Airport hire - Part 2: Uber no? New no?

Trip distance:33.65km  Earnings:1425 LKR

As I dropped off my first airport customer, I looked at my Uber app. After paying for the toll and the fine I had to pay, I was at a net loss. I was determined to run this "as a business", so I decided that I should wait for a trip back from the airport instead of driving back without a hire.

When an Uber driver approaches an airport area, he or she is given an option to join a "queue". If you opt-out of the queue, you have to drive out of the designated areas to get more trips. When I did my first airport drop off, I didn't know any of these details, there was an option to join a queue, so I joined it.

As I turned in to the airport car park, I noticed that the app shows a "queue position". This is kind of a handy feature for the driver as it gives an indication of how much longer you'd have to wait. My position was given as "55-60". I parked in a shade and tried to figure out what to do. Usually a flight carries anything between 200-300 passengers, so I figured that it wouldn't take much time for me to get a ride. I decided to get a very late breakfast from a nearby shop at a cost of less than half a dollar.

About an hour later I was getting bored. My queue position has advanced by only just 5. I saw another car pulling up next to mine and I nodded to the driver. A young guy in his early twenties got out of the car. I reclined the seat of my car and was trying to figure out what to do.  I remembered that I usually carry two books in the boot of my car. Those have been my time killers even from before I started being an Uber driver. I picked up one of those.

It didn't take much long to figure out that this was going to be a very slow day. Even 1.5 hours later I did not he a hire. I got out of the car and walked towards the other driver.

"Waiting for a hire?" I asked him.
"Yeah,  been about half an hour. No hires yet." So he was a fellow ride hailing driver as opposed to a someone who came to pick up a specific passenger.
"Uber?" I asked.
"Uber. You?"
We ended up talking a bit more.
"So you do this part time or?" I asked him.
"Part time aiyye, I study at a university,when I get vacation I run this."
"Ah ok. What subjects do you study there?"
"I study electrical engineering." I knew a little bit about this university as it was also an engineering university. At a point I had worked with some people who were from that university. I guess he must've read something in my face.
"Aiyya you also?..."
"Yes I was also in a uni. But not your one." I told him about my university and how I had graduated way before him. I could see a bit of a puzzlement in his face.
"What? You are an engineer?"
"You've been working for over a decade now so?"
"So you must be drawing a super salary now right??"
"Kind of.... I mean I don't do this for money," I told him with a chuckle.
My new found friend bursted into a laugh. "Man you are one crazy bugger. But I'm glad that people like you do this."
We ended up talking a bit more and eventually start talking about getting a ride back home. By this time it had been over two hours since I came to my drop off.
"It's a very slow day right?" he asked me.
"Talk about it. Let's see where I am now, yeah, still 45-50 in the queue."
"Hmm wonder how soon we will get the next ride."
"Hey, about that..." I told him how the airport publishes a list of arrivals and departures. He had not heard of it before. We both browsed through the list of arrivals.
"Wait, so based on what you said..." he looked at the arrivals that have already landed, and cheked the time. "There are only five cars going out for each flight...."
"Yes.You said that you were 55-60 when you came. From then to now, two flights have landed. I was one slot after you. You are now in 45-50, and I am now 50-55."
We both pondered for a moment.
"Based on that...." I browsed through the rest of the arrivals, "It's going to be around 3.5 hours more when we get to the front of the queue..."
Both of us looked each other's faces. Math is as simple as it can get. But neither of us want to believe it.
"Nah, I'm sure we will get out faster." We both laughed it off. A little while later we broke off to take a nap.

By the time it was past 4.5 hours since I came to the airport, I was getting quite restless.
I messaged my friend, "If I don't get a hire with the next ride, I'm just going to leave." 
"But you have been here for nearly 5 hours now. Wouldn't that be a waste? You are almost at the start of the queue also."
I decided to heed this young guy's advice and stay. Nearly 5.5 hours after I came to the airport, I get my hire back. The customer is a foreigner. As I started driving to pick them up, I realised that there's a message from the customer.
"We have a sufboard." I tried replying back to him but there was no reply.

I drive to the arrival lounge anyway, at least to tell them that this is not going to work out. The customer was actually a couple. And the guy was so confident that he could fit the surboard inside my car. We tried a bit and then were almost ready to give up.

"Brother you have to keep it straight and pull through the seats," a stranger appears behind me. "Wait I will show." This new guy, who is a complete stranger started helping me out with my customers. I had heard that Uber drivers get a very bad treatment from the regular taxi drivers at the airport. I decided to very cautiously thank him.
"Not a problem brother," he looked at me smiling. "Uber no?"
"Errr... yes," I told him smiling nervously.
"New no?" I nodded.
He laughed again. "I could say by the way you handled it. Here's a tip. Ask the customer to cancel the trip. And pay the full amount to you. You can avoid the comission." He tells winking.

On the way back to Colombo I spent time chatting with the new customers. They were two doctors from Germany who had decided to spend their vacation in Sri Lanka. We talked a bit about the current weather and where they can go. At the end of the journey, I stopped at their hostel.
"I believe this is a card payment sir?" I asked them.
"No no. I have to pay you. This is cash." and the guy pulled out 3000 LKR. I looked at the app, the fee is slightly over 1400 LKR.
"Oh wait, I need to give you change.."
"No no. You keep this. It is a tip." he said again with a smile. The girl also looks at me. "Seriously do keep it."
I looked at the money again. It could've actually covered a good part of the fine.
"No take it, it is still cheaper than what they told us at the airport taxi booth," the guy insisted.
"That's ok sir, I will just take the hire," I smiled back at them. "Have a good day!"


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