Uber is a common choice for people who need to get from point A to point B. It’s fast and convenient, though often impersonal. Who hasn’t fiddled with a phone in the backseat while being schlepped to the airport?
That wasn’t the experience Shareece Wright had when the NFL player got to know driver Hadi Abdollahian on an epic eight-hour, five-state trek from Chicago to Buffalo.
The road trip started on Sunday when Wright, a cornerback who recently signed with the Bills, worried he wouldn’t make it to Buffalo in time for the team’s 8 a.m. practice after his flight was cancelled. Wright opted for Uber after Tamerat Berhe, Wright’s agent, couldn’t find a flight that would get the rookie to the facility on time.
“It was really just a time issue,” Berhe said.
The lighthearted story is a counter to serious issues dogging Uber, which has become the poster child for Silicon Valley’s race and gender problems. Uber has also grappled with a reputation for a toxic culture and aggressive practices.
Abdollahian says he and Wright got to know each other well during the ride, swapping stories about their families. Abdollahian told Wright that he was a refugee from Turkey and drove for Uber to cover his college costs. He didn’t know who Wright was before the ride, which made for a more natural conversation.
Wright requested an Uber at around 10 p.m. CT, asking for ride to Buffalo. Abdollahian mistakenly thought he meant to the nearby suburb of Buffalo Grove. As they started the trip, however, Abdollahian soon realized Wright wanted to go 550 miles east.
“I’m a man of my word,”Abdollahian said. “I promised him.”
Abdollahian wasn’t the first driver Wright had reached out to. Berhe said Wright had requested rides from other Uber drivers, but they all cancelled, presumably because of the distance involved.
Wright was headed to an organized team activity, which isn’t mandatory. But the defensive end, who played at USC, is a “very committed guy,” Behre said, adding the player didn’t want to drive himself because he was worried he’d fall asleep. “He just figures that he has to lead by example.”
Wright gave Abdollahian a five-star rating and a $300 tip on top of the $632.08 fare.
But what was perhaps most valuable was the interaction itself.
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