Gary Tetz
Gary Tetz

I was scared, I’ll admit it. I had never used it before. It was all so intimidating and new. The old system worked fine for me, and I was comfortable with its inadequacies. You might think I’m describing the terrifying transition to electronic health records in long-term care, but I’m not. This is about my first ride with Uber.

Uber — for those of you who, like me, just crawled out from a multi-decade nap under a rock — is a renegade little company that has thoughtlessly upended our global taxi utopia. The old system was working perfectly well, in my opinion. We needed to get somewhere, we called a cab.

Whether trying to catch a plane, get home from a major sporting event or escape a dangerous part of a strange city, we could always count on a taxi arriving mere hours after our initial phone request. And if it didn’t, the dispatcher would apologize and send another one real soon. She promised.

So I needed to get across town fast, and out of force of habit was starting to call my favorite taxi company — the one with the yellow cars that won’t stop when you wave at them, especially in the rain. Just then, a young coworker with an amazed and pitying look on her face sensed my distress and suggested, “Why don’t you just use Uber?”

“Why don’t you wipe that smug smirk off your annoying, 23-year-old face,” I responded. “I don’t need your condescension.”

Turning away with indignance, I found a dark corner, quietly installed the Uber app on my pocket Facebook machine, and requested a ride. What happened next was nothing short of amazing. On my screen, little icons started converging and almost instantly a blue minivan pulled up to the curb. Though a stranger, the driver didn’t offer me candy, so I stepped right in with surprisingly little fear.

The drive itself didn’t take much longer than this article does to read, and by its conclusion my pilot and I were the best of friends. Since his entire world seemed to revolve around how I rated him, he agreed to give me five stars if I agreed to return the favor. “Why would it matter how many stars I receive?” I wondered aloud.

“Well,” he said, like he was sharing the secret Chipotle guacamole recipe. “If you’re rated low, you won’t get picked up.”

That’s when I knew it’s all over. The old models are no longer operational. From nursing home quality to our stay at the Motel 6, we’re all rating and being rated all the time — this is just how the world works now. It may not be real, or accurate, but it’s reality. So we might as well stop complaining about the Five-Star nursing home rating system, or electronic health records or any of the other new-fangled technologies that are about to destroy our comfortable, complacent lives.

“See, what did I tell you?” my smug co-worker said upon my safe return. I apologized for my earlier hostility, and gave her five stars. Plus a tip.

Things I Think is written by Gary Tetz, a national Silver Medalist and regional Gold Medal winner in the 2014 Association of Business Press Editors (ASBPE) awards program. He has amused, informed and sometimes befuddled long-term care readers worldwide since his debut with the former at the end of a previous century. He is a multimedia consultant for Consonus Healthcare Services in Portland, OR.