A Southerner takes a side job as an Uber driver to meet people and discover more about his Tennessee community in this debut memoir.
Grimsley was a 63-year-old living in Knoxville who worked as an employee benefits specialist for a local firm. In his spare time, he performed in an acoustic folk band and narrated e-books, while his wife, Trisha, ran a flourishing petsitting business. Grimsley enjoyed filling up his spare time, so when he heard a co-worker describing Uber, he looked into it. He didn’t need the money, really, but was intrigued by the idea of meeting strangers and learning about their lives. He was approved quickly as a driver and set out in his Hyundai Sonata in a one-year experiment to see what Knoxville’s Uber crowd had in store. University of Tennessee students made up a good deal of his first passengers, and they told tales of drunken parties, fraternity/sorority customs, and ambitious academic plans. The university also brought an international crowd to the city of 180,000 people, such as Onaedo, a Nigerian chemistry student who hoped to become a pharmacist, and Biyu, a Chinese student who was surprised by the unfamiliar appearance of a possum in the road. Many riders were trying to avoid a DUI charge or already had one. In one surprising story, a rider named Austin got a DUI though he wasn’t in a car. As the year progressed, Grimsley got presidential election updates from Fox News Radio, leading one passenger to cry out, “Eeww, Fox News, just like my dad, yuck!” Nevertheless, the author was warming to Donald Trump over his original choice, Marco Rubio. Grimsley writes with a nonjudgmental perspective about his diverse passengers in a series of vignettes, identified here by changed names, and seems genuinely interested in their lives. He respected those who wished to be silent, though toward the end he admits he became pushy in a few instances. He nicely portrays Knoxville as a vibrant city full of determined students, numerous music festivals, fine restaurants, and the odd bacchanalian party down by the river. His dedication to the gig is impressive, even letting it interrupt meals, and he vividly remembers his riders, hoping things will go well for them.
A light, enjoyable story about a new Uber driver anxious to absorb some local color.