“Your driver will arrive in two minutes,” says the trusty app on our phones. How wonderfully convenient. In fact, the screen also points to the live location of the vehicle, its general appearance and license plate number. Moreover, it tells us, with eerie specificity, that our ride is now “400 feet from us.” Terrific, we’ll soon be on our way, secure in our confidence of the marvels of modern technology and, maybe just a bit, smug in the wonders that we have delivered upon this good Earth.
But the vehicle has not moved from its spot 400 feet away for five minutes now, then seven, then 10. The application allows for a text we send to the driver with a basic inquiry, “We’re here and ready, is all well there?” A few slow minutes pass. Now, we call. Naturally, the call is unanswered. Moments later, the car disappears from our screen. The transportation service offers to get us another ride in only 15-minutes. Instead, we board a waiting taxi and are on our way.
As the cab is nearing our destination, a phone notification, in an odd delay, informs us that Jane canceled our earlier trip, no apology just a restatement of the obvious fact. Then, an email arrives from the rideshare company with a bill for “our” failure to complete the transport and an admonishment that we be more responsible. Then, in a multistage process with countless drop-down menus and new logins, the company says that they will refund our money because their “system investigated this issue and resolved as per [their]policy.” Do we thank them for returning money to us that they wrongly took? Do they thank us for our wasted time? Do we challenge our positive impression of the “gig” economy? Or do we simply take a taxi?