One of Steven Covey’s “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” is “Begin with the End in Mind.” So, I figured the place to start our “Ubservations” journey together, is where I, and I’m assuming, every other Uber driver in Syracuse, ultimately end up every time they drive – Syracuse University.
There are 22,000+ students enrolled at S.U. Virtually all of them have Uber accounts and they are NOT afraid to use them! The average duration of a ride for a student? 5 minutes. The most popular pick-up and drop off points (in order)? Dorms and other student living facilities, bars, frats and sororities, restaurants with bars, dining halls (do they have bars in the dining halls?), library, class. Now, by no means do I mean to suggest that SU students are essentially lazy and drunk (thinking Animal House’s Dean Wormer telling Blutowski “Fat, Drunk, & Stupid is no way to go through life son”). To the contrary…
First, I drive mostly at night from 9p – 2a or later so naturally, my rides will not include as many academic destinations. Second, it is Syracuse in the winter…that 5-minute drive might be a perilous 15- minute walk up and down the hilly knolls of campus (yes, I’m sure I’ve told the ageless tale about walking up and down hills for miles in the snow to get to class when I was younger to at least a few completely uninterested student passengers…).
With close to 25% of my rides coming from the University, my perspective on Syracuse University students is a work in progress. However, things really came into focus on one snowy Wednesday night I now refer to as “Hamster Wheel.” Over the course of 2 ½ hours, I literally drove in circles around campus picking up and dropping off students; a virtual microcosm of the collective student body in my car. What is the definition of insanity? Yes, doing the same thing over and over again, expecting a different result…
My journey onto the wheel started with a pick up of four Indian Information Technology students at Destiny USA coming from the movie “Gully Boy.” On the chatty ride to campus, they taught me “kya haal hai (what’s up?) and “tumhaaree raat achchhee beete” (Have a good night) in Hindi just in case I ever Ubered them again (because I’m certain I will remember how to pronounce either!)
“Rico” rushes into my car from Brewster Dorm. He needs to make a quick stop at the college store to pick up an item for his fraternity pledge packet on his way to his first house meeting…he has 11 minutes to get there or else! He nervously practices the Greek alphabet on the ride scolding himself when he gets caught up on Phi, Chi, Psi…Good karma ensues as we see two of his fraternity brothers trudging through the snow towards the house. I offer to pick them up and I do! Hopefully that will save him from the basement or whatever frats do to pledges now when they mess up the Greek Alphabet under pressure!
At Bird Library, I pick up “Meghan,” a sophomore film student focused on the horror genre. She’s passionate and determined and so nice…I think that perhaps a future in rom-coms might be a better pursuit but perhaps she has a dark side that will make her the next Wes Craven or John Carpenter?!
Three sophomore co-eds wearing mini-skirts, spaghetti strap tops, and high-heeled pumps hop in at the dorm…apparently headed to a party that “Mark” will be at and they contemplate whether “that bitch Lainey will be fawning all over him.” It is 10 degrees and snowy…My parental instincts kick in and I ask the girls where their jackets are? “Elisa” says, “my dad would say the same thing.” Ok, I feel old but validated!
“Ryuki” who goes by “Pete” hops in. He’s headed to Starbuck’s to meet a late-night study group for an upcoming exam in international relations. He’s a Freshman from outside of Tokyo studying in the Maxwell School. Man, I never knew how many international students’ attend Syracuse University…but the ones I have met are super impressive! We better up our game in this country if we expect to compete in the global economy.
Two first-year law students hop in fresh off a meeting for their upcoming competition trial in Pittsburgh, PA… “Mark” and “Elle” both say law school is kicking their asses but see a bright outlook for the future…I drop them off at the popular bar, “The Orange.” “Conversational Cocktailing” must also be a law school core discipline.
I pick up “Tess” and “Jake” all dressed to the hilt…they were on a date night! Taking them back to his off-campus apartment I find out it is one of their first dates. She seems to be very into him. They are laughing and flirting. I’m certain I’m thinking the same thing he is about his prospects for the rest of the night…Crap! I’m a dirty old man…
Off to one of the sororities to pick “Jen” an upper-class sister, heading to the dorm to hang out with her “little, and her little’s little aka her “grand little?” So, this is the sister whom “Jen” adopted when she was pledging and the sister whom her “little” adopted currently as she goes through pledging. Sounds like a nice family affair…three co-ed sorority girls bonded by sisterhood hanging out in their dimly lit dorm room drinking, laughing, pillow fig…crap…sorry.
I pick up “Dillon” from California and his two buddies from Connecticut and Long Island at Day Hall on Mt. Olympic…Man, are they stoned to the bejesus! Pie-eyed and laughing like Beavis and Butthead (and Butthead) “Dillion” is complaining that the dope out here doesn’t compare to the “kush” he gets back home. Well, “Dillion,” either you and your boys imported your shit from Cali, discovered Vermont, or your complaint just doesn’t hold water…I’m pretty sure you devoured two or three full pies at the Acropolis where I dropped you off…
I finally got off the hamster wheel when I picked up a well-spoken African-American Junior student-athlete going home to Dewitt with his laundry in hand at 11:30p. “Eric” and I chatted for a few minutes about the great year SU football had before he called his long-distance girlfriend at Hobart William Smith and his mother, speaking lovingly and respectfully to both…good to see chilvalry among our youth is not completely lost! I wonder if mom still does his laundry?
I truly love picking up SU students…I remember my undergraduate experience at St. Lawrence University well and in a single night on the Hamster Wheel, was able to evoke lots of good memories of my own college days…not to mention that at $5 to $7 bucks a ride and 19 rides in 2 ½ hours…a nice little pay day for the entertainment!
And mom and dad, don’t worry. If one or more of these student stories resemble your SU student, that’s ok…they’re not doing anything we weren’t doing ourselves in College…ummm…actually, maybe we should be afraid, very afraid…
Many more “Ubservations” to come on Syracuse University! In the meantime, Go Orange!
All Names have been changed to protect passenger privacy.
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