Based on the advice of other Lyft drivers, I decided to become an Uber driver as well. In effect, adding Uber doubles my chances for getting rides. While I only do rideshare driving only 10 hours a week, this helps to make this time more profitable and busy. I drive Lyft and Uber to supplement my income while I work to make my true passion, Panim Hadashot-New Faces, more sustainable.
The burning question, of course, for the Lyfter Rebbe is what to do with the fact that I also now drive an Uber. The obvious moniker for this fact is "Ubermentsch". This is a term, coined by Friedrich Nietzsche, in Thus Spoke Zarathustra. The Wikipedia article adds, "The German prefix über can have connotations of superiority, transcendence, excessiveness, or intensity, depending on the words to which it is attached. Mensch refers to a human being, rather than a male specifically. The adjective übermenschlich means super-human: beyond human strength or out of proportion to humanity.".
Oy, this is more than I bargained for. My personal life aspiration has been to be a Mentsch. Now that I also drive an Uber, I simply want to mentsch who drives and Uber. But Ubermentsch is a convenient moniker and it helps in marketing my blog pieces, so I'll add it to my new identity as a rabbi who drives rideshare. Actually, come to think of it, Rideshare Rabbi has a nice ring to it.
I want to share with you a poignant story of a rider I recently helped to her destination. In Seattle, we are experiencing the demise of the Alaska Way Viaduct, pictured below, (courtesy of the Seattle PI and washington.edu). This has snarled traffic all over the region and has added time to my rides. On the other hand, it gives time to longer and deeper conversations.
I picked up a woman in Newcastle and drove her to Amazon in downtown Seattle. Over the 50 minute ride I learned that Laticia (not her real name) had a very demanding job doing logistics at Amazon. Most of the people I have met who work for Amazon, live in Seattle neighborhoods, especially just north of downtown. Laticia lived in an apartment in Newcastle, a suburb on the Eastside where rents are generally more affordable. Laticia is 38 and has never married. The reason she lives in the suburbs is that she takes care of her aging mother and autistic brother who live with her in her Newcastle apartment. Amazon has moved her to three locations in the last few years. Each time she moved her mother and her brother with her.
Laticia's description of her brother revealed characteristics of my own autistic son, Mori. She described how her brother has an enormous appetite and would eat all day if he could. He loves his routine and gets disoriented if it changes. We talked about caring for an autistic person and its challenges. Laticia and her mother have been reluctant to seek services, partly because they move every couple of years and partly because they want to keep their son/brother at home. I asked Laticia if she was able to date or seek a partner. She told me that she had given up on that for herself, since taking care of her mother and her brother left her no time to even date. Besides, she said, her reality would not be attractive to a man.
As a father of an autistic child I have reflected a great deal on the sacrifices a parent of a special needs child requires, especially as the child moves into adulthood. I have been extraordinarily fortunate to have gotten my son services that allows him to have very stable housing and care. Those services have enabled me to have enough independence to live my own life, to form lasting relationships while remaining devoted to my son. I am especially happy to be back in Seattle where he lives in a group home, to visit him frequently, and to enjoy his shining presence.
I felt great respect for Laticia's devotion and for the tremendous sacrifice that her sense of responsibility to her family had brought to her life. I told her so. As she left my car, I felt great admiration for her but I also felt my heart break hearing her story.