My experience using Uber: A review

I love the cute little Uber cars which tells you how many Uber cars are around, and how far they are from you.

I love the cute little Uber cars which tells you how many Uber cars are around, and how far they are from you.

I haven't had the reason to use Uber in Kuala Lumpur, but many of my friends raved about the car-sharing app and said that they couldn't live without it.

All I know about Uber is that it seems to create ripples everywhere it goes. Uber riders may love it, but governments seem inclined to ban it. There's always some form of protest when it comes to town!

In Malaysia, it's the same. Taxi associations have been protesting Uber's encroachment upon its ricebowl, and I've even seen "No Grabcar" (another Uber-like app) spray painted at a bus stop once - as if the taxis could claim sole right to pick up passengers there.

When I had to go to Penang for a holiday, I was recommended Uber to get around. Since I couldn't afford taxi everywhere I went I thought I'd give it a shot.

Using Uber

Using the app is really easy. So you just download the app to your smartphone, and then click on the icon and you're ready to use it. Then, you set your pick up point, and then where you want to be dropped off.

You can also get a fare estimate.

What I love about the app is how it shows you where Uber cabs are in the vicinity. When you book a Uber ride, you will be informed about your driver's Name, car type, plate number and be given his phone number.

Usually you (or the driver) will call the driver to tell him exactly where you want to be picked up.

Wow, I have to say that I am amazed at how cheap it is. RM5 to get to Eastern & Oriental from Times Square, and RM7 to get to Botanic Gardens from Times Square... this is quite affordable, especially to my friends who had the mighty Aussie dollar.

Freelance economy - good or bad?

Still, despite the ease and affordability, I'm not a fan of the freelance economy and what it does to the common man. I feel that Uber drivers had to struggle so much to get decent income.

I told one Uber driver that I actually felt guilty only giving him RM5 for the ride, so I gave him a tip. He was a happy camper.

He said that it was tough to make a living as a full-time Uber driver in Penang as they (Uber, I think) had slashed the rates. Most Uber drivers now have to make do with two jobs.

You can estimate your fare ... I don't think it's a fair price, to be honest ... Uber drivers in Penang gets paid way too low.

You can estimate your fare ... I don't think it's a fair price, to be honest ... Uber drivers in Penang gets paid way too low.

Downsides

Of course, people using Uber are worried about safety issues, and I heard a few horror stories from a friend, who said that although there are horror stories, they are rare exceptions.

My first uber ride was not a great one - the man was clearly lost, could barely communicate properly with me, so he actually went round and round my pickup area and we yelled instructions at each other over barely audible smartphone audio. I tried to tell him where I was, but he didn't get me, and I didn't get what he was trying to say so in the end he picked me up after half an hour of waiting.

I was cross by then, but I could see that he was nervous as Uber drivers are rated after every ride, and they have to maintain a high rating. He gave me a discount, probably felt bad for the whole thing too.

Again, not a fan of the freelance economy sometimes, but I guess you gotta buck up if you are a Uber driver.

So would I recommend Uber?

Yup, most certainly!

Of the 10 rides or so my friends and I had in Penang, only one was not up to snuff, but even then it wasn't horrid as the man had a very clean car with great air-conditioning and I got to my destination with limbs and sanity intact.

Yes, you do have horror stories, but taxi rides have as many horror stories too. You will get a receipt of your Uber ride and details of the Uber driver, his car number plate and phone number, so it helps.

Review of A Thousand Naked Strangers: A Paramedic's Wild Ride to the Edge and Back

A thousand naked strangers

 KEVIN Hazzard was a reporter with a comfortable life. Then, Sept 11 happened, and he was suddenly thinking about "all the things I hadn't done."

Listening to his soldier friends recount life-and-death experiences of war, Hazzard suddenly felt that his world was too safe, too routine. He wanted to test himself and see if he could handle the pressure of facing death in the face.

So, he became a paramedic.

Hazzard quickly tells the reader that he didn't do so because he had the noble thirst to save humankind from suffering.

I'm unconvinced, however, and believe that some tiny form of altruism was involved -- why else sign up for a low-paying job where you're shoved into situations where you could either a) end up killed? b) end up killing someone. This is alarming and depressing, but through this memoir I discovered that an emergency medical technician gets paid a few dollars more an hour than someone working in a fast food restaurant in the United States!

In what he described as a "rash decision", Hazzard signed up for emergency medical training and immediately had serious doubts. But stuck with it, he did, driven by the desire to see whether he could hack this intense life. And with clammy hands and a pounding heart, he became the crucial link between a person and the hospital a few months later at the age of 26.

Just a day in the job, Hazzard quickly realised that the scenarios painted in the classroom was ideal. Real life was far messier, frightening and heart-breaking.

WHAT I THINK

Hazzard experienced situations that would make your jaw drop. Collecting body parts strewn across a highway after a terrible road accident, evaluating a too-ripe corpse and wondering whether it'll "blow". Working on a patient while his patient's father watches TV, more concerned about his son's cigarette stash than his life.

These were situations where one would veer from celebrating humanity's great potential to losing hope that our species even deserved to even crawl out of the muck.

Hazzard worked for Atlanta's prominent imposing hospital, Grady, and in the worst areas of Atlanta, and no night is the same.

One reason this memoir was so effective was Hazzard didn't just highlight the uplifting moments where he saved people's lives. He also highlighted the corruption and politics that not just cause paramedics to be fired, but risked the lives of patients and paramedics too.

One's reaction to all this contributed to a medic being “a tourist” (just there to collect the pay), “true believer” (a medic who loves what he does) or “killer” (a medic so burnt out he no longer cares if his charges lived or died).

Hazzard has a way of writing a scene so that it comes alive. Example: "Marty trails, careful not to step on any of the maggots, all of them tiny squiggling urns, fat with the remains of a man not yet dead."

You can almost smell the scene.

Is it any wonder that the highs and lows of a paramedic's life comes alive? Hazzard combines his nose for the news, his great writing style and experience as a medic in one of the toughest neighbourhoods one can be a medic in and the result is this electrifying memoir.

One of the best memoirs I've read!

 

Disclaimer: I received an ARC copy from NetGalley

My first AirBnb experience

I love staycations. My friends find it weird that I'd check into a hotel at least once a month ... in the same city. But by staying somewhere new every month, not only does it feed that wanderlust beast in me, it feels like a relaxing day at the spa!

But hotel prices have been astronomical lately, and I've been getting more and more curious about the Internet phenom that is AirBnB. Since it was my first time, I made sure I booked with a host that has gotten a few good reviews. Here's the studio unit in Petaling Jaya I got in April:

So, this is what happens after you book your AirBnB unit (you have to pay up front): Your host would usually contact you - at least Vanessa did, and very promptly. In that email she detailed how I was to get the key. And we discussed, also via email, what time I was to "check in".

On the day: Finding Vanessa's unit was a little challenging, and on top of that I was desperately late because a lorry overturned on the highway. Luckily, the host was willing to wait an extra two hours for me. I fell in love with the apartment immediately. It was in a cosy green corner of Damansara Perdana and very near the shops. I could picture myself living here.

I've always been fascinated with living in a studio, so Vanessa's studio in Damansara Perdana scratched that itch.

Yup, I loved it! The minimalist in me really loved the simplicity and cosiness of studio living. The only thing stopping me for making studio living a permanent arrangement, however, is that the kitchen is often in the same room. That's a thing with me. I can't bear the thought of smelling bacon on my sheets - so perhaps a one-room apartment is better for me.

But I digress. Here's the best part about Vanessa's studio:

View last night at Damansara #staycation #airbnb

A photo posted by Elizabeth Tai (@liztaiwrites) on

Watching TV with a glass of cold lemonade with that gorgeous view? Man!

I wasn't lucky enough to buy an apartment with a killer view, but now a view like this is just an AirBnB reservation away. Who needs mortgages anyway?

So my first experience was a great one! I've already booked my second.

How about you? What's your experience with AirBnb?