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‘Getting My Grind On’
Uber Joe on Making A Living in the Age of Planned Human Obsolescence

The monetized, redneck gearhead picked me up on a Sunday morning in Urban Flight, Pennsylvania, and, as we cruised across the upper reaches of the piedmont above the mighty Susquehanna River he told me, “Jimmy, this is it, this is me—I AM Uber Joe. I’m fifty now and every job I apply for I’m either overqualified or underqualified for. This is my full time thing, Uber Eats, Lyft [names three other delivery platforms] and regular clients like yourself—well, not as extreme as you, although I do have one NFL player who still hasn’t learned how to drive that I make good money on. I’m like the Indian guide into the interior. So many people are fleeing Baltimore after being dependent on mass transit and they don’t know their way around and half of them still don’t have a good job.

“Now, the ones with the jobs are the foreigners—tons of them, Ghana, India, Mexico, El Salvador, Senegal...”

“No, no Nigerians—they’re my competition and the Somalis don’t work so I don’t have to drive them around—wait a minute, got to help this guy out. He’s kind of old to get that bike up by himself. The saddle bags saved him from totally dumping it.”

Uber Joe then pulled over and got out in front of an older biker whose tiny frail was no use trying to get the huge hog back on its wheels. The good deed done, Uber Joe returned and the author inquired if he had business cards to hand out while changing old lady’s tires and helping old bikers and such.

“That’s a good idea—I’ve got to get my grind on. This is it, nobody wants me working for them since I don’t speak Spanish or work on computers. So here I am, on the road. I help people all the time. That and praying to God have been my business plan and it’s going okay. I even pray for you, Jimmy.”

The author responded that he prayed for Uber Joe to which Uber Joe winced, “But you’re an atheist?”

The author retorts, “No, I’m a heathen. I believe in the gods—even your Hanged God. I just don’t agree with him trying to make up for his daddy being a hard ass.”

“Jimmy, if I see a storm cloud you’re on the side of the road…”

“Of course I trust His aim—but this vehicle is my livelihood and my passengers like to drive in that seat you’re sitting in!”

“I’ll still pray for you, Bro,” assured the author.

“No! Lord, no. I’m a Christian.”

The author explained, “Well, in case some Somalis try and carjack you it can’t help having Odin and Thor for backup in case your God happens to be turning the other cheek at the moment.”

Uber Joe changes the subject, pointing at the Conawingo Damn as he zipped across:

“That’s a hundred and fifty deep there. A man and woman went over before they put the guardrail up in a Volkswagon bug. A friend of mine—a diver—was sent down to retrieve them, because there’s no getting that car door open at 150 feet and he saw them in there but something kept bumping him. It was a giant Sturgeon. He got to the surface and they sent a team down and they said the fish kept chasing them away. They’re still down there in that car.

“Look at all those bald eagles and vultures—Ospreys too. When they open the sluices the fish get tore up and they all wash up on the rocks below and the birds have a field day.

“I need you to measure your ring finger for me. I have a merchant’s license. I can buy stuff from China. People charge four grand to put in a stereo system for a car and I can get it all for fifteen-hundred. Like I told you, I’m getting my grind on. I’m going to buy umbrellas and sell them on rainy days. My customers have been getting mugged. My one customer, his daughter has been raped twice on the street down in Dundalk, which is totally overrun. So I’m ordering tap rings from China. When you slap somebody with it two needles come out and stick them.”

The ghetto of Baltimore soon loomed near and conversation turned to darker things as the streets were less travelled, more deeply pitted and straddled with scowling figures dusky villains who would have seemed more congruent wearing nose rings.

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Add Comment
Bryce SharperJune 19, 2019 11:11 AM UTC

"“Now, the ones with the jobs are the foreigners—tons of them, Ghana, India, Mexico, El Salvador, Senegal...”

We really have no choice but to start working for ourselves again. The jobs in "computers" - tech and so forth - often go to foreigners too. Now you see foreigners wearing shirts saying, "Immigrants: we get the job done." I'm realistic about the American work ethic: it has declined along with the rest of our ethics. However, the government and corporations keep making work unprofitable versus the dole or impossible to get. Yet still we have "record low" unemployment. Go figure.