‘Uncertainty eats you away’

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Most people know very little about the Uber drivers who take them to work, school, and wherever they need to go.

In Jonathan Rigsby’s new book, “Driving: Traveling through the US with Uber, One trip at a time,” he puts the reader in the driver’s seat. Even though Rigsby works as a criminal intelligence analyst for the state of Florida, he doesn’t make enough money to pay the bills, care for his son, and save for his future. My family.

When he and his wife divorced, he earned less than $25,000 a year, after taxes, alimony, child support and other debts. In 2016, he decided to switch to the car sharing service business to make more money.

He eventually wrote his memoirs about all that happened afterward.

To earn a “decent hourly wage,” Rigsby told CNBC earlier this month, “you’re forced to work long hours at unusual times and have to rely on bonuses, tips and increased payments.” mutation.”

He aims to earn $250 a week while traveling, but this is not always possible. After deducting the cost of buying a car, he only earns $80 a week.

“The uncertainty eats at you,” he said.

Spokesperson for Uber says driver compensation will vary depending on a variety of factors, such as local demand.

“The average Uber driver in the US is making more than $30 per hour of operation, and the flexibility to work whenever and wherever they want is the core reason why many Uber drivers work,” the spokesperson said. driver switched to Uber”.

CNBC interviewed Rigsby this month. The conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity.

AN: You ultimately decided to drive for Uber, even though you worked for the Florida government. Can you talk about why you made that decision?

JR: After my divorce, I had to learn how to handle a lot of new expenses with fewer resources. I have alimony and child support in addition to rent and student loans. I’m very lucky to have a full-time job that gives me a salary and health insurance, but the burden of all these new expenses is well beyond the salary of a civil servant. Many rideshare drivers are living in similar situations to what I went through without that minimal safety net.

AN: What do you earn the most in a week and the least driving for Uber?

JR: Halloween is definitely the most profitable time for Uber drivers in my city. People would come from Miami to party in Tallahassee because it was cheaper there. In 2018, I wore my seat belt and drove many hours that week. Besides my day job, I can drive for 30 hours and earn more than 700 USD. But I spent all that money paying for car repairs that I was forced to put on my credit card.

Then there’s a period of time right after students graduate and before summer classes start when the town is empty. I remember panicking because I only made about $120 in a week, and that was before accounting for all the gas I burned. After all expenses, I can earn $80 for 15 to 20 hours of work.

AN: I know the cost a passenger pays for a trip does not reflect how much the driver earns. How it works?

JR: The split between driver and company on any given trip can vary widely. Sometimes you take someone for a ride and find out that the company is covering 50% of the cost of their ride. Sometimes the driver makes 80% of the trip. Companies are gradually increasing their average earnings. First it was 20%, then 22%, then 24%. Every change is aimed at reducing driver wages and pushing companies towards profits.

Even if the driver is making a good hourly wage, you’re still on the hook for fuel, maintenance, and wear and tear costs. It reduces your earnings by about $4-$5 per hour, which is often the difference between being above or below minimum wage. No one gets rich doing this except Uber executives.

Drive – Join Uber’s America One Ride at a Time by Jonathan Rigsby.

Courtesy: Jonathan Rigsby

AN: I know Uber isn’t your main source of income but it is for everyone else.

JR: I’m lucky to have the support of a salaried job, but there are plenty of people out there who use ridesharing and delivery for their basic needs. It’s uncertain and stressful. You’re forced to work long hours at odd times and have to rely on bonuses, tips, and surge payments to earn a decent hourly wage. Uncertainty eats away at you.

AN: Does driving for Uber make it harder to spend time with your son? What is your visitation arrangement after your divorce?

JR: At first, our agreement was that I would spend Tuesdays, Thursdays and alternating Saturdays and Sundays with him. Even in the most difficult times, I never spent time with him driving. If I give up time with my son just to work, what’s the point in everything I’m doing? All the hard work goes to him. When I’m not with him, I work as a ‘taxi driver’ – his name for it – but I carry a small stuffed bear in the cup holder of my car. That’s how I take him with me everywhere I go.

AN: During your most difficult times, you write about making constantly difficult decisions like whether to pay for laundry or buying food and finding “every possible way to hide your situation.” yourself and the people around you.” Why do you feel the need to hide your poverty?

JR: I had a full-time job with health insurance and retirement and all the things they tell you will make you middle class. But I was poor, precariously on the brink of becoming homeless. There is a feeling that getting through is not so difficult. You blame yourself because everything in the American ethos tells you that hard work will lead to success, and if you’re struggling it’s surely your own fault.

AN: You write that driving for Uber has made your drinking problem worse. What’s wrong?

JR: Some nights I drive until 2 a.m. and the only way I can stay awake to do that is by drinking large amounts of caffeine. When I returned to my small apartment, I was so tired I drank to sleep – then woke up the next morning to do it all over again.

AN: How else does that job affect your health?

JR: Sitting in the car for a long time is very tiring. I force myself to rest, go out and relax, but on really busy nights, trips follow one another. You look at the clock and realize you’ve been sitting in one place for five hours. You’re hungry. You are thirsty. You need to use the bathroom, but the only place open is the fast food restaurant. You eat cheap snacks so you can quickly get back on the road and continue working. My blood pressure and cholesterol were both physically compromised. I often worry about blood clots.

AN: What is it about carpooling that makes you feel so lonely?

JR: People tap their phones and summon this disposable servant, someone they don’t even need to talk to. You take them where they’re going and they disappear. Sometimes people are rude or mean to you for no reason, and you have no choice but to accept it because you need the money. You’re alone when you sign in, and when the passengers get out, you’re alone again.

AN: Your circumstances changed significantly when you met another partner. What does this aspect of your story tell us?

JR: Modern American life is truly precarious. Most Americans live paycheck to paycheck, and surviving on just one source of income is becoming increasingly impossible. Having a partner eases the burden by giving you a support system, someone with whom to share financial expenses. Once you get some breathing space, you’ll regain the ability to think about the future and take some risks.

Author Jonathan Rigsby: Driving – Traveling through America one trip at a time with Uber

Courtesy: Jonathan Rigsby

AN: Have you finished driving for Uber?

JR: I still drive on Friday nights. My driving hours have been greatly reduced compared to what I used to do and I hope that I will be able to quit driving soon. But for now, I still need that little extra income. When the day comes that I don’t, I’ll delete the apps and never do this again.

AN: How is your life different now compared to the days when you were driving more for Uber?

JR: The biggest change is the ability to take care of yourself and have hobbies. Now I learned how to draw by watching old episodes of The joy of painting on YouTube and my apartment is filled with landscapes I’ve drawn. I am a healthier, happier version of myself and a better, more present father to my son. There are some scars, but they are part of me.


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