getting a ride to meet someone you could
potentially go home with, don’t order a pool.
10. You’ll bond over being transplants with your fellow passengers (or driver).
In the course of my Uber Pool study, I asked about 12 drivers what the most popular topics of conversation are among pool passengers who don’t know each other. Four of them told me they’ve had two strangers get in the car and figure out over the course of the ride that they’re from adjacent colleges, the same foreign country or have some sort of East Coast/Midwest/Southern connection. The true variable of these situations, as was explained to me by multiple drivers, is whether the pair who chatted the whole ride exchanged information. It seems like the most popular route is that one passenger says, “I’ll find you on Facebook,” though it’s unclear how many people actually follow through.