UBER-First Ride

My wife and I took our first UBER ride on a short trip to a local Diner even though it would have been cheaper to drive one of our two perfectly running cars.  This was a test run to see if UBER was a reasonable alternative to getting to the airport and avoiding the parking fees that can rival the cost of an airline ticket.  Other alternatives are Taxis which are expensive and friends who always offer us rides but most of them are moms juggling schedules and often running a little late—can you hold that plane Delta.  So, our obvious choice is to become UBERITES.

I noticed my frequent business travel neighbor leave his house and return in all different cars, some approaching the house as if they were looking for the address.  I asked about the rides and he proudly told me that all those cars were from UBER and he used the service all the time to get to the airport.  He was amazed that I was wasting my money on parking when UBER would cost much less than the airport parking fee and we would be chauffeured from our door to the airport curb.  “What about the reliability”—“no problem”.  “How do I sign up?”—“just download the app”.  It was an obvious choice to become an UBER guy but first I had to reconcile some of my preconceived negative impressions of UBER.

Some of my negative impressions came from online UBER reviews but this wasn’t a game changer since I’m a firm believer that most people who take the time to write a review have a bitch.

My biggest negative about riding UBER was from personal experience.  Years ago, as teenagers, my friends and I probably used the first form of UBER by hitchhiking everywhere. Like UBER, we’d find a willing local driver but instead of an app we’d stick out our thumbs and the nearest car would pick us up and get us to our destination, for free.  This was our main mode of transportation, working great most of the time, but it was sometimes risky since not all drivers were interested in just giving you a ride.  Occasionally we had to bail from our ride to escape and these memories along with common sense rules like “you shouldn’t ride with strangers” were creating a self-imposed barrier to saving money.  I needed to get past my imaginary images of rides from hell.Uber hell car cartoon

I was intrigued by the cost saving service so I started polling people, from waitresses to neighbors, and it became apparent that a lot of people were UBER disciples.  The benefits and cost savings of using UBER were starting to far outweigh any imagined problems so it was time to join my mom in the UBER world.  It seemed to be a prudent decision to start our UBER life with that leisure ride to breakfast where, if we crashed and burned (figuratively), it wouldn’t cost us $300 to change our flight.

I googled UBER and signed up giving my email, creating a password, entering contact info and credit card and then downloaded the app to my iPhone.  As per my neighbor’s advice I opened the UBER app about 10 minutes before I was ready to go and:

  1. Tapped the Uber app on my phone. …
  2. Tapped “Where to?” and entered my destination. …
  3.  Chose my vehicle type. …
  4. Confirmed the number of seats (size of car) …
  5. Checked the upfront pricing. …
  6. Tapped “Request Uber” to order the ride. …
  7. Confirmed my pickup location.

The app was very cool! It figured the price and opened a gps map locating an UBER car 6 minutes away, giving the car type and driver ID, “hello James”, and starting a countdown to pickup with gps map, location of the car and its route to our house- 6 minutes-4 minutes-3 minutes-1 minute, touchdown.  We greeted the personable driver, me climbing into the front and my wife the back-not sexist but seemed safer.  We talked, mostly about UBER, the whole 6.62-mile ride lasting 18 minutes, 19 seconds and costing $9.65 (7.15 +2.50 fees), all this info and a GPS route map logged under my rides.  No guesswork on your trips and cost.  The return trip was just as pleasant and the car arrived 8 minutes after my UBER request.  The only minor problems were: the cleanliness of the first car somewhere between the 10 of my cars and the 3 of a mom van slimed by hundreds of kid trips and the distracted second driver constantly looking down at the iPad GPS in her lap.uber app

This is a continuing experience and since I’ve only done a test run without the fear of missing a plane I’m reserving my total evaluation but so far I’m impressed.  I’m sure that not every ride will be perfect but I don’t use that word for anything.  I would urge you to try UBER and maybe you can save some money and if you run into problems I can ask my mom how to UBER.

To DIY Or Not To DIY

To do-it-yourself (DIY) or not?  My DIY world includes those small home improvement jobs that you might find listed in the Lowes DIY classes, although I don’t have the patience to sit through any of those classes.  My DIY does not include the heavy-duty jobs like: siding, whole house painting, roof replacement, carpeting, flooring, heating and cooling, excavation or anything that requires technical certification.

After proudly completing hundreds of DIYs including my share of screw-ups, I know my skill limits (most of the time) and have established “rules of engagement”—to DIY or not to DIY?.

I don’t do heights so roofing repairs or upper gutter cleaning aren’t part of my portfolio.  In general, plumbing and electrical projects are off limits because of the potential consequences of floods and fire, and crawl space work in areas where I must belly crawl are a thing of the past.

In addition to the fire and flood things, the reason I avoid the plumbing and electrical is the inevitable unforeseen “I have no idea how to fix that” surprises that occur in the middle of a simple job—HELP!  We recently decided to change a bathroom sink faucet which seemed like a basic task but as per my self-imposed ban on DIY plumbing, I called a plumber—glad I did!  Instead of a simple job, it became more complicated when it was determined that to install the drain-stopper the whole pedestal sink had to be removed, reinstalled, and re-caulked.  Our skilled plumber just reconfigured and still finished the job within his hour estimate–100 bucks well spent on a quality job.  I’m sure I would have figured out how to go off the instruction sheet and add the removal and installation of the whole sink to the simple faucet install, but the job completion would have dragged on over days with a lot of stressful head scratching and perpetual worry about a flood.

The plumber I used is one of the professional services who makes up my go to list of skilled, honest, and reasonably priced pros.  It takes some research and sadly some bad contracting experiences to weed out the hustlers and build a list of competent “my contractors” who can be called when it makes more safety, quality, and financial sense to hire a pro and not DIY.

But whenever possible, I DIY to: save some money, in most cases do a better job, and unlike a lot of contractors, clean up my mess.  But DIY takes more than a can-do attitude because you also need the tools for the job or else you’re like a gunfighter with no guns.  I have a garage full of tools and I’ve always had a self-imposed rule that I can only own a tool if I know which end to use.  If you have the right tool you’re more than likely to DIY.  Ladders, saws, rakes, shovels, wrenches, all populate my garage and tool boxes.  Some are frequently used, some were ill-advised, impulsive purchases still in their original packaging, and some are tired, old technology and need to be replaced with the latest and greatest.

One of my projects was replacing all our brass door hardware, a seemingly simple job but after the initial excitement of the proposed redo I realized that 17 doors would require the removal and installation of 34 door knobs, and 51 hinges with 306 screws.  Since this was a project repeating the same work ad nauseam, it had my DIY name written all over it.  It was apparent that my 20-year-old Craftsman driver was too tired for all this work so I justified the purchase of a new DeWalt drill/driver with extra battery, new drill bits and screw drivers, and even a headlight.  And to be sure that the doors would still work after my handy work I watched a few YouTube videos on the correct way to replace door hardware.  You have to pick and choose which YouTube self-anointed expert works for you since there are 1000’s of how to tutorials—some very helpful and some FUBAR.  I finished the project with only a few redo’s and besides the pride of doing it myself I now am the proud owner of a very cool new tool and am a door hardware install expert!

As I do more and more of my own work my confidence level has grown and I am starting to see the wisdom in my brother’s advice on contracting work.  Look at who is actually going to be doing the work and if the moron alert goes off you might as well do it yourself.

We had a terrible experience with a Power Wash Contractor who removed the grime from our siding but also removed a lot of the paint.  “Sorry, must be something wrong with your paint.”—moron alert, too late.  So now that it’s time to clean and waterproof our deck I was determined to make it a DIY project.  Found a deal on a Power washer on amazon, and a gallon of sealer and ready to rip.  BUT!!!“

High-pressure jets can be dangerous if subject to misuse. The jet must not be directed at persons, pets, live electrical equipment, or the appliance itself.  Do not direct the jet at yourself or others in order to clean clothes or footwear.  High-pressure: keep clear of nozzle…Injection hazard: equipment can cause serious injury if the spray penetrates the skin”

So proud of myself for maturing and reading the directions before I skinned myself or totally destroyed my deck since this thing is like a diamond cutter.  After selecting the right nozzle to just remove the mildew and grime and not vaporize the wood, my wife and I successfully completed the tasks with just a few minor oopses.  This DIY job was completed at a fraction of the contractor cost and I also am the proud owner of another cool, new power tool.  The only real problem with the job was sharing the power washer with my wife since it worked effortlessly and was fun to use.  “My turn, my turn.”power washer cartoon

The satisfaction and fun in doing DIY is amazing if you are realistic about your skill limits.  But sometimes the decision to DIY or not isn’t about skill but about the economics of time and cost.  I’ve discovered special contractor offers from Angie’s List and others like aerating and reseeding for $49, cleaning gutters for $49, servicing hot water heater for $49, servicing garage door opener for $49….I couldn’t DIY any of these for less!  Just be aware that these prices are sales tools that are meant to solicit more business, which to me is fair.  I am doubly diligent about checking references for the contractors offering these lower than market prices since most good contractors are too busy to do the coupon thing.  It’s up to you to be smart about who you hire and limit yourself to the special unless you planned on contracting for additional work and the price is right.

DIY is all about knowing your limits and expanding them as you learn new skills.  It’s probably a good idea to eliminate the word perfect from your appraisal of your finished project since success is all about completing the project so that it is of acceptable quality and without hurting yourself.  The satisfaction, savings, and pride in DIY is addictive and the cool new shiny tools you purchase and learn to use can make you a self-certified craftsman/woman willing to take on bigger and bigger home improvements—unless you get a bigger and bigger deal so you can just supervise.

Public Servants

I’m not sure when we elevated our elected officials to a god like status creating a pompous, self-serving breed of leaders.  There is an elitist, detached attitude that has totally ignored the fact that all our government leaders are public servants working for us.  They are not CEOs working for the benefit of the company or benevolent dictators demanding unquestioning allegiance rather they are our employees whose sole job is to ensure our health and welfare.

We should rethink the government leadership model from the local city councils to the President.  Take away their scepters and replace them with toilet brushes.  Think of the President or school board chair as the head butler on Downton Abbey whose sole job is to answer the bell when we ring it and dispatch their maids and butlers to make sure the bath water is just right.  This doesn’t mean they don’t deserve our respect and gratefulness for their service, but we must reintroduce them to their civil service job description. Servant cartoon

As in a scene from the servant’s quarters in Downton Abbey (DA) our politician’s only function is to serve and work hard for us 24-7.  They are in a service job and they should not be receiving any more benefits from their service than the butlers or maids on DA.  I’m sure that the DA group didn’t go on golfing weekends to Mar-a-Lago, have long recesses, travel on junkets, or have “I’m special” benefits like 100% health care coverage, gym memberships, or chauffeurs.  They also served at the pleasure of the family and could be fired if they weren’t providing great service (referendum and recall).  Picture the reaction if the Downton Abbey Crawley family was told that the butlers had formed a political party and decided that only certain members of the family would be served tea.

It’s time to take back our government and reprogram our lawmakers.  All our elected officials serve at the pleasure of their constituents and their only job is to fulfill our wishes.  The dysfunction and arrogance isn’t a republican or democratic thing but a symptom of the poison political environment that has evolved into a self-serving good old boys club.  Before you vote for a candidate you might want to consider if they pass the white glove test and are willing to answer the bell.