Monthly Archives: December 2015

UBER where art thou?

As the UBER debate rages across our country and others, I have a few holiday-time stories that make my opinion clear.

The first was early in the month. I was attending an event that gave out taxi chits at the end of the evening, very responsible, very classy. No fewer than three times on the ride home (it was a 10 minute drive) the driver said that I should just give the chit to him and he’ll take care of filling it out. I never said anything, but intending on filling the thing out myself, thinking it only fair considering it wasn’t my money that was footing the bill.

Once we arrived at my house I started filling out the information with every intention of giving a generous by fair tip. However, as soon as the driver noticed this he started yelling and berating me that I should of given it to him to fill out and that I would never get a cab again in my life if I didn’t. I handed him the chit and walked into my house, but the whole situation was fairly unnecessary and unsettling.

Number two was post-Christmas leaving a Jets game. A friend and I were both going to the St. Boniface-ish area and flagged down the closest taxi. When the driver pulled over he wouldn’t unlock the doors, but rolled down the window. When he asked where we were going and was told “St. Boniface” he responded, “Not far enough,” and drove away. We were able to find another cab, but still that is a pretty terrible way to treat potential customers.

The third incident was later that same night. Leaving a different friend’s place I called another taxi, which arrived on time. The driver than proceeded to drive like a maniac to my place, and when I paid I was told that I couldn’t use credit card and he didn’t have any change. He cemented himself a very nice tip.

There are so many similar stories to these and many far worse, which serve as the reason that so many consumers are hoping and praying for the government to get out of the way of UBER. To be fair I understand that the regulations put on taxis are unfair, but by artificially creating a duopoly in the market, customer service and innovation are dead. Having a system like UBER’s could easily have solved all the above issues:

  1. After the holiday party the UBER rides could be automatically charged to the company’s account, eliminating the need for any paperwork to be filled out.
  2. We would have been assigned an UBER car and left them a lousy review if they refused to pick us up.
  3. The payment being done electronically gets rid of the awkward “My card machine is broken” conversation that is part of so many cab rides. Also, I could leave a bad review for the poor driving.

Who knows if and when ride services will be allowed into Manitoba, but I hope they are by the time any kids of mine can drive (probably still a tall order, if past ‘progress’ in this province has been any indication). On top of everything else, it seems like a great way to earn some money for someone with a car.

My Birthday

I was born on Christmas Eve. December 24. A week before New Years.

This isn’t based on any sort of study, but I’m going to venture a guess that being born in the immediate vicinity of Christmas Day (December 24 to 26 for sure, but probably the week preceding and following to a lesser extent) has a greater impact on your life than any other time of year. This isn’t a sob story, but rather me reflecting on a life of essentially everyone to learns my birthday making some sort of comment.

For the majority of you who are born during another time of year, think of the reactions that you’ve received upon telling someone your birthday. I have to assume there isn’t much of a dialogue other than the occasional, “Oh, you’re born August 23? My Grandma was born August 26. Crazy.” Quite often you probably are met with 5 seconds of interest followed by indifference.

Now imagine that a good 50% of the time (number completely made up, but that’s how it seems) someone finds out about your birthday be it through conversation, an invitation or renewing a drivers license, it’s the starting off point of a conversation. Not just any conversation, but inevitably one of two conversations:

  1. Is it weird being born the day before Christmas?
  2. Do you get ripped off with presents?

For years my standard response has been, “I’ve never had another birthday, so I can’t really compare it to anything.” I think it’s fairly polite, but still points out that it’s a fairly awkward question to answer. What do I say? “Yeah, I never get enough stuff!” or “It’s so weird and I regret being born every day.”? Seems a little extreme and both are likely inaccurate.

I’m sure as a kid I pouted, but truth be told all evidence shows my parents are painfully fair with their kids. Not to mention that I have a brother born December 13 and my mom’s birthday is December 28, we’re well versed with having birthdays being side attractions.

The other thing that throws a wrinkle into the mix is that my parents had the choice to either put me in kindergarten when I was 4-turning-5, but chose to delay me starting school a year. So I went to school with people born in 1987, but was born at the end of 1986. They’re teachers and that year of development can mean a lot in terms of academic success. There was some teasing that I was too stupid for kindergarten the first time around, but luckily I was usually a pretty smart kid so it usually fell flat. I also hold onto the fact that my parents bought me a Mensa puzzle book as a kid to show I wasn’t a complete dunce. The whole genius thing definitely didn’t pan out, though.

So other than having that same conversations hundreds of time over my lifetime about a couple of situations that weren’t in my control and some businesses not being open on my birthday (there’s been some good attempts at having lunch at favourite restaurants that didn’t work out), it’s nice that family and friends are already making an attempt to see one another during this time of year. That is until Malcolm Gladwell wrote Outliers.

For those of you who haven’t read it, the first part of the book is about how birthdays can be broad indicators of academic and athletic success. That is to say, kids born in the first quarter of the year, on average, are better at both than kids born the second quarter, who are better than the third quarter. Those of us unfortunate souls relegated to the last quarter of the year are, on average, the worst.

Ever since this book was released there seems to be very open conversation about how people really don’t want their kids born in the later part of the year. I know their opinions really don’t have any baring on my life, but it’s a slight jab every time some says something like, “I’m due mid-December, but really hope the baby waits until January.”

While I love books like Outliers, statistics are used to generalize large groups and they don’t really apply to the individual. Just like if you were to poll five dentists it’s not very likely that exactly four of them would recommend Colgate, just because you have a kid born from October to December, doesn’t mean you should start teaching them how to bag groceries early on.

So don’t sell yourselves short, parents, you probably have way more of an impact on your child than the date they were born. I’m sure if you provide a safe, nurturing environment they’ll reach their full potential.

Oh, and next time you meet someone with a birthday on or around Christmas, treat it like any other day and just let it pass. We appreciate it.