I get the opportunity to meet a lot of interesting people in my line of work, but I can only take so many coach-speak clichés.
That doesn’t seem to be a problem when it comes to my side gig.
A few months ago, facing the realities of car payments, rent payments, an impending trip to the Midwest to attend a friend’s wedding reception and the need for a little extra spending money — and not wanting to take my chances with the slot machines in Wendover in order to get it — I started looking for ways to make my weekends a little bit more productive (read: lucrative).
After a bit of research and asking friends for advice, I came up with a solution: driving for a ride-sharing service. You know, the ones where regular people use their private cars to shuttle people around town on demand, all while charging a much cheaper rate than your average taxicab?
I figured if I was going to be making a monthly car payment for the next five years, why not use said car to earn the money to make said payment?
So, I signed up online and was approved to drive right before St. Patrick’s Day weekend. It was quite the time to be introduced to what taxi drivers have to deal with constantly. It also convinced me that perhaps serving the clientele of downtown Salt Lake City on a Saturday night wasn’t the smartest idea. Nothing bad happened, though there were a couple rowdy groups in the back seat of my car that made driving down State Street a bit of a challenge.
I was pleased with the extra income, but decided to switch up my strategy: rather than spending all of my time in downtown Salt Lake City, I would instead pick people up at the airport. It’s a much more low-key spot than, say, Vivint Smart Home Arena after a concert or a basketball game.
You get to meet people from all walks of life when you’re giving rides from the airport. There are the business travelers being shuttled to the various tech jobs in Utah County; the ski bums headed to Park City; the families headed home to the suburbs after a trip to Disneyland, and convention-goers bound for the trendy spots downtown. I’ve even taken college students all the way to Logan.
But my favorites are the ones who have never been to Utah before. As someone who grew up in the Beehive State — and Moab, in particular — I’ve grown so accustomed to the surrounding landscape that I take it for granted. The mountains are just a part of everyday life — nothing spectacular, really.
That is, unless you’re from the plains and have never been west of the Kansas-Colorado state line, apparently. Then, you see the Wasatch Mountains on one side of Salt Lake Valley and the Oquirrh Mountains on the other, and you’re just blown away.
I’ve had passengers staring out the window in awe as we’re headed down Interstate 215 from the airport, headed toward Lehi and points south, while I’m more focused on the sea of orange construction barrels — though recent years in Tooele County should have numbed me to those, as well.
So, while driving for a ride-sharing service has helped my financial well-being, it has also opened my eyes to just how fortunate we are to have this kind of landscape in our backyards. Sometimes, it’s fun to see this place we call home through the eyes of a tourist.
Darren Vaughan is the sports editor for the Tooele Transcript Bulletin. He enjoys showing off the beauty of the state he calls home. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.