You know that song “Nobody Walks in LA” by Missing Persons? It’s total BS. I walk in LA and it sucks. Instead of making my way through a crowded street with old beautiful buildings and the sounds of people fighting, vomiting and playing music, I walk down an uneven sidewalk for two miles without seeing a single person. Cars whiz past me, the sun burns my eyes, I start sweating profusely. If I’m lucky, maybe I’ll pass a Yogurtland and stop for some fro-yo but that’s as good as it’ll get for me!
For the last seven and a half years, I’ve lived in San Francisco and New York, deliberately avoiding a city like Los Angeles because I knew I would never learn how to drive. Growing up, I always felt very uncomfortable with the idea of driving. Then when I got hit by a car at the age of twenty, my fears were solidified. Call it a form of PTSD from the accident, I don’t care. I just know that I’m never ever going to get my license.
Incidentally, most of my family relocated to Los Angeles when I moved away to college so I usually spent my summers there. To get around, I’d take the bus, I’d get rides from parents and friends or call a cab. To survive in LA without a car, you have to be excellent at mapping out your day which, for some people, can be a nightmare but I actually didn’t mind it. I’m very detail-oriented so I found the planning aspect of it to be quite fun. Besides, I would never spend longer than a period of two or three months in LA so whenever transportation got to be too troublesome, I could just hightail it back to New York.
Last year though I decided to move to LA permanently. The reasons for this are the reasons why most people end up leaving New York for California: I wanted a dog and space and to be around my family and friends and to feel healthy and hike and play and not feel so claustrophobic all the time. Still, I knew that by saying goodbye to all that and moving to LA I was going to be facing some challenges.
“How are you going to get around?” My friends asked me.
“You don’t drive, Ryan!” My mother fretted.
“Um, have fun living in LA without a car!” A bunch of jerks who will remain nameless teased me.
I told everyone that I would manage just fine but secretly I was freaking out. How the hell would I get around? The bus system worked fine but it also took forever and was only really useful when you wanted to get to a main drag of the city. My friends in LA couldn’t give me consistent rides—they had jobs and, uh, better things to do—and taking cabs in LA was not a sustainable option. Not only do they cost a small fortune, they take forever to show up and the drivers can be complete Etch-A-Sketches. One time I took a cab late at night from West Hollywood to Beachwood Canyon, which usually costs $20 without traffic, and I realized that the meter was rigged. By the time we arrived at my destination, the ride had cost me SIXTY DOLLARS. I tried fighting with the driver, accusing him of ripping me off but then he got scary and called me some gay slurs so I was just like, “Um, k”, handed him the money, and got the hell out of there.
A few months before I moved to LA, I came for a quick visit to figure out my job/living situation. While there, I went out with my friend Molly who ended up being the first person to introduce me to the wonderful angel known as Uber. I was texting with her in a cab on the way over to her place, discussing the night’s plans.
“Babe, are you driving here?” She texted. The parking situation near my apartment is a horror movie, FYI.”
“I don’t drive. I’m taking a cab!”
“Cab? Honey, no…”
When I arrived at Molly’s, she shook her head in disapproval and filled me in on Uber.
“So it’s a car service you can just order on your phone without calling anybody?!” My eyes widened.
“And it’s cheaper than a regular cab?!”
“Yeah. Unless, you want to have, like a P. Diddy moment and order a black car or an SUV. They store your credit card info on there too so you don’t ever have to deal with the awkwardness of payment.”
That night with Molly I had my first time with Uber and it was wonderful. They were gentle and kind. They even gave me a free bottle of water afterwards! I was hooked. I even decided to break my commitment to living a smartphone-free life and buy an iPhone just so I could use it. I had a pay-as-you-go phone for ten years and all it took was one night with Uber for me to be like, “I NEVER KNEW YA!” I’m so grateful that I made the switch. I’ve been living in LA for over a month now and I take Uber almost everyday. I used to get so frustrated whenever I would call a cab and have to wait thirty minutes for it to show up. 70% of my life in LA was spent on street corners waiting for a ride that may or may not appear. It was terrible. And going on dates? Forget about it! Nothing says, “Don’t date me!” like, “Oh no, you go ahead! I’m just going to sit here on the curb and wait for a cab. Nice meeting you though!” I still don’t drive, which could be considered #NotChic or sexy to some people but at least with Uber, I can order it on my phone as the date is ending and have it be there waiting for me when I’m ready to go. No more awkwardness of, “Uh, hey person I just had a terrible date with, do you need me to give you a ride home?”
Another reason why Uber is so great? It gives people an alternative to driving drunk. (#realtalk) A lot of people in LA don’t take cabs because, as I mentioned, they’re scary and expensive. So when they go out, they have a few cocktails and just pray that everything will be okay on the drive home. Now, thanks to Uber, everybody is free to YOLO as much as they want!
Looking back, I don’t think I really could have moved back to LA without trusty Uber by my side. I mean, I guess I could have but it would’ve been very expensive and time-consuming. Taking Uber as much as I do still costs me some $$$ but I’m saving a bunch on rent by living in LA. Plus, when you factor in how much it costs to buy and maintain a car coupled with gas prices, there’s not that much of a difference. Most importantly though, Uber has given me something you can’t really put a price on by allowing to me live my life exactly how I want. I can live in LA, even with my psycho fear of driving a car, and still do everything I’d like to do. So, yes, I will always walk in LA. I will always take the bus. But now, late at night, when it’s not good to do either of those things? I Uber.