When I was approached to temporarily swap my private car - a dreamy, Seaside Blue sports coupe convertible - for an Uber, I was hesitant.
Never mind the tear-jerking monthly instalments I’ve come to peace with in order to be able to drive the car of my dreams, but I was essentially being asked to give up those sweet, solitary morning drives where I sip my coffee and shamelessly sing along to my favourite tunes; or those evening spins around the city where I can reach to the backseat and grab a change of whatever dress I’ve kept there just in case.
You see a car is many things: a private sanctuary, a storage space, a part-time nap zone.
I wasn’t looking forward to giving all that up to share an awkwardly silent or oversharing ride with a stranger upon whom I would have to depend to get me to my destination in one piece.
In a poll I posted on Twitter, 82 percent of 50 respondents felt the same way.
They replied ‘No’ to swapping their private vehicle for an Uber, while just 18 percent replied ‘Yes’.
One user said, “Driving is therapeutic for me - highways, in particular. My music. My podcasts. I'm in control. Left hand on wheel. Right hand tapping away on the gear. Balance. I hate sitting on the passenger side. No balance”.
Another user said, “Much more freedom in private car. Don't have to deal with rude cabbies. Independent of the schedule of the other person.”
Yet almost half of 15 employees from telecom giant Du – which took part in the same Uber challenge I later tried – felt “no stress whatsoever” in an Uber, while over 82 percent said they found ways to work smarter by using their time in the passenger seat to plan the day, make phone calls and check emails.
Some said it also gave them some morning shut-eye or a chance to “soak in the scenery” albeit it’s hard to believe that the summer sand storms leave much to enjoy in terms of views.
Others even claimed it provided “affordable transport” despite the fact that while ride-hailing services are meant to be more accessible than taxis, they are more expensive in the UAE due to a number of reasons, which we will refrain from delving into.
So naturally, as someone who doesn’t like to be driven, can’t sleep or read while in the passenger seat – courtesy of motion sickness – I have mixed feelings about my experience. Let’s go through the downsides first: besides privacy (in a world where we’re constantly connected, a few minutes alone are sacred) and motion sickness (massive drawback as I’m not a fan of nausea) it was the air ‘fresheners’ that – as petty as it sounds – really did it for us.
An overpowering, sweet, strawberry scent mixed with unhygienic odour is a recipe for a headache, and escalated motion sickness. It’s worth noting that this is possibly largely due to passengers’, and not drivers’, lack of hygiene.
Now the upsides: no traffic fines. Considering we racked up thousands of dirhams in traffic fines (guilty as charged), opting for an Uber is a safe option. You also don’t have to worry about costs related to registration or insurance. Parking is another upside as you end up saving time and avoiding stress. And while the summer scenery isn’t too great, it’s nice to sit back, relax and take a break from driving, which can get tiring and overwhelming.
But our favourite part of the Uber challenge is those short but often funny, candid and earnest conversations we’ve had with the drivers, some of whom are surgeons, doctors, engineers, fathers, mothers - strangers you get to share a moment with before diving right back into this frenzied world.
And then of course there’s the least exciting but most important point of all of this: reducing our carbon footprint. According to traffic information supplier Inrix, Dubai is the most congested city in the UAE and 79th in the world, making it worse than Vancouver, Cape Town, Copenhagen, and Manchester.
According to the Global Status Report on Road Safety 2018, the total number of registered vehicles in the UAE was nearly 3.4 million, with cars and light vehicles making up the largest chunk of the figure.
So as painful as it may be for some of us, we might as well use more alternative modes of transportation to prepare ourselves for the possibility that we may have to ultimately give up our private vehicles, because a sustainable future is not a choice, it’s simply a responsibility.
Not a fan of cars at all? Abu Dhabi is trialling e-scooter rentals. We’re just hoping some of them come in Seaside Blue.For all the latest transport news from the UAE and Gulf countries, follow us on Twitter and Linkedin, like us on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube page, which is updated daily.
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