I’ve had some amazing rideshare adventures. My favorite rideshare was a 13-hour trip straight from New York to Chicago. I had to hunt for this one, but when I finally locked it in I stayed up all night to be ready for the dude’s a.m. arrival. Then he…didn’t show….so I called him….and he didn’t answer. I waited in the lobby of my friend’s Manhattan apartment, anxious and hopeful. Finally I went back upstairs, assuming my travel plans had been foiled. I wore this face —> : /
Disheartened and delirious from being up all night I slumped over on the futon I’d been crashing on, hair over my eyes and hands hung over the side. Womp. Then my cell phone rings. It’s Matt, my rideshare driver. He overslept, and slept through my half-a-dozen calls. He’s on his way! We spent the entire trip playing songs for each other, sharing junk food and taking pictures of an insane lightning storm we barreled through crossing Ohio. Thirteen hours has never gone by so fast.
Ridesharing, in case you aren’t familiar, is essentially a vaccinated version of hitchhiking. It’s a safer, more predictable approach to catching a ride with a stranger from point A to point B. While not free, it is cheaper than nearly all other forms of transportation–you may be able to find a less expensive bus ride, but it will also take you much longer. I have taken several rideshares through various parts of the country and every one has been a good experience-–a chance to meet someone new, exchange ideas, and make the trip less solitary and more enriching. No waiting in lines, no ticket purchases, no tagging of luggage, no security checks. In terms of time effectiveness, ride shares are second only to airplanes, and a lot more comfortable. Here are a few tips to help you navigate the road to a smooth rideshare.
1. Be specific about your needs. Are you traveling with a pet or carrying a bike? Do you hate rap music or need to be able to smoke in the car? You don’t have to sacrifice your needs to get a ride, but you do need to communicate them with any potential rideshare partner.
2. Talk to the other party on the phone. Typically you will initiate communication by email, unless you or the other person requests a phone call in your rideshare listing. It’s OK to establish contact via the Internet, but you should always speak to the person to get an idea of who they are and what their plan is. It can be Ask yourself: Do they sound sincere? Do they sound sane?
“It’s so much easier for a person to fabricate or manipulate perception through Internet than through the phone,” said musician and rideshare provider John Caruso.
3. Be flexible. Leave room around the time you want to arrive for any possible delays. You are traveling in a personal-use vehicle, so you should be able to adapt to all kinds of variables. Often a driver will have an ideal departure time, but things happen. One time my driver was on the way to pick me up and had to turn around to pick his sick daughter up from school because her mother was unreachable. We left two hours later than planned, but this was an unforeseeable. Another time my driver overslept by an hour–but at least he was rested when we got on the road! This also means you are allowed some flexibility as well, and don’t need to endure the stress of missing that 5 a.m. train that is really going to pull out of the station at 4:59 while you’re running down the platform.
4. Agree on a payment amount before you meet up. Discuss what you are willing to pay for the trip and what the driver expects you to contribute. Research the distance and make sure you think it is a fair amount you are willing to pay. Do not agree to an amount that you can’t afford or don’t want to pay; do not expect to barter with your driver. Have cash on hand so that you can pay the driver when you arrive at your destination and do not need to go searching for a bank and delay the driver from their final destination.
5. Be open-minded and friendly. Be willing to engage in conversation and share ideas along the way; don’t treat your driver as a chauffeur or shuttle service. This is a great opportunity to meet people that you may otherwise never get to meet. Discuss topics such as politics and religion with great caution if at all; start the conversation with something more innocuous. Find out if the person is familiar with the place you are going and ask them for recommendations about things to do or places to go there.
6. Trust your instincts. If you are in doubt for any reason, whether it is about the person’s driving skills or intentions, or if something just doesn’t seem right, turn down the ride. Put your safety ahead of your travel plans.
“I arranged a ride out of Austin with this one guy who never showed up. I should have known, he sounded iffy when we talked on the phone, ” reports Donnie Pepper, who has traveled more than 7,000 miles through rideshares.
7. Know where you are going. Give the driver a specific address or cross streets to deliver you to; this will save time for them and prevent you from ending up in an inconvenient location. If you don’t have a specific address to go to then choose a busy part of town where you can get some food and find a place to stay. Also, in the event that your driver strays from the route you can re-route him (this will help in case they get lost, or try to take you somewhere else–in which case you should ask to get out of the car and find a new ride.)