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Unsung Heroes: An Uber driver talks how to get the VIP treatment and be a better traveler in 2021

May 23, 2021
7 min read
Car with an Uber sticker in the windshield in Portland, Oregon
Unsung Heroes: An Uber driver talks how to get the VIP treatment and be a better traveler in 2021
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Uber drivers are one of the unsung heroes of the travel world, whether you're at home or in a new city. You can always count on your local Uber driver to get you from point A to point B safely and without worrying about a metered fare. Just request a car and you're on your way.

Many Uber drivers have worked through the pandemic in order to provide transportation to essential workers and get the most vulnerable to their vaccine appointments. And now that things are slowly going back to normal, we're again relying on these drivers to get us to the airport, to our hotel or anywhere else you may need to travel.

For more insight into the life of an Uber driver, we're sitting down with Pittsburgh-based Uber driver Diane Bushman on this edition of Unsung Heroes. Here, you'll learn a little more about the job and how you can get the VIP treatment the next time you need a ride.

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Unsung hero: Diane Bushman, Uber driver

TPG: How did you get into becoming an Uber driver?

DB: Well, I was an empty nester and I wanted just a little job. I'd been home with my kids for 25 years, so I was reluctant to commit to a job that would demand me being there at some time. So flexibility was tremendously important. My daughter had a baby, so I could go and spend a month and a half with her without having to tell anyone. That flexibility was really important.

And also: I love to drive. I always say that I would drive four days instead of fly four hours. So it's like a little road trip every day, but I get to sleep in my own bed.

TPG: How long have you been an Uber driver?

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DB: It'll be three years in July.

Related: You can now get $50 monthly Uber Cash, Uber Pass subscription with WeWork All Access

TPG: What does a typical work week look like?

DB: I typically drive three days a week, sometimes four. I usually go out in the afternoon just because that's what best fits my personal clock. I also find that it's busier and there's very little downtime, but currently, there's never any downtime because I think there's a nationwide shortage of drivers.

So, I usually go out around 4 pm and usually come home around 9 or 10 pm. I used to drive later, but recently there was an Uber driver killed in Pittsburgh...so that has made me a little bit nervous.

TPG: What is your favorite part of the job?

DB: I love almost everything about it. I wake up every day and think that driving sounds like a good idea. I like driving around and seeing what's happening in the city and chatting with my passengers. I like feeling like a part of the community. I sometimes see a neighborhood I've never been to before, even in 30 years of living in Pittsburgh.

Roberto Clemente bridge (right) and Andy Warhol bridge (left) spanning over the Allegheny river with Pittsburgh skyline on background right before sunset, Pennsylvania, USA

I love the gamification aspect of the app too. It's like a treasure map I follow to make money. Even though I don't fully depend on my Uber income — which is another thing that makes it less stressful for me — it's still fun to make money that way.

Related: How to use the Amex Gold’s new $10 monthly Uber credit

TPG: What is your least favorite part of the job?

DB: You know, I don't really have that many complaints. I have very few people who aren't clean, you know, just basic hygiene. And most people are very respectful of my car and of me. It's just been overall a good experience in most ways.

TPG: What’s something anyone can do to be a better traveler in 2021 and beyond?

DB: If they need to stop somewhere along the way, it doesn't really bother me, but it probably does bother a lot of drivers. Even though I don't mind stopping and helping people out in that way, I think a lot of drivers are frustrated with that sort of mentality.

Also, I am personally unable to help people load things or unload things because of a condition with my hip. Most people are very understanding about that. I think many more fit and able Uber drivers would be happy to help though.

TPG: What is something a traveler can do to get the VIP treatment from you?

DB: There are places in Pittsburgh where it's difficult to pick people up or double-park. If passengers know they live in one of these areas, if they can somehow make that easier and pick a different nearby pickup area, that is helpful.

I picked up a gaggle of college girls recently on a very busy street. I was there double-parked and waited some minutes, and everybody who passed me was mad. So, pick-up spots are one way.

TPG: How does working in the hospitality industry change your idea of travel, or going on vacation?

DB: For me, it makes me realize there are all types of situations that Ubers can be used for. For example, I recently picked up a sample from a veterinary clinic. I took it to Ohio and it was a four-hour round-trip thing. Things like that are now possible — and sometimes practical with Uber.

Related: How I saved nearly $250 on a one-day car rental by taking a $110 Uber ride

When traveling to New York in the past, cabs were always an option and a necessity. But Ubers can make all kinds of things possible in other markets. The door-to-door aspect of it, and being able to be picked up in any neighborhood at any time opens up all kinds of possibilities in terms of getting where you need to be.

TPG: If you could go anywhere in the world on a vacation, where would it be and why?

DB: I have an interest in going to Africa right now. That is because of a series of books I read called the 'The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency' and it just sounds like such an idyllic place with wonderful people.

Italy also has a piece of my heart since I lived there for a year and a half and it's always a wonderful place to go.

TPG: Tell us about the best vacation you’ve ever taken, or the best place you’ve ever traveled.

DB: Maybe my tenth anniversary trip to Italy with my husband. We went to Rome and Tuscany and then went down to Pompei.

Related: Here’s everything you need to know about the revamped Uber Rewards program

Bottom line

Diane is an unsung hero who loves her job, and it's great to see. A little flexibility on the riders' part in terms of pickup locations can go a long way, especially when in need of a minute or two to get ready or are requesting a ride on a busy street. Follow that advice, be respectful and chances are you'll get the VIP experience on your next Uber ride.

Safe travels!

Feature photo by Hrach Hovhannisyan / Shutterstock.com

Featured image by (Photo by Hrach Hovhannisyan / Shutterstock.com)
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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Cons

  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
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  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023
Best card for premium perks while traveling
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

10XEarn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
5X5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel.
2X2 Miles per dollar on every purchase, every day
  • Intro Offer
    Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel

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  • Annual Fee

    $395
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    740-850
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Why We Chose It

The Capital One Venture X card is one of the best all-round travel credit cards ever launched. Not only is it offering a tremendous welcome bonus, but cardholders can earn tons of miles on everyday spending and receive a 10,000-mile anniversary bonus to boot. Its annual fee is $395, but cardholders can count on up to $300 in statement credits toward travel booked through Capital One Travel each year and other valuable benefits like access to Priority Pass lounges and Capital One’s own growing family of airport lounges.

Pros

  • Excellent welcome offer worth 75,000 miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months.
  • Up to $300 in annual travel statement credits toward bookings make through Capital One Travel.
  • 10,000 bonus miles (worth $100 toward travel) each account anniversary.

Cons

  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
  • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,400+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and our Partner Lounge Network
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Named editors' choice for "Best New Credit Card of 2021" by The Points Guy
  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023