It began like most trips. I had an early morning flight out of Des Moines, Iowa, so I was up by 4 am and my husband dropped me off at the airport at 5:00. The plan was to meet my friend, Gail, at the airport in Tampa, pick up a rental car, drive an hour and a half to Siesta Key, and stay at the same condo we rented last year–a Siesta Key retreat reprised, so to speak. It turned out a little different from the plan, however.
My flight from Des Moines arrived in Tampa at noon. When I arrived, I found a text from Gail saying that her 11:30 am flight from Columbus, Ohio, was delayed. That was the beginning of a long day in the airport. You know how it goes. Or maybe you don’t. The airline can’t predict how long a delay will be. The staff tries to keep the passengers informed but it’s a guessing game for everyone. There was a mechanical problem with the plane which they thought they could fix but one delay led to another and another. Consequently, I spent the day waiting, calling, texting, and exploring TPA. It’s a nice airport with great amenities and now I know almost every inch of it.
Gail called the rental car company only to learn there was good news and bad news. The good news was they would hold the car until 1 am. The bad news was I couldn’t pick up the car even if we added me as a driver because Gail had rented the car in her name. We’d have to cancel the booking and rebook at a higher rate. So, I was stuck at the airport.
Finally, at 5 pm I decided it was time for a glass of wine at Wine Flight while I pondered my situation. I checked shuttle and taxi rates to Siesta Key and found it would cost me over $100 to get there. I checked with Uber and with a $20 coupon, the cost was about $80. At 5:30 Gail called to say she was scheduled to leave Columbus on the 8:30 pm flight which would arrive at TPA about 11. If anything delayed that flight, I’d be forced to stay in a hotel at the airport when we’d already paid close to $200 a night for the condo in Siesta Key. Decision made.
I contacted Uber. If you’re not familiar with Uber, keep reading. Uber is a phone app that launched in 2009 and is now available in 55 countries and 270 cities worldwide. In short, you “request, ride, and pay via your mobile phone.” (Uber.com) I downloaded the app, entered my credit card information, and requested a ride. Within 5 minutes I had a text that said my ride was 5 minutes away. I jumped up, paid my wine bill, and flew (no pun intended) through the airport having no idea where Uber would pick me up.
I’d read about the conflict between Uber and the taxi companies in Tampa so I should have expected trouble when the fellow at the taxi stand, seeing my distress, said, “Can I help you?” and I responded, “Probably not, I’m looking for my Uber ride.” Well, that elicited a stronger reaction than I expected when he started yelling that Uber better not show up there and they would pay a $10,000 fine if they did. I raced away from the taxis and went back inside to hide. There I texted back to Uber asking where they would pick me up. The response was, “Sorry we’re not sure what you want. Download the Uber app at uber.com/app. Std msg data rates may apply.”
I opened the app and saw a picture of Nader, my driver, his car information and phone number, and a map showing his location approaching the airport. Just then my phone rang and it was Nader asking where I was. I told him my location and within minutes, he arrived to pick me up. It was that easy…once I knew what I was doing.
Whew! After observing the obligatory social conventions with Nader, otherwise known as giving him the third degree about his background, family and job, I called my husband to report my whereabouts. When I told him I was riding to Siesta Key with Nader from Uber, he said, “Oh, the company I’ve read about having some problems with sexual assaults.” Great. That gave me confidence.
Obviously, I arrived alive and unharmed. After all, you’re reading the story. I had a positive first experience with Nader from Uber and I would recommend giving Uber a try. By the way, after your ride, you rate the Uber driver on the app and the driver rates you, the customer. Interesting. Although it actually wasn’t much cheaper than a taxi or a shuttle, with the coupon I saved some money.
I finally arrived at Siesta Key about 7:30 that evening, but Gail didn’t arrive until many hours later. But that’s another story.
Based on events from March, 2015
Whew…I am tired out just reading about it. Sometimes travel is truly and ‘adventure’, isn’t it?