When you sign up as a rideshare or delivery driver, becoming a hero might be the furthest thing from your mind. Soon, though, you’ll undoubtedly learn that being a driver can put you in a position where “doing the right thing” could change the course of a passenger’s or customer’s life – often literally.
In this article, we’ll open up in full voice to take notice of the unsung heroes of the gig economy: rideshare and delivery drivers who, even when the odds were against them, went above and beyond the call of duty to make the world a better place. We’ll also look at the distinction between doing a good deed and inviting trouble, and how drivers can stay safe. Here’s what we’ll be covering:
- Driving in a very real world
- Going above and beyond the call of gig driving
- Is it always wise to be a hero?
- How can you avoid unhappy endings?
Driving in a very real world
The job of rideshare or delivery driver can seem self-contained enough. In truth, however, it’s a chance to see how we’re all connected. Even if you go out of your way to avoid getting involved with the daily dramas of passengers and delivery customers, sometimes your heart won’t let you stay out of situations where you know you can make a difference.
Have you ever picked up people who were literally too drunk to know where they were? It happens. One driver recounts a tale in which an inebriated young woman entered a trip that would take about 86 hours … a “ride” to Helsinki, Finland.
This rideshare equivalent of “drunk dialing” was annoying, but there was more at stake. The passenger wasn’t in the safest of neighborhoods, and her condition made her utterly defenseless. So, the driver decided to drop her where she said her friends were. The enormous fare to Northern Europe would surely have been nice, but the driver tried not to be too disappointed. It was nicer to just leave her safely protected by her friends.
People have all kinds of troubles, and we as drivers often get to witness those troubles personally. People we pick up outside a medical building come into the car crying, possibly because they’ve just been informed of a scary diagnosis. Or, we might deliver dinner to someone who’s got clothes stuffed into black garbage bags piled up on the porch. Maybe the bags contain the belongings of a departed loved one, which could definitely explain the tears in the person’s eyes.
Sometimes the best thing to do is… just do the job. People often don’t want to talk. Then again, they might open up and start to tell us their troubles. Being there to listen is that little thing most drivers will do for their customers. As long as the discourse doesn’t jump ethical or socially acceptable lines, it’s not typically a problem. In fact, doing this little thing to help a fellow human is, in its own way, heroic.
With that said, heroism can cover a wide range of actions, and there are many drivers who’ve taken it to the limit. Here are a few stories that are sure to make you admire your fellow drivers for the heroes they are.
Going above and beyond the call of gig driving
Let’s start with the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite the widespread threat of catching the virus, there were heroes delivering meals to people who were confined to their homes. Donning masks, sometimes gloves, and always with their thermal bags in hand, these drivers were a godsend for those who were housebound. Delivery drivers were also frequent visitors to hospitals and nursing homes, where overworked medical personnel and caretakers hungrily awaited their orders to arrive.
Rideshare drivers also risked exposure to the virus, ferrying medical workers and other essential worker heroes to and from their posts at the front lines of the pandemic.
These drivers, rideshare and delivery, helped people who were going through unsettling, uncertain times. In many locations, drivers had to carry documentation with them that stated as rideshare or delivery drivers, they fit the category of essential workers. Many sad and scary scenes are etched in those drivers’ memories now; although they got through it with flying colors, it’s easy for those of us on the outside to wonder how they did.
Whether drivers are simply lifting the spirits of ordinary people or getting involved in a major society-wide nightmare, rideshare heroes and lionhearted delivery drivers give the rest of us a lot to look up to – and that’s only the beginning of the story.
There are stories of rideshare and delivery drivers who’ve jumped over the line into hero status by handling situations that changed the lives of their customers, and others in their communities, too. Here are a few of those stories:
September 2021 – Pittsburgh, PA
An Uber driver picked up an elderly woman to take her to the bank. The woman told the driver she’d gotten a call telling her she won the lottery, and she had to go to the bank to send in a check for $1,500 to cover her taxes in advance, or else she’d never see her jackpot. And, she added, how nice it was of the person giving her the money to send an Uber to her house to take her there.
The driver smelled a rat and called the police. The officer who responded congratulated the driver for being so “on the ball,” and saving this poor woman from a nasty scam.
Then, the exact scene played out that same day, this time in Massachusetts. Fortunately, rideshare heroes are everywhere, so the police were called and the person involved was also not scammed out of $1,500.
March 2019 – Dallas/Fort Worth, TX
As we’ve noted, drivers witness a wide variety of activities and events while they’re out there on the road. Uber celebrated Michele Champoux in this article. An amazing hero among rideshare drivers, Champoux took a potentially tragic situation into her own hands and stopped the worst from happening.
After she and her passenger noticed that the vehicle in the next lane was on fire, Champoux took rapid action. Yes, she called 911, but that wasn’t all. She pulled in front of the smoking car and attracted the driver’s attention so they could both pull over. With her rider’s assistance, Champoux helped the other driver release two children from their car seats in the back of the burning car.
Without minutes the car was engulfed in flames, but that didn’t deter Champoux. She continued to beat back the potential disaster by standing on the side of the highway, warning other cars to stay away until police and firefighting personnel arrived. This rideshare hero certainly earned every last kudo Uber sent her way. “I think it is our responsibility to help each other out,” says Champoux.
May 2021 – Chicago, IL
If you think carting around a few drunks and putting up with bad smells and rudeness constitute a rough night, consider what Chicago Uber driver Mike Bussan went through. He was just driving along, waiting for a ping to come in, when suddenly he heard the unmistakable sound of a car crash. He stopped, and then ran to the scene of the accident – and noticed that one of the occupants of the vehicle was bleeding profusely.
Bussan jumped into action, helped the two men into his vehicle, and drove them to the nearest hospital. Then, when he was offered a cash reward, he turned it down. That’s what you call a rideshare hero with a heart and humility.
September 2021 – Van Nuys, CA
There are also many stories of delivery drivers who have gone above and beyond to perform heroic acts … such as Gerson Tavares. He was on his way to a pickup when he noticed a tiny child toddling down a very busy street. Tavares screeched to a stop, got out of his car, and began frantically waving his arms at oncoming traffic to prevent the two-year-old from getting hit. He then scooped up the child and took him to his car.
Tavares called the police, who located the toddler’s family. For obvious reasons, the police also opened up an investigation with Child Protective Services.
August 2021, Woburn, MA
On a hot summer afternoon, an Amazon delivery driver came upon a house with a swimming pool – and heard a sound that was unlike anything he’d ever heard before. It turned out to be the howl of a terrified 14-year old husky that had wandered into the pool and was sinking. His head was just about to go under the water when the driver jumped in, still wearing his clothes and carrying his wallet and phone, to save the dog.
It was later revealed that the dog’s humans were on vacation, and only thought they had secured the gate to the pool. The husky wandered into the water, unsupervised, apparently just before the dog sitter was scheduled to arrive. The owners were deeply grateful to the driver for his good deed, and the dog continues to thrive. Hopefully, he learned his lesson and won’t be trying to swim unsupervised anytime soon!
Is it always wise to be the hero?
Whether it’s a person or a pooch that needs saving, there are times when doing the right thing and doing the wise thing are at odds. In all the hero stories we’ve covered so far, the drivers were able to do their good deeds without any harm coming to them. As a driver, you always have to be able to use your instincts, but listening to what your common sense tells you in a serious scenario can save your life.
For example, if you happen to come across a situation where there’s anger, chaos, and violence, of course you shouldn’t run straight into the danger zone. You’ll be far better off simply alerting the authorities and going on your way.
The story of a Washington, D.C. driver illustrates how dangerous it can be to not only try to help others, but to even attempt to fight back when you’re attacked. In March 2021, Uber Eats driver Mohammed Anwar was accosted by two teenage girls, whose plan was to hijack his vehicle.
They used a stun gun on Anwar. After a struggle over the steering wheel, the girls grabbed the wheel and took off, with Anwar hanging onto the side of his car. Rather than let go of his vehicle, Anwar fought them as he was dragged along by the reckless car thieves. He fought back … but ended up losing his life.
When it becomes apparent that you could be hurt or killed if you don’t get away from a dangerous situation, there’s only one decision to make: Get away as fast as possible. In Anwar’s case, it’s likely that being shocked by a taser interfered with his ability to think clearly. His tragic death was in no way his fault, but the incident does illustrate the wisdom of letting go of even our most precious possessions before we let someone take our lives.
His death – which could more accurately be described as a murder – is a tragic loss for his family and everyone who knew him. It’s also a sobering reminder for the community of drivers who have been forced to realize that at any time, they could find themselves in a similar situation. This leads us to ask another question.
How can you avoid these situations?
Most of us have the desire to do the right thing in almost any situation, but we also need to know when it’s wise to leave it to the pros. Here are some scenarios that might warrant a retreat rather than a bold charge into the fray:
- Violent arguments
- Shooting noises
- Gang attacks
When you’re outnumbered, cornered, or in vulnerable circumstances, it’s time to obey the first law that’s taught to every martial artist: When you are in danger, do everything you can to GET AWAY. You’re not going to be able to kung fu your way through 17 armed people carrying knives, chains, and guns.
Unless you’re qualified as a law enforcement or emergency officer of some kind, the best thing you can do is hit the gas pedal and call 911 as soon as you can to report the incident.
Do not let anyone see you using your phone, especially if a crime is in the process of being committed. If there’s a fire or explosion, evacuate the area immediately and call 9-1-1.
Be prepared, too. Know your apps, and be clear on how each one of them provides you with direct access to help, and in many cases, the ability to have loved ones track you and know where you’re located at any given time.
Remember, though … the fact that it isn’t always prudent to jump into a dangerous situation shouldn’t stop you from other acts of heroism. You can still pull your vehicle over and care for people in your community, and in the process, make a difference in their lives. Just make sure to assess the level of danger before you go in.