UBER / Over

The ride-for-hire service has been in the news a lot lately, and the press hasn't been good. I use it from time to time, though, and haven't had but one or two bad experiences along the way. On our recent vacation in Florida we took a few trips--

8/20--After several delays, our flight from Charlotte to Daytona Beach was finally cancelled altogether. "Mechanical problems" is all the text message said. No representative was at the gate.

"We can't get you out until the day after tomorrow," the guy at the Help Desk told us. No hotel vouchers were offered, and it was getting late. It looked like we were stranded.

"There is a flight to Jacksonville, however, leaving in an hour,” he said. That's closer, so we took it, and phoned ahead for a rental car. When we got to Jacksonville we discovered that ours was the only company that still had any cars. But just as we got to the desk to claim it, their computers went down. The kid behind the counter said that he couldn't rent the car to us and he had no idea when the system would be up again.

I turned to the man in line behind me and asked him if he'd like to share an UBER to Daytona Beach with Audrey and me. "Sure," he replied, and out to the curb we went.

It would be ninety miles--ninety minutes--to his car at the Daytona airport and then to the oceanside condo where we were staying. We would split the bill. It was an expensive trip, but a thoroughly enjoyable ride.

Tom is a retired American Airlines pilot who has seen the world. The time flew by as he talked about Brazil and Italy, his favorite places (and two of ours). About flying jet planes and his favorite airports (unlike most of the pilots I talk to, he likes Reagan National). We shared our lives, too, and some experiences of our own. When he mentioned Ireland, I had to tell him my favorite Irish joke!

I've tried to remember that when things don't go as we have planned, and it gets a little inconvenient, God may have a special treat in store that we would have otherwise missed. That night we all agreed--and I think that even our driver enjoyed the company.

8/21--The next morning in Daytona I decided to walk to the supermarket for groceries. I went left out of the building instead of right, however. By the time I realized my miscalculation, I had too much time and distance invested and could not turn back. After three miles in the sun I finally arrived at Publix and cooled myself for a while in the frozen food section before doing my shopping.

But there was no way I was going to make the long trek back on foot--this time carrying several bags of eggs, drinks and snacks. I called UBER and within two minutes, Kim was there to pick me up. It was a short ride and a small fare for her, but she understood.

Most of these drivers have other jobs--and families, and stories. I like to talk to them about their lives and encourage them when I can. Kim only drives after getting her kids off to school and before having to be home again when they return.

I put the groceries away and jumped into the pool.

8/28--We arrived at Reagan late on Wednesday night. With the Metro lines heading south still closed, it was either a cab or an UBER. So you know which one we picked. It can get a little hectic out at curbside when so many arrivals have the same plan for getting someplace--but within six minutes Nodirjon was there to pick us up.

Traffic was snarled to a standstill on 395-S, so we had plenty of time to talk. About his experiences in the US, and ours in his part of the world--Central Asia (Yes, I got to tell my "eyeball-eating" story from Kyrgyzstan-- again!).

Audrey asked him about his faith. He practices Islam, he said, but admitted that he doesn't often go to the mosque.

I asked him if he was confident that he would go to heaven when he died. He was hopeful, he told us, but "that will depend on what I do--how I live my life." That, by the way, is the same answer I get from all types of people--religious and otherwise, including Baptists.

It was our privilege to tell him about grace--the free gift of salvation that God offers us through Jesus.

"We could never be good enough to earn it," I said. "We can only take it and be grateful." Our driver listened politely. Neither of us were arguing the point.

When we got out at our house, Audrey invited him to First Baptist, Alexandria. "Come one Sunday-- bring your wife and your little girl--and see what you think. After church you can come here and have lunch with us.” Well, he didn't say "No."

That's better than arguing any day (John 1:46).
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