Last week, Uber launched its latest ride-sharing feature, UberPool. Los Angeles is one of only four cities with UberPool, which allows users to jump in on someone else's ride and split the cost, as long as their final destinations are along the same route. Uber's promotional rates for the new service are enticing—just $5 from Beverly Hills to LAX or $15 from Downtown to Santa Monica.
As a median-income gay man living in Culver City, a $5 ride to WeHo is hard to pass up—especially if it allows me a couple of personality drinks at my apartment before I hit the strip. Sharing a ride with a complete stranger sounded a little intimidating at first, but then I got to thinking...could Uber—which has been stitched into our lives so finely and changed how we get around—revolutionize the way we meet people? Could forced physical interaction with a stranger, long dead in the digital age, be the key to meeting new friends, or even new lovers?
Consider this: Someone commandeers my ride to WeHo. This person happens to be a he, and he’s also very attractive. Imagine the conversation:
"Where you headed tonight?"
“A bar in WeHo, you?"
"Same. What bar?"
Suddenly my super-cute seatmate becomes my plus-one for the night. We dance all night. Meet each others' friends. Fall in love. Move in together. All thanks to sharing an Uber.
Okay, I'm jumping the gun. I know I’m thirsty/a hopeless romantic. Is this scenario improbable? Yes. Is it impossible? Not really.
Uber's new service is a curious social experiment gluing together the social cues that define who, and how, we date. One of the primary benefits of any taxi service, after all, is a guarantee of the privacy buses and subways can't offer. But when you offer a service that by definition eliminates privacy, encourages intimacy and is utilized most when we're en route to social events, the byproduct may be an exciting new form of engagement.
Admit it: a mainstay of dating in LA is that if you live more than four miles away, I’ve probably already filtered you out on Tinder. But with something like UberPool, I’m meeting you solely because we’re in the same neighborhood, and going to the same neighborhood, to boot. Two people heading to the same strip of bars, the same concert or the same sports event are now forced to converse. Small talk breeds questions. Answers determine chemistry. With geographic proximity and mutual interests out of the way, all you have to do is score on the last variable: mutual attraction. You win there, and your UberPool turns into speed dating.
It’s a jump, but in a time when dating has been supplanted by apps, texts, sexts, filters, online profiles and internet stalking...especially in the gay world, I wouldn’t mind such real-life encounters. I wouldn’t mind meeting someone the old-fashioned way.