Nine hundred dollars is how much Kabria Johnson’s friend told Johnson she made in one day driving for the ride-sharing service Uber. Out on just her third day on the job, the pretty, twenty-one year old “Uber X “driver says she is not afraid for her safety. She knows where to hit you. And since Uber tracks the time and distance through GPS and charges the customer’s credit card, drivers don’t need to carry cash.
Johnson holds down a job in customer service with U.S. Airways and is in the process of being approved, also, by the competing ride service, Lyft. She is saving up to pay off a loan on her other car, get an apartment and buy furniture. And she’s planning a big cookout for herself and five younger siblings this coming Mother’s day which, sadly, will be their first without their Mom who died last October.
It was a smooth ride in Johnson’s newly acquired 2006 Toyota Prius with over 200,000 miles on it, but seeming in good condition, that she uses exclusively when driving for Uber. She was unfazed when another driver rolled down his window at a stop to point out that one of our tires appeared to be flat. We pulled over into a gas station briefly to get some air. Johnson says she has Triple A service and family all over the city to come to her aid if need be. As for me, her rider, Johnson smiles, if she hadn’t been able to get me to my destination, another Uber driver would likely have been summoned to scoop me up for the final leg of my journey within a matter of minutes.
Adil Tijer, an immigrant from Morocco, drives a “black car” for Uber, a service which connects riders with drivers through its mobile apps. On your correspondent’s first trip with Uber, Tijer explained driver licensing, passenger insurance and Uber’s rating system. But for the occasional late night drunk, Tijer’s rating might be a perfect 5-star. The rating system works both ways. Uber drivers get to rate their riders, too, and drivers can refuse to accept a fare. Watch video ride and interview here.
Tijer worked previously as a medical assistant and pizza deliveryman. He visits friends and family back home every year and describes his country as a democracy, tolerant of different religious practices, where the people love their king. Tijer, now an American citizen, came to the U.S. as one of the quota-set 2500 Moroccans who won the lottery some years ago and hopes to own his own store one day. He lives in Northeast Philadelphia where he says there is a sizable Moroccan community. Watch video interview here.
Your correspondent took his wife’s car to Dr. Ralph’s Automotive Services Center in Roxborough after she discovered one morning that it had been bashed overnight. While a technician was dusting off the last traces of the repair job, body shop manager John Klimowicz began explaining the business. While high strength steel is still used in car construction, thermoset plastics are becoming more common. To point out the strength of the repair work, Klimowicz relates that the same epoxies used to weld airplane panels are employed for car panel bonding repairs. If repaired properly, according to manufacturer specifications, “you can hit it with a sledge hammer and it will not break.” As to a future when driverless cars are expected to reduce collisions? “That remains to be seen.” In the meantime, Klimowicz believes there is plenty of work for Dr. Ralph’s and for the other nine or so car repair shops tightly spaced alongside this industrial stretch of Umbria Avenue. Watch video interview here.
Tova Tenenbaum sports a “Drive Out Suicide” bumper sticker on her car’s hatchback door to make it easy for people to notice. The sticker has a crisis telephone number 1-800-273-TALK (8255) and is for anyone in need or anyone who knows someone in need. A referral can be made for mental health services. Military veterans, who are in a separate health system, need only press #1 to get info directly related to them.
Tenenbaum says the hope is to take away the stigma around the issue and prevent suicides. A social worker at the Montgomery County Emergency Service in Norristown, she says that, even without a diagnosable mental health condition, a person going through a very rough time may become suicidal. “The people who are most likely to commit suicide seem to be the least likely to talk about it.”
Visit the Drive Out Suicide blog here, www.preventsuicidepa.org/blog, sponsored by the Pennsylvania Adult/Older Adult Suicide Prevention Coalition.
I was driving behind a car with interesting bumper stickers on Germantown Avenue in Chestnut Hill and when it pulled over to park, I pulled over, too, to ask the driver if she might extemporize on her stickers.
Martha Knox was with her four year old daughter, BB, waiting for the post office to open. She was then headed to the UCP (United Cerebral Palsy) Best Friends pre-school where BB is intentionally “reversed mainstreamed” with kids with disabilities.
Knox works professionally as a graphic designer and teacher and identifies strongly as a secular humanist. Her car’s rear bumper graphically and humorously expresses her beliefs. The 2013-2014 “Zombie Hunting Permit,” however, was placed by her husband.
“Honk! If you understand punctuated equilibria” was one sticker that particularly caught my attention. The theory in evolutionary biology, Knox explained, is that genetic changes happen rapidly in “short” periods of time, geologically speaking.
In these four videos, you can also see and hear Knox talk about “Nietzsche is Peachy,” “Evolution happens” both of which she designed, “There is no way to peace, peace is the way,” “Support Net Neutrality”and “Schrödinger’s Cat: Dead and Alive.”
Rob Porter used his large 90s Cadillac to haul his Daihatsu Midget II pickup truck from Cheyenne, Wyoming to the east coast to tool around in while he’s in the area on business inspecting welds at power plants.
Desmond O’Donovan, a student at the Science Leadership Academy chose to study animal-car collisions for a school project on a local or global issue. Driving along Cresheim Drive earlier with his Dad, he saw a young deer felled on the sidewalk and came back later with his Mom to photograph and examine the mishap. He’s been doing research into the issue and sharing his information with classmates and on blogs. He believes collisions might be reduced by educating drivers to drive more slowly in the Wissahickon where, he says, deer are overabundant and possibly, also, by lowering the speed limit. For the activity requirement of his project, O'Donovan may try to raise awareness about the problem.
Update from O'Donovan 4/2/13
You might be interested to know that i have decided what i am doing for the project. i'm going to try to get a deer crossing sign posted on Wissahickon Ave and Mount Pleasant.
Darryl Leonard services portable toilets for Royal Flush Portable Restrooms, a company owned by his uncle. The company does work for special events like regattas on Kelly Drive and for the Phillies and Eagles. Royal Flush provides a variety of toilet options - stand-alones like this wheelchair accessible one shown on Northwestern Avenue near Forbidden Drive in the Wissahickon, flushable ones and trailerfulls. Leonard may vacuum out one to two hundred toilets a day into his truck which holds 1500 gallons and work from 5:30 in the morning to 9 at night. A downside is when he has to come out and clean up after someone has tipped a booth over. Leonard wasn't complaining about the job, however. "It is what it is." Watch video here.