I need to pee!
Ever had that need when you are going somewhere?
Well, so did I. Only problem was I was the driver and I was in the middle of nowhere. Some time ago, I had a very bad habit. I did not drink enough water. Over the last five years or so I've built up a habit of keeping a water bottle near me as an automatic reminder to drink. However old habits die hard; If I don't have water near me, I would almost never go to find it, even if I was thirsty.
When I started off as an Uber driver, I didn't bother much about this. But one day I realised all of a sudden that I am very very thirsty. This was a weekend and when I checked the time, I realised that I've been driving for a good 6hrs without a drop of water. Immediately stopped at a supermarket and bought a one liter bottle. Since then I've carried a water bottle with me whenever I started driving.
The fated day came when I decided to pick up some customers after work. I was quite frustrated because that last trip I got was to the middle of nowhere and in the exact opposite direction of my home. I decided to stop for a while to see if I am getting any hires from there. Well no hires, but I figured that there was at least another thing that was bothering me, my bladder. A quick check on Google Maps said that I would need to drive at least 1hr to get back to my home. If I were to get back in to the main city, it'd be another 30mins. But this main city wasn't really known to have much of a night life. The only restaurants open there would be very basic and may not have toilet facilities. There was no way that I could find a cafe like I do in Colombo. I decided to hold it, and drive back home.
About 15mins in to the drive, I realised that this is not going to work. There was no way that I could hold this. I tried looking in to my options. There didn't seem to be any major building around. There were some houses scattered, but this was also after 10PM. It is going to be very weird for a guy to walk in to an unknown house and ask to use their restroom. The option was the most primitive available. Drive to a corner and pee in to a ditch or a drain.
But the story doesn't really end there. This is a short note of unseen hazards the drivers face.
In my day-job, I walk a lot. I generally clock around 5000 steps per day in a day that I just go to office and don't do any other specific exercise. My job kind of lends to this as most of my work is on thinking and communicating as opposed to sitting down and writing something. But even for my colleagues who spend a lot of time thinking, they do spend on average a few minutes each hour standing up and walking about. In fact most of the companies who work in the same field as me, IT, educate their employees on managing their health while working; standing up, doing a few simple exercises, relaxing your eyes etc.
Now take my other job, being an Uber driver. On some weekend, I have clocked 8hrs of leaving home and coming back. For the people who are doing this as their primary income, this easily runs over 12hrs per day. Think that is shocking? Just think about it, anyone who starts driving at 6AM, which is when quite a lot of people start their commute, and runs till 6PM clock 12hrs. And you know that when you come out of a restaurant at 10PM, you still got your Uber ride.
I feel that the biggest unspoken issue that Uber drivers and many other ride-hailing drivers around the world have, are the rampant health issues. A person who barely physically moves for many hours at a stretch, are bound to have massive posture related issues. Add to that other non-communicable diseases like diabetes and coronary diseases. Guess why? Your eating habits hardly change although your physical habits change. This is the same reason why in many developing countries diabetes is a fast spreading disease. This is the same for heart diseases. And if you start thinking about how common these diseases are on 'regular' workers, imagine how bad this gets in cases like drivers who barely move. And to go to my previous point, imagine the amount of renal damage that you would do over the years.
Unfortunately I don't know if there is an answer to this. It's up to the drivers themselves to tend to themselves. But may be what the customers can do is to understand and empathise what they go through.