Greetings, fellow dystopians! Today Uber unveiled a slate of new personalization options available in its Uber Black cars, the rideshare company's higher-priced luxury vehicles. Riders can now alert their drivers that they need help with baggage (I assume this is about luggage, but I'm going to try emotional baggage and let you know) and request that the driver wait longer than the normally allotted five minutes (for those moments when the Uber arrives one minute after you ordered it and you still have no shoes on and also you need to finish this episode of Law & Order). Uber Black riders, to the delight of the aggressively anti-social everywhere, can also now request a Quiet Mode where the driver will not speak to you, look at you, or acknowledge your existence in any way.
With the addition of Quiet Mode to Uber Black's fancy cars, would it be fair to say that the ride-share company is offering The Silence of the Lambos?
See, now that's the kind of terrible joke that you'd miss out on if I was your Uber driver and you used the Zip Ya Lips spell on me like Billy Butcherson from Hocus Pocus.
On the whole, I get this new feature. Whomst among us not had the experience of being spoken to when all we desired was to stare at our phones, where our real friends are? But that's called being alive on Earth in the present. You really must ask yourself, do you want anyone to speak to me? Unless you are offering me a free sample at Costco, let's pretend we're both permanently living in the first 15 minutes of Wall-E. My favorite portrayal of the human experience is by little sad robot.
That said, there's something very severe about being able to click a button to make a total stranger shut up. This isn't a person who is telling you to smile on the street, this is just a person who is trying to do their job. This is very on brand with the theme of this epoch which seems to be The Most Possible Yikes.
Kind of weird, don't you think, that everyone asked Uber to give women the option to request a woman driver and instead they were like, "Hm. Interesting. What if, instead, you were able to passive-aggressively communicate a hatred of human connections. Would that help?"
I mean, maybe?
Also, if you command your coachman to be quiet, you run the risk of never hearing some of the truly wild things other people—humans! On Earth!—think they should tell you. One time a rideshare driver told me about being involved in all sorts of white collar crime as a furniture salesman in the 1980s. You don't get that in Quiet Mode, mostly because it's hard to mime "And then I wore a wire to a hotel bar during a conference." Trust me, I've tried.
Another rideshare driver told me about being kidnapped in South America! Kidnapped! Robert Louis Stevenson up in here! He just casually dropped it after talking about his grad school course load. I had to stick my head out of the window to keep from fainting from shock. Every rideshare trip has the potential to be a live performance of The Moth Radio Hour. And just yesterday, another driver told me about how she refuses to take left turns. That's not really a story but it sure was interesting! And we got to where I was going very quickly so if you ask me and Sherri, left turns are trash.
I'm just saying the bad parts of Quiet Mode may outweigh the good. I feel like, perhaps, there should be different sub-categories of Quiet Mode so there's little room for misunderstanding.
Quiet Mode: Hangover. "I would talk to you but there's a New Orleans brass band inside my head playing a funeral march for my brain."
Quiet Mode: Driver Is Too Hot. "I would love to engage you in conversation, fellow non-cyborg, but you are very attractive and I will make it weird, I guarantee."
Quiet Mode: Dental Surgery. "Mmmfff rrrrmmm nnnpppl."
Quiet Mode: Dianne Wiest in Bullets Over Broadway. "No, no, don't speak. Don't speak. Please don't speak. Please don't speak. No. No. No. Go. Go, gentle Scorpio, go. Your Pisces wishes you every happy return."
Just a thought. Anyway, I'll shut up now and let you get back to your scrolling. Please remember to give me 5 stars.
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R. Eric Thomas R Eric Thomas is a Senior Staff Writer at ELLE.com, home of his daily humor column "Eric Reads the News," which skewers politics, pop culture, celebrity shade, and schadenfreude.