Q-and-A with Sacramento Uber driver Syed Hussain

“I believe taxicabs run a monopoly on consumers, and no one could really do anything about it until companies like Uber.”

Uber driver Syed Hussain.

Uber driver Syed Hussain.

photo by lovelle harris

It's difficult to remember my first Uber ride, probably because I was more than a few brews into the evening. But I do remember that Syed Hussain was my driver. And that you don't have to tip Uber drivers or have cash to get a ride. For those not in the know: Uber is a mobile-device-based car service. Open the app on a smartphone, request a car, one typically arrives in fewer than four minutes, and pay with a credit card on the app. It's usually cheaper than a cab—much cheaper—and you don't have to chase an Uber car down. Driver Operations guy for Uber Jason Fiedler said that the company’s luxury car came to Sacramento in February of last year, and UberX (its blue-collar version; that's how I ride) in September. Hussain is an X driver and was nice enough to chat about life on the cabbie-tech frontier.

I don’t own a car, so I think any car is cool. But your car is truly sweet. What model is it?

Ooh, thanks. It's a 2007 BMW 328i. I think it's time for an upgrade.

Already? If you could own any car, what would it be?

Probably any Lambo. Aventador, to be precise.

I have no clue what that is, but I think you mean Lamborghini, right? Why that car?

Because that's not just a car, it's a piece of art.

What’s your craziest Uber experience?

I have had many passengers who drive for the company Lyft. I think it is pretty crazy that people will ride with their competitors.

For sure. I guess I should stop reading The Sacramento Bee. What is your most memorable experience driving for Uber?

I took my boss from Sacramento to San Francisco on my first trip. It was my longest and most informative trip.

After talking with him, do you think companies such as Uber and Lyft will replace taxis?

Yes, I think so.

How? Tell me why taxis disappear.

I believe taxicabs run a monopoly on consumers, and no one could really do anything about it until companies like Uber, [which] have given their consumer more options. It is a better and more reliable option and has made the process easier. Almost every client I get has complained about how horrible and unreliable taxicabs are.

Yeah, sometimes I even get tired of Taxi Dave. Speaking of which: What’s the best music to listen to while driving?

For someone getting off from work or a couple going to dinner, I usually try to play soft and relaxing music like jazz. If it's a young couple on a weekend night, I'll play the local hip-hop station. … Or I ask if they have any preference.

Where is your favorite local spot to drive?

Old Sacramento, because it captures the beauty of Sacramento.

Do people ever call for a ride just to get food? Is it proper etiquette to ask to go to a drive-thru?

Yes. Definitely. The client is paying for the fare, so I feel it's OK for them to ask to stop to pick up food.

I’ve been missing out.

Sometimes people call just for that reason.

Does anyone ever have anything interesting to talk about?

Most passengers usually talk about their day, like how it's been or what they have planned. Every now and then, they will ask about my experience about driving, or I'll ask about their experience with Uber. I like to know how clients feel about the company.

When you’re not working, do you make your wife drive?

No, I don't have to drive. My wife can drive, but I usually drive on long trips, because she's better than I am at taking care of kids on long trips.

If you could drive anyone as your passenger, who would it be and why?

I would love to ride with Jesus, because as a Muslim, I have a tremendous amount of respect for him. I would ask him if there is a way to stop Christians and Muslims from hating each other. Especially because the two religions are pretty similar.