It was International Women’s Day yesterday, and to give their female driver-partners a treat, Uber organised an intimate tea session at the very Instagram-able Open Farm Community restaurant.
The agenda was simple – a panel discussion with May Seah, an Uber driver-partner with over 2,000 rides completed and 1,600 5-star ratings, Natasha Chiam, UberEATS restaurant-partner and founder of the Ice Cream Cookie & Co and The Pint Society, and Anna Haotanto, founder and managing editor of The New Savvy; the rest of the time was just for the ladies to chat and get refreshed with a free makeover from the team at Vaniday.
Over refreshments, the place was abuzz with conversation and new friendships were forged in a matter of minutes.
What was pleasantly surprising was the passion all of them had for their job, whether they were doing part, or full-time.
But what I wanted to find out was their motivation to get behind the wheel, and the stories these driver-partners had to tell – so I spoke to a few of them, and here’s what I found out.
Her Uber story:
“I put my name as ‘Happy’ when riders do the booking, because I want to make them happy also.”
Before I joined Uber, I was a HR manager at one of the shipping companies – then I quit my job for 2 years. My daughter then advised me to join Zumba, but after a year of the classes, I had to stop because of knee pains due to my age.
Afterwards, I went for other classes, like dancing and singing…and my daughter also subscribed to those American movies for me. But after watching a lot of Korean dramas, I realised that it really wasn’t healthy for me, because I won’t sleep till I finish an episode!
So one day, coincidentally, I sent one of my sons to Tekong and he got one of his friends, who was an Uber driver, to fetch us there. Then I started thinking: “Since my passion is also driving, why not try out driving Uber?”
But my 2 daughters strongly disagreed with me, and we had a big argument, because they were thinking of my safety.
So I pakat (made a secret deal) with my third son, I said, “Mummy will secretly go and drive Uber for one week – you don’t tell your first and second sister what’s going on ok?”
The first week was very interesting, because I got a lot of those army boys. So I was staying in the Choa Chu Kang area, and I didn’t know there were so many army camps in the area even though I’ve been staying there for 10 years!
So I will text my daughters who were in Brazil and Mexico saying, “Thanks to Uber, otherwise Mummy won’t know that there are so many army camps around our place!”
I told them it was win-win, because I won’t disturb them anymore, like how I did when I was free and had nothing to do.
Now, I’m even busier than them!
Another interesting thing is that when we were working and when the children were young, we’d bring them overseas on trips and all that, but we never really went around Singapore. So after driving Uber, it’s like I’m touring Singapore every day, I’m meeting new people every day – I see the good, the bad, the ugly, which I never saw in my previous job.
I also found out where all the good food was! So like yesterday, I sent someone to Keong Saik street – he was meeting his girlfriend for this thing called unagi (Japanese-style eel)…so I also went to that place for my lunch!
Whenever I end up in a nice place, I will take a picture and send it to my daughter and say, “Thanks to Uber again, that Mummy now knows this place!”
Because all my children are already so big and busy, whenever I’m at home and have nothing to do, I’ll just drive. Sometimes I’ll start at 8am and drive until 12. But if I’m still awake and alert at 12, I’ll just keep driving till 4am!
But of course, safety first – whenever I feel tired, I’ll find a place to take a power nap.
Two incidents that really stood out to me was when I picked up 2 sick students – one secondary school girl, one girl in university. Both students took the POOL option because they didn’t have much money, but I decided to help them cover the fares, because they reminded me of when my children were also sick.
So I decided, “Hey, I should be continuing to do something meaningful like this, because there may be more sick students out there. So if can do something good, why not? I’m so free as a retiree anyway.”
Her Uber story:
I’m actually a business owner!
I own a company called Woot Woot, and what we do is that we bring products in from culturally rich countries like Vietnam and Indonesia. We currently have 2 products lines, one is handcrafted bedsheets by Vietnamese ladies, and rattan storage baskets handcrafted by stay at home mums in the outskirts of Indonesia.
I started this 2 years ago after I quit my corporate job, and I realised that it actually worked out quite well for me, and I wanted to do it full-time.
But I found it quite challenging not having a car, because my stuff can be quite bulky sometimes, and to rely on the delivery people all the time is just frustrating!
At the end of the day, I was really frustrated that I wasn’t able to ensure that my customers get their goods on a certain day, because there are always hiccups along the way.
I wanted to take control of that, and I wanted to have my own car…but of course, having a car in Singapore is so expensive! So when I saw the ad of becoming an Uber driver, I was like “Okay…I can own a car right now! And since I can drive, and I love driving – why not just jump into it and try it out for 6 months?”
I’ve been driving for 3 months now, and I really love it!
I love meeting people, and also be able to do deliveries at the same time. And most importantly, I now have a car that I can use transport all my stuff for events and exhibitions, especially for those that are hard to access.
Honestly, I feel so empowered right now haha!
In the beginning of driving though, it wasn’t entirely positive, mainly because I didn’t know how to manage people who come into my car with a bad mood.
And I got so affected by them, and I let that ruin my day too.
At the start, I was also fumbling with the GPS and I didn’t know the roads very well, and at the same time, I had to be careful and ensure my passengers get to wherever they needed to go safely…but I just kept pushing on and driving, and now, 3 months into it, I’ve been bragging and boasting to my friends that “Oh my god! I can manage all these people already!”
And I realised that some of these riders just need someone to talk to them, and some of us even became friends…which is strange, but nice!
Her Uber story:
I started driving Uber last year in February, but I decided to stop for a few months before continuing in October.
I took on this job because I didn’t want myself to be too stressed, and I love driving and learning about new roads! I also love meeting new people along the way.
There are many hard times, but also many good times, so I take all of those as part of the experience, and learnt how to let all of the negative experiences go so that I can enjoy myself while driving. Whatever’s hard to handle, I’ll just take it on and learn from all of them.
Some of the riders are very nice, some have bad days…which I understand, because I have my bad days too!
Meeting new riders, new experiences and other Uber drivers – like the girls from today – is the motivation that keeps me going.
Since I’m getting older, I’m really not certain of how to work with others in an office setting, given that I’ve been working for myself in the past few years.
This job gives me a lot of independence, and gives me freedom to drive whenever I want to. You can turn off the app, go have a lunch break with friends, then go back to driving, and there’s no control – that’s why I like it so much!
A lot of my riders are very nice, and whenever they give me a nice comment – like “A very nice lady”, or “A cheerful driver” – I feel very happy. I don’t know who they are, but I really appreciate their comments.
Her Uber story:
I decided to join Uber even though I had quite a bit of a ‘phobia’ before I started – it’s basically like taking up strangers and driving on roads I might not know…but as I drove, I got very motivated by the comments that riders put in for me,and it made me set monthly targets, like “This month, I want xx number of riders to write to me.”
Whenever I drive, I put myself in the shoes of my riders, and treat them how I’d like them to treat me. In my car, I always provide different types of candies, and even soft toys so that the kids will be occupied.
I even provide cables for Samsung and Apple phones for them to charge, and I will always ask, “Do you need to charge your phone? Don’t worry! There’s no extra costs incurred in your fare, it’s totally free!”
I’m rather chatty, and driving an Uber helps me meet and talk to more people…there are actually a lot of people who want to share their inner thoughts with strangers. So I will just comfort them, and tell them about my past experiences.
I’ll tell them even, “Honestly, I had depression and there was once that I even tried to end my life, and god told me that it wasn’t time yet. So I decided to move on with my life and be positive about it.”
A lot of people ask me about my age – I’m actually already 48 – and they ask why I look young. I told them that as long as you smile every day, and look at the positive side of things, god will grant you blessings.
Driving Uber is honestly something that lets me manage my time like how I’d like to – there are no restrictions or time limits. It’s all at your own goals.
One of my more memorable riders was when I first started out, and I accidentally started the trip early. I kept apologising, saying that I would end the trip early, because then, the system calculated by timing and distance. But he was still very aggressive and angry, saying that I should end the trip even earlier. So, I just did it, keeping on my smile and not complaining about it.
At a sharing session with Uber later on, they heard my story and refunded me the $10 that I had lost after ending the trip too early – they really protected me.
You see, if I were to have quarrelled with the driver, I would have been on the news, and we would be popular for this negative incident. Now my thinking is, “Losing those few dollars is ok, because I won’t lose my job, I won’t lose my income…I won’t be a beggar. I won’t be happy if I quarrel also.”
Even though I actually have competitors offering me a chance to join them, I rejected them because it really was Uber who groomed me to who I am today, and my confidence is back again because of the job.
And I will always remember where I got my ‘water’ (direct translation from a Chinese phrase) from.
The Stories Behind The Wheel
It’s always refreshing when a ride is more than just another transaction, and these ladies are definitely making the roads a little more brighter with their smiles and stories.
Thank you for the invite, Uber!