All hail the wise and all-seeing Uber oracle

Uber taxi driver in New Delhi, India. (Dhiraj Singh/Bloomberg)

Uber taxi driver in New Delhi, India. (Dhiraj Singh/Bloomberg)

THE FIFTH COLUMN

Uber, the taxi service platform, is not just a new model of capitalism. It’s the new Delphic oracle.

It is said that eight out of 10 Uber drivers correctly predicted the results of the recent local government elections. And six comma five of all Uber passengers have found that the romantic advice dispensed by drivers has been exceedingly useful to them.

Myself, I tend to restrict my consultations with the oracle to fairly general concerns.
I don’t want to get too personal.

Just the other day, or at least within the past year or so, we were speeding along Upper Beach Road at 2am, my Uber driver and I, when I blurted out the question most searingly urgent in my mind: “Is it acceptable to serve a lapsang souchong at a thé dansant?”

Yes, said the driver, without a split second’s hesitation.

The absolute certainty with which he said it, and the fact that just as he said it we narrowly avoided hitting a car reversing up a one-way without lights, convinced me finally that Uber drivers are, indeed, the new oracles of Tweetland.

I have tested this notion repeatedly myself, over and above closely following any reported utterances of the oracle on the internet and in my phone feed.

I even asked my driver the other day about Uber itself. “What is it?” I asked. (I thought perhaps it was named after that song Nazis sing in movies.)

In a heartbeat, the driver said: “Uber is a new model of capitalism – Ubercapitalism, if you like! It’s the step beyond the Amazon stage, which is in turn a step beyond the retail-space stage. With me so far?”

“Yes,” I said, with a catch in my breath.

“So, the Amazon stage is the stage at which your main cost is warehousing and staff, because you’ve done away with the retail space or you’ve virtualised it. Okay?”

“Yes, yes, don’t stop.”

“With über-capitalism, you have now externalised the cost of the vehicle, the support staff, the switchboard, all that, as well. Got it?”

“Yes, yes,” I said. “Yes.” He said: “That’ll be a hundred bucks.”

But there’s more. Stuck in traffic once on Buitenkant Street (which we never should have taken in the first place, but GPS rules), I fired a volley of questions at my Uber driver, mostly concerning the purpleness of the highest chakra and such things, and you know, he just got it right every time.

“Where do you feel it when your base chakra is disturbed?”

“In my bum.”

“That’s exactly where I feel it!” I screamed, overcome by intense excitement.

He shivered a little, but that’s to be expected when you’re possessed by the god or goddess, even if you don’t know He or She or It is speaking through you.

“Okay, now, gimme some white chakra ...”

“The lights –” he began. And then we hit the pole.

Shaun de Waal

Shaun de Waal

Shaun de Waal has worked at the Mail & Guardian since 1989. He was literary editor from 1991 to 2006 and chief film critic for 15 years. He is now editor-at-large. Recent publications include Exposure: Queer Fiction, 25 Years of the Mail & Guardian and Not the Movie of the Week. Read more from Shaun de Waal

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