Ann Constantino Beck: Forest Hills mom is an Uber driver

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Passengers feedback: ‘Very friendly’ and ‘a quick ride.’

Passengers feedback: ‘Very friendly’ and ‘a quick ride.’

By Cristina DC Pastor

Two years ago when her husband was laid off, aspiring artist Ann Constantino Beck was thrust – literally — into the driver’s seat. She became an Uber driver, and for several months, was the family’s breadwinner.

Ann is among the 14 percent of women across the country who drive for the popular ride-sharing service, according to a Forbes article. Safety may be the biggest concern for women, but for Ann, 40, a mother of two young children, it is abusive passengers that get her thinking how much longer to continue being an on-demand driver.

She is talking about passengers who are not only critical about driving style – either too fast or too slow – but also use profanities on drivers. She picked up one complicated passenger on 72nd Street one morning, and Ann did not anticipate what was to come. She was blamed for the traffic, cursed and yelled at for being a slow driver. For getting her 20 minutes late to her destination, the passenger gave Ann a low rating, bringing down her 5-star record for “excellent service.” One common comment about her was she is “very friendly “and “a quick ride.”

“There are inconsiderate people, people who are not happy with life,” said Ann with a shrug. “As a driver you are not supposed to show you are emotional. That was my first traumatic experience.”

With Uber, ratings and tips make the driving experience a thrill of a ride. You get the good and the bad — boorish passengers but also kind riders who sometimes give tips more than the actual fare, or give them in cash.

“Every passenger is a new learning experience for me, but overall I like meeting people,” she told The FilAm.

With children Tristan and Lauren at the Queens Zoo.

With children Tristan and Lauren at the Queens Zoo.

She particularly likes passengers coming from bars, passed-out drunk. “Usually they just sit there and sleep.”

But there was one incident that gave her the creeps: A foreign passenger coming from a bar who refused to get out of her car. She tried gentle persuasion and driving around the block, but it was the threat of calling 911 that got the guy to leave in haste. “He said I’m the only one who listens to him.”

Listening is a skill Ann has in reservoir. She listens to riders talk about frustrations on the job, at home, and wherever they find them. Usually, she engages the passenger in short conversations, without revealing too much about herself or offering profound advice that touches on religion or politics. She gets an earful of politics, as in the time immediately after the 2016 elections where her pool of passengers included two Republicans and two Democrats.

“There was a debate all in good fun,” she said. “Maingay sila, but we were all engaged. I dropped them off one after the other and they all came out going to the same neighborhood. I like Uber Pool.”

Chatting up passengers is also a way to get high ratings because the driver comes across as “friendly,” and makes riders “comfortable.” Ann’s 5-star ratings hinge on making passengers happy. There is music, bottled water, and candies in her car. There is also a puke bag for those who need one.

Is the money good?
Here’s Ann’s rule of thumb: “If you do it for 16 hours a day, you may be able to make $5K to $6K a month, but only if your body can take it. What you make depends on how much hours you put into it.” Some drivers do it to supplement income, or to finance hobbies like travel or expensive clothes. Ann said many of the drivers who trained with her appeared to be immigrants and people of color.

Her husband, a risk manager for a financial service company, has long been back in the workforce. Ann is still driving, but is also finding more time for her art and her children Tristan, 7, and Lauren, 4. “They are getting bigger every day.”

© The FilAm 2018

Ann curates an exhibit by the International Women Artists.

Ann curates an exhibit by the International Women Artists.

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