art, words & oddities


The Multi-Cultural Soundtrack of Uber

     On a recent trip to Los Angeles I was pleasantly surprised by the soundtrack of Uber.  I couldn’t help but take notice of the music being played by each driver, unique to his or her own heritage and lifestyle. My drivers expressed themselves by the songs playing in their cars - listening to what they loved - and what they loved was what they knew.

    My first ride, from LAX to Hollywood, was colored by the music of Bollywood. I didn’t understand the words, but I could tell they were love songs. The conversation with my driver was interrupted, at times, by the sounds of passion and longing. He actually chuckled at one point, moved by the emotional male singer and the melodrama echoing throughout the early morning hours.

    Another ride, from Hollywood to Glendale was filled with Jazz. The car became enrapt in tempo and time signatures as my driver explained he was a retired professor of music. Being delighted to have met JK Simmons on various occasions, he told of what a nice fellow he was, and how Simmons explained to him that the actor’s first love was music.

    Then there was the young man driving to Melrose Trading Post, listening to Hip Hop. We had common interests as he was also a writer, having published a series of books. We talked about self-publishing and he gave me some pointers. It was both an entertaining and educational trip…I didn’t want it to end for I knew there was much more I could glean from him.

    At the risk of sounding stereotypical, I didn’t explain that my first driver was of Indian descent and the next two drivers were African American - but they were. The music was good and served as the soundtrack for conversations that were real. 

    In between, there was the laid back hippie guy who moved to L.A in the sixties, the woman from Vegas relocating to be nearer to her daughter who is a singer, and the young man hoping to make it as an actor - all driving while curating the soundtracks of their lives.

    I realize that riding in an Uber is a very intimate experience. I am in someone’s personal vehicle, after all, and it sure feels that way. The first thing I say when hopping in is “How’s your day going?” After that, I get to know the driver on a human level, it gets as personal as it can in ten to thirty minutes. 

    So, on my last drive out of  Los Angeles, on the way to the airport, my driver, a man from Mexico was playing Mexican music. At one point he turned it off to switch on Top 40 radio, and commercials ensued.  I asked him why he turned off his music and he told me he wasn’t sure if I liked it. I told him I loved it, then we started to have a conversation, and again, it got personal. We actually talked politics. I asked him if, being from Mexico, he, his family, or friends felt the pressures of our current government. He explained he was a seventeen year veteran of Coca-Cola, he was retiring in a few years and had a bright future, but he couldn’t say that for the rest of the people he knew. 

    Before I knew it, we were at the airport and our discussion was over. However, the memories of my drivers and our conversations are not. I will take their stories with me wherever I go and those stories will all be accompanied by the music I heard in their cars...the soundtracks of their lives. Music that is the multi-cultural soundtrack of Uber.