College President Explains Why He Moonlights As Uber Driver

Imagine you’re a student at tiny Oglethorpe University in Atlanta and you’re in need of a lift home because you’re in no shape to drive. So you pull out your smartphone and request an Uber car. When your ride arrives, your driver looks awfully familiar… probably because he’s the school’s president.

In a first-person story for the Washington Post, Oglethorpe U. President Lawrence Schall explains why he decided to spend some of his free time as an Uber driver — and what he’s learned from the experience.

“I signed up because I wanted to broaden my perspective on today’s ‘sharing economy,'” he writes. “Since the 2008 recession, many Americans have been pushed into or chosen to join the freelance marketplace, taking jobs with no regular hours, no benefits and no office.”

And so Schall went online, registered his Volvo with Uber and recently began picking up passengers in need of a lift. Considering his already hefty workload as the head of a small liberal arts college, his driving hours are limited mostly to weekends.

When he began working as a driver, his “coach” told Schall he could earn upwards of $300 in a night if he knew which parts of town to patrol at the right time. But so far, the results have been underwhelming.

“My biggest one-day take thus far has been $29,” he admits. “Even with my limited schedule, I thought I’d do a bit better than that. Maybe it’s a good thing I didn’t leave my day job.”

That’s also not great news for the Oglethorpe scholarship fund, to which Schall has pledged to contribute all his Uber earnings.

Schall’s preconceptions about the types of riders he would pick up proved misguided. He’d thought his car would be filled with college students, but aside from his very first passenger (who happened to be an Oglethorpe student), most of his fares have people going been to and from the MARTA train station.

“Instead of getting a glimpse into the new economy, I was getting full exposure to the burdens of the old economy — specifically, how hard it is for regular working people to make it from their home or apartment to a job every day,” he notes.

His work has also taken him to some of the Atlanta suburbs populated by large numbers of lower-income, minority residents who need to get back and forth to the city but who lack proper public transportation.

“[I]f I hadn’t started this little experiment, my path would probably never have crossed the lives of any of these people whose life stories continuously surprise me,” concludes Schall. “After three weeks, my earnings are approaching $100, but I sure feel richer for the experience.”

And now, just because we can’t get it out of our head, here’s Harry Chapin singing about being a taxi driver:

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