Product review: Bestrix Universal CD Slot Car Mount Phone Holder

A first for me: I will attempt to do a product review of something I bought from Amazon to help me with my Uber-ing career, and maybe in doing so help out other drivers.

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I’ve been driving a while now. As part of that, obviously I needed to have a holder for my phone; a lot of people including law enforcement tend to frown on either holding the phone while you drive or having it in your lap, and for good reason too. Unfortunately the holder I was using – a magnetic one – failed on me a little while ago, during a ride in fact. The magnet was fine, but the glue that held it to the back of the phone couldn’t hold against the magnet. After it worked so well previously, I got a replacement magnet for the same system. Initially it was OK, but I suspect the residual glue left behind from the old magnet stopped the new magnet from sticking properly, and so the pull from the auxiliary cable used was enough to pull the phone off the magnet.

So I went shopping. I thought I’d found the replacement made by the same company: another vent-mounted holder that held the phone around its waist rather than via a magnet on its back. Unfortunately the rubber grip was not quite grippy enough to hold the phone permanently. It was good enough as a temporary measure, especially using the volume know for the radio as a rest for the bottom of the phone, but it I knew it was going to annoy the ever-living you-know-what out of me to always be adjusting it to make sure it didn’t fall out. So I went shopping again.

(I’m purposefully not naming the mounts that didn’t work or the company that makes them. The first one did the job it was supposed to for a long time, and if I’d not needed a quick fix I probably wouldn’t have got the second one in the first place. The company makes good stuff, and I’m actually using some of it to put this post up. Though it caused me some grief, I’m not going to name and shame them. At least, not this time.)

I went looking on Amazon for car phone mounts. Because of the issues I’d had, I wanted to avoid a magnetic mount or one that otherwise stuck to the back of the phone. I wanted a cradle, and not just around the sides of the phone but along the bottom. With my car, a mount attached to the windshield won’t work because the phone would be too far away from the audio connection and cigarette lighter port to charge the phone. Also, it would be too far away from my hands to be able to actually use, let alone be plugged into anything. I knew from previous attempts that trying to mount anything to the dash itself would be problematic. The only things I’d seen that would work would be a mount attaching to one of the vents, which is what I’d been using up until then.

Bestrix Phone Holder in situ
The Bestrix Universal CD Slot Car Mount Phone Holder holding my phone in my car, with both an aux and a lightning cable attached

Which is when I saw this: the Bestrix Universal CD Slot Car Mount Holder. I know I don’t use the CD player in my car and I suspect that there aren’t too many others out there that do either, so using that slot in the dash for something else is not a problem. It’s basically a somewhat semi-circular base that sticks out from the CD slot, with an elbow-like tube that sticks up and out (or down and out depending on the orientation) to where the cradle itself is mounted. The cradle is mounted on a ball joint, so the phone can be rotated through 360° and the angle of display can be adjusted as needed. It hooks into the CD slot via three flat prongs, the middle of which is at the end of a switch to push it down (or up) to hold the whole thing in place. In case you can’t tell from my optional explanations in parentheses, this can be mounted facing either “up” or “down”, with the phone either above or below the base.

The cradle itself holds the phone on both sides and at the bottom. (This assumes you’re using the phone in its portrait orientation, otherwise it would be top, bottom and either left or right as is your preference.) The bottom claw can be adjusted up or down from the rest of the cradle, and stays in place until the bottom button behind the cradle is held down. You squeeze the side claws in towards the phone when its in the cradle, ensuring it stays securely mounted until you press and hold the release button at the top of the backside of the cradle. If you’re used to a magnetic holder, changing to this will be just the tiniest bit frustrating to get used to, because you won’t be able to instantly attach or detach the phone from the mount. However the flip side of that means that the phone won’t move around or slip out of its place accidentally – in my mind, its well worth the trade off, especially when this one becomes what I’m used to.

I can’t speak for other models of phones, but my iPhone 6s fits nicely even with cables plugged into both the lightning and aux ports. The two prongs for the bottom claw sit either side of the lighting cable, with a little bit of clearance either side to limit the ability of the phone to wiggle even if you have the side claws loose. If for some reason you want to switch from portrait to landscape mode, the screw holding the ball joint can be tightened to just the right amount to allow you to spin the phone around to the new orientation, but manage to hold it still once its been repositioned. And as a special note to Uber drivers: the base of the mount and the positioning of the phone can help to stop front seat passengers from fiddling with your radio without asking because it will probably block the display and controls.

Installation is a breeze. The only issue I had was attaching the cradle to the plate it sits on, and even that was a minor one where I was concerned I was going to break something trying to snap it into place. To be fair, its the sort of fear I tend to get most of the time when I’m assembling things. It came with instructions in the box, and a guide was emailed to me within a day of ordering it from Amazon. (I didn’t use them myself, but I assume they would’ve been helpful if needed.) It comes with three pads of varying thicknesses that are able to be attached to the middle prong used to hold the mount in the CD slot. I didn’t need to use mine, but if I had a wider opening for the CD player I might’ve needed to attach one of them to keep it in place.

If you’re looking to replace an existing mount, or need to install one for your car – and have a CD slot that’s not being used – then this mount is a great choice. It doesn’t cost an arm and a leg, installs easily and does the job exactly as its supposed to.

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Disclaimer: This isn’t a paid review, I bought the mount with my own money, with the only benefit of doing so being the tax deduction of any business purchase. That being said, if you follow any of the links to Amazon on this page and make a purchase while on the site, I’ll get a small percentage of the sale. It won’t cost you anything extra, and you can purchase anything you like from the site; it doesn’t have to be the mount I’m reviewing, or any other mount, just follow a link, search for anything your wanting to get and buy it the same way you would any other time on Amazon. Making Amazon purchases through one of these links is a great way of supporting the blog without having to donate, subscribe or otherwise pay extra money, and helps to ensure I’ve got time to write these posts. Thank you for your support, and if you’re in Sydney, I might just see you on the road!

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Going to and coming from Sydney Airport: Domestic Terminal

The ins and outs of getting in and out of Sydney Airport’s domestic terminal.

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Sydney Airport, with the Domestic Terminal (T2 & T3) on the left
and the International Terminal (T1) at the bottom

Two weeks ago I posted about using Uber at the international terminal of Sydney Airport. It was originally going cover both terminals but it started to get to be a bit long overall, so this week you get the second half, covering the domestic terminal.

Now just as last week I gave a disclaimer, I’m giving the same one here as well: things change. I can all but guarantee that at some point after this is originally posted, either Sydney Airport or Uber will change how they operate and at least some part of this post will no longer be correct. Though I’ll try my best to update it if there are changes, if the date on this is long in the past when you’re reading it, you can always check Ride Uber at Sydney Airport for the latest info from Uber themselves.

Heading to the airport

If you’re going to be flying somewhere within Australia, you’ll be flying out of the domestic terminal. However there’s a snag that can catch some people up: the domestic terminal is actually two seperate buildings: T2 and T3. (T1 is the international terminal, in case you’re wondering.) Now your boarding pass, itinerary, or whatever other documentation you’ve got for your flight will probably indicate T2 or T3, but don’t be too concerned about remembering or forgetting that detail. Just remember which airline you’re flying with: Qantas domestic flights fly out of T3, while all other domestic flights fly out of T2. I expect most drivers will check with you at some point on the trip about either which terminal or which airline you’re using, as though its not nearly as bad as being at the international terminal by mistake, being dropped off at the wrong building and getting to the correct one ranges from ‘minor inconvenience’ if you’ve got plenty of time to ‘#$%@&^’ if you’re supposed to be boarding the plane right now.

Leaving the Airport

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Make sure you’re being picked up from the domestic terminal.

The basic process is pretty much the same for the domestic terminal as it is for the international, just some of the details are a little different. You’re looking for the “Priority Pickup Area” rather than the express, and instead of yellow signs you should follow the green signs. (Just to be slightly confusing, there is an express pickup area for the domestic terminal, and like at the international terminal, its marked by yellow signs. To be less confusing, the path to the express pickup area is the same as the priority one, only you continue past the priority area to reach the express.) For those of you who have an idea about the layout of the domestic terminal, the priority pickup area is in between T2 and T3, part of the parking structures for them.

The pickup area is essentially split in two, with a covered area for passengers to wait in the middle. Cars enter the area on the right-hand side (when facing the way you were when you enter the area) and leave from the left. Assuming you don’t spot your driver’s car as you approach and enter the area – or haven’t heard from them letting you know exactly where they are – by all means head where everyone else is likely to be waiting: the covered area, facing the vehicle entrance to the car park.

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Confirm you’re pick up from the Priority Pick-Up area.

However, please don’t expect your driver to wait just inside the entrance for you to get in their car, especially if you have luggage that may need to be loaded in the boot. Though it is easy for the driver to stop there, its very difficult for anyone else to get past the car, causing delays for everyone. In fact if you get to the pickup area ahead of your driver and its a busy period, you may notice others do the same thing, blocking the entrance and delaying your driver in arriving. When I enter the pickup area, I scan the faces of the waiting passengers for a look of recognition headed my way. (A wave at me works too.) If they start heading my way I’ll signal them that I’m headed around the other side. This means they won’t have to go to far, I can pull up out of the way of the other cars, I can park in a valid spot to help with any luggage they have – whether it be just getting it into the car, or putting down seats and tetris-ing the bags to fit into the space – and it’ll save them a tiny amount on the fare for the shorter distance and time on the ride. Likewise if I don’t get any recognition, I head to the that other side. (Its marked as the “B” area, with “A” being the entrance side, and “C” being the expanded area that’s under cover from the rest of the parking structure, and in my experience at least is rarely actually used.) That’s where I send my “here I am” message to the rider from.

It applies to every ride, especially at the airport where it isn’t always clear how everything is supposed to work, and even more especially to the occassional flyer, but if you aren’t sure where you are, where you’re supposed to be, or how to get there, let your driver know. Chances are we’ve got some familiarity with the airport’s layout, and we have a chance to help work out what the problem is. (And it can help avoid accidental trans-continental rides, too.)

Don’t tease me, bro!

From visions of swimming in Scrooge McDuck’s kiddy pool to the reality of a normal job: the occasional highs and lows of mistaken rider destinations.

Photo looking across a lake to a country hotel building, with trees and a mountain range in the background.
A photo of the The Carriages Hotel and Vineyard, courtesy of their website.

On a wet Friday night, with Sydney surging between people wanting to get home or to their after-work events – and trying to stay dry in the process – I was driving from the vicinity of the airport towards the CBD. I got a ping for a ride, and managed to dodge enough of the traffic at the time to get to the pickup reasonably quickly. I’m feeling good because I’m about to get the first surge ride I’ve had in what feels like forever.

After a brief mishap of pulling over too early on the road – in my defence it was only two doors too early, it was dark and difficult to see the street numbers, and as I approached there were people that looked like they were waiting at the kerb with a phone out, which is a classic Uber-passenger-to-be vision and otherwise unusual in the rain – I stopped in front of the correct address, and my passengers got in to the car. I start the ride, go through the usual greeting ritual of everyone confirming who everyone else is, which is followed by me confirming where the destination for the ride is. To do that, I look down at my phone which is now showing this (as tweeted on the night):

Without the knowledge of an experienced Sydney Uber driver, you may not get the full impact of this. Hopefully you’ll recognise that that represents a trip that’s much longer than the average, by quite a large margin. Because I’ve heard stories from passengers and drivers about long trips that (supposedly) actually happened like to the Hunter Valley or to Melbourne, I’ve occassionally wondered how much they’d be worth. So I instantly knew that the trip would have a fare of a few hundred dollars, shortly followed by the realisation that this fare had a 1.5x surge. (I’ve since worked out that my cut of the fare would have been in the vicinity of $350-$400, depending on the exact route and traffic.)

Unfortunately, my visions of becoming Scrooge McDuck and diving into huse pool of money (which on reflection would be closer to a kiddy pool, and that’s taking it in coins rather than a nicely thick wad of notes) quickly disappeared like the splash from an Olympic diver. The passengers wanted to go to the Carriageworks in Redfern, not Carriages Boutique Hotel & Vineyard in the Hunter Valley. It was just a simple mistake of entering the first few letters, and selecting the wrong option from the list. Disappointing, but completely understandable.

For the record, I’ve not been paid by anyone to post this. However, should The Carriages want me to do a review and post it here and anywhere else they’d like me to, I’d be happy to discuss it. I’d be baffled as to why they’d want me to, but still happy to discuss it.

Going to and coming from Sydney Airport: International Terminal

The ins and outs of getting in and out of Sydney Airport’s international terminal.

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The international terminal (T1) at Sydney Airport.

You’re either flying in or out of Sydney. You’ve got plenty of luggage. You don’t want to bug a friend to give you a lift to the airport, or you don’t have a friend to pick you up because you’re on holidays/business trip/something that means you either don’t know anyone here or don’t know them well enough to bug them to pick you up. Public transport won’t work either, because that luggage is going to be awkward on the train or bus, and the ferry and light rail certainly won’t get you all the way.

Despite what some people out there seem to think, you can book an Uber both going to and coming from the airport. Some of the confusion may have come about because initially Sydney Airport didn’t let Uber do pick ups from there. Their reasoning didn’t make sense to me at the time – still doesn’t really – but that doesn’t matter too much now because they changed their minds; they couldn’t stop Ubers from dropping people off at the airport, and at least some passengers found sneaky ways of getting around the blocks that Uber put in the app to try and prevent the pickups from happening. The airport has even accepted Uber, providing areas for us to work at both terminals.

Please keep in mind that things change, particularly it seems at Sydney Airport. So while this information is as correct as I can make it at the moment, if you’re reading this in the future it might be out of date. I’ll endeavor to post updates if and when they’re needed, but just in case you see the official information from Uber at Ride Uber at Sydney Airport.

Initially this post was going to cover both the international and domestic terminals, but it started to get quite long. I’ve split them out into two separate posts now, with this one talking about the international. (You probably guessed that from the title.) Next week’s post will be about the domestic terminal, which if its been posted by the time you’re reading this, will probably be linked to here.

Heading to the airport

Now getting to the airport in an Uber is about as simple as getting to anywhere else. There are a few things to keep in mind, particularly if you’re not a local. First, make sure you know which terminal you need to go to; the international and domestic terminals are on the opposite sides of the airport from each other, which means it is very helpful for your Uber driver to know which terminal you’re headed to ahead of time. Depending on the time of day, traffic around the airport can get a little bogged down. You’re driver will probably check with you when they pick you up which terminal you need to get to – I make sure I do – but putting the right one in as your destination when you book the ride may mean the difference between a panicked race to board your plane and a calm walk to the gate.

Leaving the airport

IMG_2424
Make sure you’re being picked up from the international terminal.

Uber recommends that for all airports it operates at to request your ride after you’ve “Elvis-ed”… You know, “left the building”. Certainly in the case of Sydney, there are rules about where someone can pick you up from, so once you’ve left the building it should at least minimize how far you’ll have to walk to the actual pick up point. Now where to go works a little differently depending on the specific type of Uber service you’ll use, so I’ll just talk about the main type that most people mean when they say “Uber”: UberX. (Please note, if you’re someone that uses the higher end Uber services like UberBLACK, I’m both happy that you’re reading my blog and surprised; if I’ve not yet set up some sort of donation feature when you’re reading this, feel free to contact me to arrange a donation through Twitter or the contact form to the side of this page.) In the app, it should recognize that you’re at the airport and give you an option between the “International” and “Domestic”, and once you’ve selected the international terminal it’ll confirm the pickup for “Express Pick-Up (Yellow)”. Once confirmed, your driver will be on their way.

IMG_2425
Confirm you’re pick up from the Express Pick-Up area.

As the app suggested, you’re looking for the “Express Pickup Area”, which you should be able to do by following yellow signs. As you come out of the terminal building, you’ll need to walk through the P7 parking building. There is a path you can follow, and unless it was a particularly empty flight or you’re either very fast or slow when walking, there should be a number of people going the same way.

After you come out of the car park building, you’ll need to cross a couple of roadways to get to the pickup area itself. When you’ve done that, you’ll see a covered pedestrian waiting area continuing away from the terminal, and parking areas on both sides of this: you’re Uber driver will be waiting for you on the right-hand side as you walk towards it, not the left – if they’re not waiting for you yet they’ll be making their way to that side.

When I’m picking someone up from here, when I pull up I do a quick scan of the people waiting, and if I don’t spot anyone headed my way or acknowledging me, I’ll send a text message through the Uber app to let them know I’ve made it, and if its particularly busy and so maybe difficult to spot my car amongst the others, I’ll also give some idea of where I’ve parked. If you get to the pickup area and haven’t heard from or found your driver, its a good idea to let your driver know you’re ready, and give them something to look for when they arrive. Remember that we only get your name on our end; we don’t know what you look like, we don’t know how many people are in your group or if you’re alone, or anything else that might help us out. Giving us an idea of whereabouts you are, or what you look like can help us find you and get you on your way to your destination that much faster.

You might be having trouble finding the pickup area. You or someone in your group might only be able to move fairly slowly for one reason or another. If that’s the case, I’d recommend letting your driver know. If a car is in the express pickup area for longer than 15 minutes, it costs the driver $8. Obviously we don’t want to pay that if we don’t have to, and I know that I’m not able to comfortably ask my passengers for the $8 and still legitimately hope for a 5-star rating. I also know that once we find each other, it’ll take a little bit of time to get the luggage packed into the car – especially if there’s a lot and it needs to be rearranged to fit, maybe one of the back seats put down – and to get actually get to the exit gates of the car park, so if I’ve not seen my passengers or heard from them within 10 minutes of entering the pickup area, I’m going to cancel the ride and leave.

However, if I’ve got a message or a call from them, and I know that they’re on the way and they’re just taking a bit more time than usual to get to the pickup area, I can keep the pickup request active and just leave the pickup area and come back to reset the time – essentially circling the block. That will generally be faster for you the passenger than having to make a new request and waiting for the new driver to arrive, especially if you don’t notice straight away that the first driver cancelled. When this happens I let the passenger know that I’m going to leave and come back, so they’re not “abandoned” if they arrive at the pickup area and I’m not there.

And that’s pretty much it. It might seem a little complicated, but plenty of people have done it, and I’ve had more than a few passengers mention to me after I’ve picked them up from the airport that it was their first Uber ride ever. Remember that if you do get confused, lost, or just don’t know what to do, contact your driver and let them know, and there’s a good chance they’ll be able to help you out. Also, the app notices when you’re near the airport and can offer some advice if you need it.

The saga continues: NRMA MotorServe can’t record phone numbers correctly

Yesterday’s story should’ve ended this morning. Unfortunately it continues today…

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NRMA MotorServe Caringbah

Yesterday I posted about my misadventure with a flat tyre. In theory I’d be out driving around now, trying to make up for lost time: my tyre was supposed to be repaired and ready to be refitted to my car this morning, and if there was a problem then the staff at NRMA MotorServe Caringbah would get in contact with me and let me know. I didn’t get a call, so I assumed that when I got there this morning I’d be collecting a repaired tyre. It wasn’t to be…

I arrived there, gave my details, and was ready to take a seat and wait a few minutes while the tyre was fitted. The staff member came back and told me that they’d tried to call me yesterday, showing the number they had for me. In most case getting something 90% correct is a pretty good result, but when it comes to phone numbers its really 100% or bust. The missed number meant that they didn’t call me, they called someone else. (I tested the number, and it goes straight to voicemail with an automated message rather than a recorded one with someone’s name.)

Apparently the tyre couldn’t be repaired, and of course they didn’t have any suitable replacements on hand. So after making sure they actually had the correct number for me this time around, the tyre’s on the way to hopefully arrive this afternoon, and maybe even get sorted out then. If not it’lol be tomorrow morning before I’m back on the road professionally.

To their credit, when I tweeted about the issue this morning NRMA did respond to see if there was something they could do.

I’ll be curious to see if they have something to say after my answer:

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NRMA MotorServe Marrickville

In case you’re wondering, the last time I took my car to an NRMA MotorServe (it was the Marrickville one) was for a service a couple of years ago. Apart from the cause it was almost exactly the same story: they took the wrong number down – with a different difference to today’s shenanigans – and I got back there just before they were closing for the day when it should’ve been ready, after waiting all day for a call that never came. They were waiting on my go ahead to replace some parts, but couldn’t get it because they had the wrong number for me. The issue I had at that point was that the number they recorded for me was not connected, which seems obvious to me that that should have been an indication to lookup my membership details for the correct number. At least this time around the number they had for me was a live one, so not quite the same impetus to check that it was correct.

McDonalds car parks cause flat tyres

McDonalds car parks are a menace. How many tyres must be punctured before their reign of terror will be brought to an end. How long before someone thinks I’m being serious about this, and not just blowing it all out of proportion for the sake of the combination of a joke and maybe a few extra page visits?

A field of abandoned tyres
The many, many victims of McDonalds car parks.

First up, that title is just my attempt at a click-bait style headline. Even my own empirical evidence says that McDonalds car parks are very safe for you tyres, as I’ve been to various different McDonalds car parks on multiple occasions – more than is likely good for my own personal health – without issue. However, I’ve gotten a flat tyre on two different occasions, and both times have been after going into a McDonalds. The last time it happened I didn’t notice until I’d finished up at work (in an office, pre-Uber), so it only meant I was delayed in getting home. (In case you’re wondering, I’d gotten a Sausage McMuffin meal for breakfast, and on the way out of the drive-thru heard a crack, but continued on to work and parked. When I got back to the car, the front tyre was as flat as the tack that could have done the same damage.)

This time its meant essentially missing out on a day’s work, and I didn’t even get breakfast for it. I’d gotten my first ride for the day, and it was to take the passenger to McDonalds. Though I didn’t ask and only really half saw what he was wearing, I remembered the smell well enough from my own Olympic-level McDonalds career to know that this guy was going to work. Not (much) of a problem, given that after he got out of the car and I was out of his sight, I stopped to turn up the air freshener and spray some deodorant where he’d been sitting. After working my way back to the main road, I started to hear a sort of hum that I hadn’t heard in the car before, and I couldn’t work out where it was coming from.

I kept driving, noting that the hum got louder and softer, pitching higher and lower as I sped up and slowed down. I was almost literally scratching my head at what it could be. The gearbox was set to D-drive. I didn’t have the hand brake on at all. I checked that all the windows were up properly. I checked to see if the seatbelt the guy had just used was caught in the door and was being caught in the wind of the car. I couldn’t work it out, and the only theory I had – which turned out to not be too far off the mark – was that with the increased amount of roadkill I’d been seeing around lately, that something had gotten caught on a tyre and was causing the hum.

Regardless of what was causing it, I wasn’t noticing any issues with driving so let it go and continued on, particularly when I got a new pickup request. I put the sound to the back of my mind and headed to the pickup point. I pulled up, and within a few moments the passengers came out with a roller suitcase. Bingo, a trip to the airport! It wasn’t guaranteed, but given how close we were to a train station, if it wasn’t going to be to the airport then it was still likely a decent length trip. It turned out I was right, as once I started the trip the destination was confirmed as the domestic terminal of the airport. The luggage was loaded, the passengers got in, and off we went.

We got as far as the end of the street. At that point, while waiting for traffic to clear, a pedestrian crossing the street helpfully pointed out the flat tyre to me. I found somewhere to pullover, told the passengers they’d need to get a new ride because of the flat tyre, and that if there was going to be a fee for the “ride” I’d given them I’d arrange for it to be refunded. So after they were on their way, I had the NRMA come out, and tweeted this:

Thankfully the NRMA were prompt to arrive and help me out with the flat. Unfortunately, the spare was only a temporary fix, rated to only work up to 80kph, and a total distance of 160km. While that would probably be okay, it could cause issues depending on where any rides might take me, and with no spare tyre up my sleeve, even by avoiding McDonalds car parks I would be flying closer to the sun than would be ideal.

So folks, if you’re out there on the road, and feeling hungry and decide to go to a McDonalds, be careful and make sure you have a spare tyre and its ready to go. If you do decide to risk a McDonalds car park – or that of Hungry Jacks, Oporto or any other fast food place – are stuck waiting for someone to come help you out with a flat tyre or other vehicular issue, or you’re just in your car (parked!) and need a flat surface for something, then this steering wheel tray may just cone in handy.  

You wanted to go where?

An amusing time for me when a passenger makes a mistake with either their pick up or drop off location.

The majority of rides I get are pretty simple, and follow these basic steps:

  1. The app on my phone pings for a ride request
  2. I accept the request, and head to the pickup location
  3. The passenger(s) get in and I start the ride in the app
  4. I drive to the destination
  5. The passenger(s) get out and I end the ride in the app

cronulla beach
If you look closely, you can see the destination… No, you’ll have to look closer than that.
I don’t see the destination for the ride until step 3; I don’t know how far or in what direction I’ll be going until the ride starts. Which means that on the odd occasion where the ride gets cancelled, I don’t know where it would’ve been to, except for certain circumstances. That’s when there’s a cancellation fee that I get paid. Usually that only happens when I’ve arrived at the pickup location and have been waiting for at least five minutes (or I’ve spent a significant amount of time heading to the pickup location, but this is less likely as the majority of pickups tend to be fairly close to where I was when the alert came through). When I do get paid a cancellation fee, I can look in the list of rides I’ve had for the day, see the record for the cancelled ride, and see where they’d set as their destination.

All of this is to explain the surprising thing that happened to me the other day. I was near the end of a ride for a couple of guys to Cronulla, when I got a request for a new ride. This tends to happen when it’s getting busy in the area – not necessarily surging, but it might start surging if it stays busy. I accept the new ride, drop the guys off at their destination, and head to the pickup spot for the new ride, which happens to be just up the road.

I get there, and manage to find a spot to pull up right outside the address. No one was standing outside, which isn’t too strange as I’d managed to get there pretty quickly from when I’d got the request, so I waited. Sometimes the GPS can be a little off with determining the pickup location: it might put it one or two doors down the street, around the corner or on the opposite side of the road, depending on the spot, so because of all this I’m looking around the area, not just at the property I’ve been pointed to. I spot someone that I think could be the passenger, but they walk right past and disappear up the street.

After a minute or two, with no sign of activity at the address and no contact from the passenger, I start a five minute timer on my watch. I do this because I want to give the passenger a fair chance to either come out to the car or at least get in touch to let me know what’s happening, but I don’t want to wait around all day if they’re not going to show up. If I wind up cancelling on them after the timer goes off, I’ll get a cancellation fee paid, but I’ve given them more than the prescribed time for that to happen, which I think is fair. (I welcome your disagreement in the comments below. 🙂 ) In the mean time I’m still looking and waiting for someone to show up, but nothing.

The timer goes off. I do one last look to make sure there’s no sign of anyone that might be my missing passenger, and craning my neck to see up the driveway of the address, I hear my phone trill its cancellation sound: my passenger has cancelled on me, just before I did the same. I’m annoyed, but I pull out and head off in search of my next fare. A minute or two later, my running tally of fares for the day had updated in the app, and I saw that I’d got my cancellation fee. Out of curiosity to see what sort of fare I’d “missed out” on, I check to see what the destination had been: Dunedin, New Zealand.

cronulla to dunedin
If Google Maps is suggesting the best route to your destination involves flying, there’s probably cheaper options than UberX.

It took me a few moments to understand what I was looking at. It was a good thing that I was parked while checking this, because if I hadn’t been I may have laughed my way into an accident. Don’t ask me how this person managed to book a trans-Tasman trip car ride. That it was an international trip was impressive enough, but to somehow try and book a car ride across the Tasman Sea, a trip which would be a couple of hours by plane… well I’m sure you can understand why I was laughing. I’m yet to come up with a theory as to how this happened, or at least one that makes sense. I can’t work out whether they were in New Zealand and somehow had a GPS malfunction that put them across the ditch, or if they were in Cronulla and somehow entered a New Zealand address by mistake. I don’t think its the latter, as after doing a bit of googling I couldn’t find an address that could’ve had a typo to result in the one that I got.

It amused me, and reassured one passenger who was nervous about using the app correctly that any mistakes they made weren’t likely to beat that one. So as a tip, when you’re booking an Uber ride, double check that the map doesn’t have international borders or an unexpected body of water like the Tasman Sea going through your route.