Let’s get the facts out there first. It will be a really churlish person who claims that the new ride-hailing apps have not been revolutionary. Not only have the firms, be it Uber or Ola or the many others invested gobs of money to upturn conventional metrics and the taxi experience, in doing so, they have provided us a whole new perspective as consumers. I am a fan. Period.
Having said that, the new innovation on the block, or at least in these polluted times, the one they are really pushing hard has got me in a fix. Yes, I am talking about the #poolrides with the cab firms. Not only have my experiences been decidedly mixed, but by now, I think it is safe to lay down the 5 iron laws of pool rides for you, dear reader, to be better prepared the next time you pool in.
1) Pooling is not for those on a schedule: Forget tight schedule, when you get on a pool ride, you can safely assume that you have triggered off a rule where the higher your urgency of reaching a place on time, the higher the odds of your driver picking up fellow poolers who will require ever bigger detours from the original route, and if you start getting really anxious, become ever more difficult to find too.
2) Starting a pool ride is the biggest challenge: Partly due to reason above, if your pool ride is reaching you after dropping an earlier passenger, the estimated time of arrival becomes pretty meaningless. For now, it depends on the traffic, the driver, and the insistence of the passenger to be dropped at some remote location where it might take the driver anything between 5 to 15 minutes to get out from.
3) The Pooling protocol: If you are male and the cab moves to pick up another passenger, it might be smart to ask the driver about their sex and number. If the next pick up is for a couple, or even two females, do the smart thing and move to the jump seat next to the driver. Or suffer strange vibes from the two friends, who will treat like the pariah you are for having forced them to sit separately. Ditto for a female rider waiting for the next rider, for reasons above, and also to possibly avoid the nods and winks you might catch if you end up sitting with one of two male friends sharing the cab. Let them sit together, please.
4) Conversations: Striking up a conversation with your driver is usually considered good. However, in a pool, critical mass for a good conversation apparently kicks in, with the third entrant invariably likely to make both you and your hitherto voluble driver go silent. Don’t ask me why, it just happens that way.
5) The foolish farewell: While it seems perfectly fine to say a thank you to your driver when you get off, you will always be left with a slightly uncomfortable feeling, about what to do with your fellow rider. Do you thank him/her too for the ride, do you wave a quick goodbye informally, or do you just ignore the person completely? It’s a question that will hit you just when you are opening the door to get off, making the whole experience a rush job, with a far higher likelihood of leaving something behind, as compared to travelling alone.