At fifty-six years old, I can remember only a handful of rides I have taken in a taxi. A cab. You know, it never occurred to me that Martin Scorsese's classic film might not have been as menacing if it had been called "Cab Driver." But that's a musing for another time. Today I am wondering why I would be worried about the demise of an industry in which I never fully participated. I have no recollection of paying a cab driver, mostly because my lack of ease when it comes to dealing directly with people who give me service. At restaurants I can put my tip on the table and flee, with only a small twinge of fear that I might be chased down and asked to reckon with my math. Not that I undertip. If anything, I probably tip more due to this underlying sense of social awkwardness. I just don't know how to deal with that momentary cloud that passes across someone's face when they see I didn't ring some magic bell that would make me "a good tipper."
Which is really only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the whole taxicab deal. I have what many consider a rather robust "outside voice," but I have not been blessed with the ability to whistle past a barely musical tune. And standing in front of oncoming traffic seems like a really bad idea, having once endured the collision of car versus my left side. I am officially a stay on the curb kind of guy as a result.
Which seems like I would be a good candidate for this ride-sharing thing that has erupted in the downturn of taxis. There's an app for that. An app that sends a stranger to your location and asks you to climb in with your only hope of retribution the number of stars you choose to place on the driving and relative ambiance of the ride. From the back seat. Which makes me fret all the more, since all the programming I have received in my life suggests that this only exacerbates the service mentality of the situation, brought on primarily by looking at the back of someone's head.
So Elon Musk has this great idea: Robot Taxi. His electric cars will have an auto-drive feature that will allow them to take you to the store or the airport. Which sounds amazing, until you get this next bit: Tesla owners will be able to make more money by putting their vehicles into service when they aren't behind the wheel. Just punch up a code and a robocar will appear in your driveway ready to whisk you off on your next adventure. Which probably begins with trying to figure out how you tip a droid.