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Posted by smitty195 (Member # 5102) on :
It is with a very, very heavy heart that I have to let you guys know that Mike Smith is no longer with us.

I have no details----absolutely NOTHING. I would imagine that someone out there might get details before I do, and it would be great if you could post it. I do not know the cause. I do not know the location. I can not answer anyone's questions-----I'm sorry---but all I can say at this moment is that he passed.

I don't know how this is possible, but another good friend passed away at 3AM this morning. Two friends in one day, I don't understand why this keeps happening. (In case some don't know, I lost 11 friends in 2015; two to suicides from PTSD that was never diagnosed properly). I am also experiencing PTSD but for much different reasons. Images that should have haunted me back when they happened did not haunt me at all. I just wrote the report, took the measurements, took the photos of the human or infant pieces everywhere and never allowed it to get to me. But one day a few months ago I started having panic attacks, and I DO NOT PANIC. At least, up until then I hadn't. The doc says I 'compartmentalized" things, and now they're finally starting to come out. Whatever. All I know is stuff that never bothered me is bothering me now. It's the kids...oh the kids.....I can't get them out of my head. I'm slowly realizing that I saw things that a human being should never really have to see But someone's got investigate it, and I picked that job. I'm so glad i'm out now. It was fun while it lasted, but no more.

Sorry, this is NOT supposed to be about me. It's about Mike. When I learn more information, I will certainly post it. I don't know the cause or anything. All I know is what his son texted me. I'm waiting to hear back more but I think they're probably asleep by now.

I am sorry to be the one to pass along this news. And actually, wait a minute, I'm sorry. My head is not in the right place right now with two friends who have passed within 12 hours of each other. Mike's son did indeed text that he died Sunday morning, and that the viewing was today (Sunday). The funeral is tomorrow (Monday, April 11th). Now that I see this, I know I can't go. not last second like this. If anyone here CAN go on such short noticed, let me know and I'll get the address for you.

RIP, shocked right now.
Posted by Gilbert B Norman (Member # 1541) on :
Here's more:

It's matters not whether we held his or contrary political views; he was one of "us".

Rest in peace.

Posted by Moderator (Member # 2933) on :
Thanks for letting us know, Andy.

Fifteen years ago Mike sent me my first PM.
It was in relation to an obnoxious troll, and he just wanted to say "Thanks for obliterating that (......) into ten billion dissociated neurons."
All these years later, that image has stuck.

My condolences to his family.

I will miss his contribution to this forum.

Posted by Ocala Mike (Member # 4657) on :
This is very sad and troubling. A week ago, I found out that an internet pal of mine in Iowa committed suicide. I did not know that he had a long history of untreated depressive illness; certainly couldn't tell from his e-mails and tweets.

May Mike Smith rest in peace and, for your part, smitty, I hope you're seeking help for your issues.

T.S. Eliot said it best: "April is the cruelest month."
Posted by HopefulRailUser (Member # 4513) on :
This is very sad, thanks for letting us know. And Andy, I am glad to hear that you are alive. It has been a long time since I have seen you posting.
Posted by notelvis (Member # 3071) on :
Thanks for letting us know Smitty.

I enjoyed talking trains with Mike. I also enjoyed not having to talk about 'other stuff' with Mike.
Posted by George Harris (Member # 2077) on :
Smitty: So glad you passed along the news. Thank you Gilbert for the link. Guess is a symptom of where I am to think "so young" about this. Hard to lose a man I considered a friend despite never seeing him.
Posted by smitty195 (Member # 5102) on :
Thank you, all, for your kind words. These things were just not supposed to happen this year. I thought "it" (whatever "it" is) got it out of its system in 2015 so that 2016 would be much better. But it's not. I can't believe Robin is gone, and I can't believe Mike is gone. The last time I spoke to him was on the phone when I was on the Texas Eagle. Most of our communications were via email and/or Facebook. He was a great BBQ chef for those who don't know. He can fire up anything on the grill and have it come out perfect!

I found out a few hours ago how he died. Mike had an abdominal aneurysm. His son told me that it happened so incredibly fast that it really didn't matter if a doctor was right there and got to work right away. When it happened, it happened-----and that was it. Just gone right away. I wonder if the Starlate is late up in Heaven, or are there still issues with track work and units dying while climbing Cuesta? [Wink] (Sorry, gotta try to say something funny)

Thank you Vicki and Mike. I know I haven't been here in a while. Health-wise I'm fine, but what has taken place is so frustrating to me that I don't know how to say it without sounding like a spoiled brat. But my parents are both in their mid 80s, and I am the youngest of six kids who just happens to live two minutes away from them. I do not mind helping my parents---honestly I don't. However, I have become the "go to" person for EVERYTHING. And they live in a facility that is drop-dead beautiful and has staff for everything. It's like they live on a land-based cruise ship. But they are not taking advantage of all of the services offered their. This is a very hard thing to describe, but if anyone has been through this, then you will know exactly what I'm talking about. I do everything, I'm included in every plan, it's assumed i will do this and that.....Okay, I'll vent with just one example from today. They know that I'm not exactly in the best of moods right now because of the two passings of my friends. But out of nowhere, they sent me an email that said my brother, sister, and I are meeting them on Sunday, May 1st, so that my dad can show us where the important papers, documents, etc, are located in case something happens to them. Yes, it's a great idea. However, 1) He already did that and has obviously forgotten (did it for me, not the other two), and 2) Nobody, as usual, checked with me to see if that date and time works for me. I am just told that "Jeanne has time on that Sunday to fly up here for the morning (from Burbank Airport----very quick back and forth) and Mike (my brother Mike Smith) will be available that day as well. The email contained my sister's flight information. So what I'm saying is that they ONCE AGAIN planned all of these things without taking my time into consideration at all. And this is normal---it happens all the time. "Here is where you're taking us for Easter", or, "This is what day you have to be in Folsom for Christmas". This year I just said NO, I'm staying home. I don't even know who those people are in Folsom.

Ugh....I must be rambling. I've had 2 ½ beers so that probably explains it. I never drink--I'm a lightweight. But beer for breakfast seemed like a good move today.

But I'll post more if I find anything out. Sorry for rambling......I can't even put thoughts straight if I tried to anyway. Two people are just gone and it actually does come at the worst time for me. But is there ever a "good" time? Probably not. Both of their families are grieving right now.....both so unexpected. I'll talk later.
Posted by George Harris (Member # 2077) on :
Smitty: Thanks for the information. As to the other issues, you are among friends. I at least do understand where you are coming from. So often it seems like in most families there is one of the kids that ends up being the one dealing with the parent issues with the others varying from somewhat helpful to completely clueless.
Posted by palmland (Member # 4344) on :
Smitty - let me add my condolences to Mike's family and regret for the loss of one of our most entertaining, and often most insightful forum members. He will be missed here. And, Smitty, I hope you are soon able to bounce back from what sounds like a very hard time for you. As my wife says, nothing like a good train ride to get your 'happy' back.
Posted by Jerome Nicholson (Member # 3116) on :
My sympathies go out to his friends and family. Even though we were on opposite ends of the political spectrum, he was still a valued member of this forum. He'll be missed.
And Smitty, you get well. You've got double duty now.
Posted by DonNadeau (Member # 61606) on :
In honor of Mike, who made what may have been his last comment in the Mr. Justice Scalia thread, I posted a follow up in his place.

May God bless him and may God bless you, Smitty.
Posted by sojourner (Member # 3134) on :
This is very sad. RIP, Mike.
Posted by Vincent206 (Member # 15447) on :
Quite a shock to read about Mike Smith. I'll miss his personality. He certainly was one of the characters around here.

Smitty, since retiring from the business world I've been working as a substitute teacher--frequently in Special Ed classrooms--and many of the students I work with have been diagnosed with PTSD. I won't try to offer any amateur psychology, but I think it's good that you are able to recognize that you are having trouble processing all that you've seen in life and that you are seeking help. I really think we should start referring to PTSD as PTSC (replace "Disorder" with "Condition") because there's no way that combat veterans, first responders and trauma victims can process all the experiences they face without some trauma. I was working this morning with a particularly troublesome 13 year old girl and after class one of the Para-teachers told me that 1 year ago the student had witnessed her mother murdering her father. I don't think any 13 year old brain is equipped to process an event like that in a "normal" manner. Older, more mature brains also aren't built to "normally" process all the terrible events that they may witness. Stay in touch with us Smitty. Even if you haven't been on a train, let us know how you're doing.
Posted by smitty195 (Member # 5102) on :
Thank you for the kind comments. I don't know whether I should forward them to his family or not. Any comments on whether I should or not? I am really not an expert in this area so I don't know what is the correct protocol.

And my apologies for "TWI" (Typing While Intoxicated). I never drink, and I never type and drink!! The outcome sure isn't what I had planned. What an idiot I am.

I am still in the disbelief status of trying to understand that two more friends are gone. There hasn't been one single passing of a friend in 2015 and now 2016 where I could say, "Well, at least we all knew it was coming". I can't say that because none of them were like that. Every single one was an absolute shock.

I did receive some PMs and I'll be returning them ASAP. I've got 128 emails that I'm trying to get caught up on, so hopefully by the end of this week I will be caught up.

Thank you also for the comments about PTSD (PTSC---interesting!). The one issue that seems unavoidable is that I have never been able to locate a professional who knows what I'm talking about. I've given some really excellent articles to a few doctors and have asked them to please read it in their spare time, because it will explain what this is all about. That has helped a little, but not even my department can find someone for their own people who are still working. I never imagined that all of those images and circumstances would catch up with me so many years later. And from the online reading I've done (which is a lot!), this is very common and happens all the time. Hopefully I'll find someone who knows how to get me going in the right direction. Unfortunately, it's not something that a person can just talk about to anyone. The description alone is enough to give some people nightmares, and I would never want to give anyone a graphic description of what happened and/or what I saw. So that makes it very limiting for me---I can't (won't) tell anyone these things unless they're getting paid to hear it. I think I need a train trip. Specifically, a trip on #14 to SEA, and then a flight home on Virgin America while they are still around (Alaska Airlines will be buying them in case you haven't heard the news yet----it's fairly recent info).
Posted by Moderator (Member # 2933) on :

I don't think any of us are experts in this area either, but we've all been in those shoes, losing someone who was the center of our life, our moral compass.
Any words of recognition of a loved one, past, are important to family. Somehow, it just helps.

I'll always think of Mike as a spontaneous poster. We all knew his passion and sometimes when I read his posts I could almost feel the spittle fly as he hammered away at the keyboard, defending his beloved Texas.
He will be missed.

Posted by HopefulRailUser (Member # 4513) on :
Andy, join me on #14 on 5/27, going all the way to Seattle. If you recall, I met a friend of yours on that train a few years ago. Would love to meet you.

As a nurse I have a glimmer of understanding about what you are describing. I saw things that I would not want to describe to a lay person, they would think I was crazy. But the hospital setting is different than on the street as you were exposed to.

As for your folks, you need to set some boundaries. Your sanity is important too!
Posted by Geoff Mayo (Member # 153) on :
Originally posted by Vincent206:
I really think we should start referring to PTSD as PTSC (replace "Disorder" with "Condition")

No! The -C ending has quite sinister connotations on the darker side of the internet. I would not recommend anybody look it up lest somebody discover it in your browsing history but let's just say it involves inappropriate depictions of children. One of those things you learn, sometimes by accident.

Sorry to hijack the thread but I think a gentle nudge away from the -C was warranted!

Anyway, I didn't really know Mike and, like many it seems, found some of his viewpoints... interesting. But nonetheless the rail oriented postings were insightful.

And Andy, don't worry about yesterday. We do things out of character when under immense stress and shock. Remember we're all here for you and I don't know if Vicky's invite was open to all, but if it wasn't my wedding anniversary that day, I'd be interested in meeting two RailForum members!
Posted by yukon11 (Member # 2997) on :
My condolences to Mike Smith, family, and friends. Always tough to lose close ones over a brief period of time. Smitty, I hope you will see better years, ahead. Hope you might get back on the forum more often.

Posted by MargaretSPfan (Member # 3632) on :
Oh, Andy..... I am beyond sorry for the passing of Mike Smith and your other friend. My condolences to you and their families and their other friends. I am so sorrythat you have developed PTSD. I don't know how anyone who has to deal with what you and other police officers and other first responders and ER staff manage to deal with that stuff. You are all heroes to me. We all need all of you to be there in our times of need, and we don't always tell you folks how much you mean to us. Thank you.

Now I understand why you have been absent from these pages for so long. Do what you can to heal, and stay in touch when you can.

You did not need to apologize for your initial post. You shared what was on your heart, and what you wrote made a lot of sense. I am touched by your honesty, and I appreciate it. As others have said, you are among friends here.

I am rambling, too -- I can’t help it. Just can’t find a better way to say what I want to say.

And I have very much missed your posts here. No matter what you write, it is always interesting. And I like you, even though, as you know, we do not agree politically. But --- phooey on politics! People matter, and good relationships between people matter a lot.

I am surprised that neither you nor your former department can find a suitable person you can work with to help you deal with your PTSD -- and also your grief at losing so many friends in such a very short time. (I hope I did not make things worse for you by talking about this.)

Also -- your family needs to respect our needs when it comes to caring for your parents. You have to take care of yourself or you cannot help anyone else.

Yeah, taking a train trip should be good for you. If you feel up to it, please post a trip report here after you get back -- or even from the train, if you feel like it.
Posted by Ocala Mike (Member # 4657) on :
Words of wisdom there from Margaret. Caring about people and their physical and psychological needs always trumps political opinions. Also, the idea of train trip as therapy is not unappealing.

I am still struggling over the loss of my wife after nearly 50 years of marriage 3-1/2 months ago, and each day is a tug-of-war between loneliness and freedom. More often than not, loneliness prevails, but I will be taking a "bucket list" trip on the Meteor (roomette both ways) to Saratoga in August for a meetup with some old racetrack buds, also in their 70's.
Posted by PullmanCo (Member # 1138) on :
Sorrows at Mike's passing. He was one of the good ones.
Posted by smitty195 (Member # 5102) on :
Wow, thank you everyone for the very, very kind and warm responses. I am so accustomed to being in areas where I know what I'm doing and feel "safe", but all of a sudden I have found myself in very foreign territory (or to steal a railroad term, "Dark Territory") where I am like a fish out of water. Dealing with two deaths at the same time is so....different? Not the right word. But it's a difficult balancing act that I'm trying to maintain, while at the same time, doing the very best I can for my parents which, at times, can be incredibly difficult. I had to get a little medical help from my doc so that I can not only sleep, but fall asleep, stay asleep, and then not have anxiety with my heart racing and adrenaline flowing almost all day long. It's a teeny-tiny pill called Lorazepam, and that has helped me out greatly. I have no intentions on taking it forever----but just for a few weeks or less should be okay I'm told (they are only 1mg tablets---very small. And the cost was 89 cents! I can't believe Anthem Blue Cross won't just "eat" the 89 cents, but they won't).

Vicki: Okay, great! You were a nurse (which I did not know) so I am positive that you have mental images that you can not erase. I don't know what field you worked in, but back when I was working on a paramedic unit, we would bring in some people that were just beyond injured and in pain. In my personal opinion, there are two types of cases that a public safety employee can never, ever un-see: 1) Anything bad involving small kids or babies, and 2) severe burns. If some folks here have never had exposure to either one of those, you are lucky! I would love to blurt out some things but I can't and I won't---it would just be wrong I think. Sometimes, it's hard to remember that I can't say things that I used to say when I was working, because we would find SOMETHING......ANYTHING to laugh at when we were at the worst possible scenes we could imagine. If we stayed serious, we would have been eaten alive by mental trauma or whatever the term is. You can't imagine what it's like having the suspect in the back seat after he or she just did something that you saw and that you know will haunt you for life. I sometimes wonder how I didn't just kill them on the spot. Nobody would have blamed me. But I would, of course, be held to answer for murder and so we had to tell ourselves it's not worth it and to just process him and then get him into jail where his new "friends" can do whatever they want to him. Ugh...what am I rambling about?? I find myself doing this lately and I have to stop.

But thank you, Vicki, for letting me know about your upcoming #14 trip! May 27th....that's a Friday. Would you be departing LAUPT on Thursday the 26th and arriving the evening of the 27th? Or departing LAUPT on the 27th and arriving SEA on the 28th? That would be very cool if I could make that. I'm sorta doubting it right now as I look at my calendar, but who knows? Maybe I can pull it off! I need to get back to my new part-time job so that I can make some extra vacation money! (I drive for Uber---just started. So far, it's a fun little job. I've met some interesting people along the way. And to be an Uber driver, you must maintain a 4.6 "star" rating from the passengers or Uber will delete you from their system. But Uber does not tell the passengers this. They do not know that a 4.6 is a "FAIL" for a driver. So far, I've maintained 100% 5 star votes---whew! But I do everything I can to earn that score. One of my little secrets is that my rear seats both have 8 inch HDTV screens built into the back of the front headrests. I keep railroad videos playing on there. [Smile] Right now I have a 2 hour Tehachapi video that plays, and people seem to like that because it's something different. I also offer them an Apple "lightning" cable which is connected to my SUVs auxiliary input, so that they can charge their IOS device if they'd like to, and/or play their own music list through my car's stereo system. It's little things like that where I hope to maintain my five star rating so that I can remain in the system. Oh, and the driver's ("Partner's") app also allows me to evaluate them using the same five star system at the end of the trip. If the passenger gets enough low ratings, they can be deleted from the system as well.

Well, enough about Uber. Just wanted to catch up a bit on things I'm doing lately, besides juggling my schedule to meet my parent's almost daily "emergencies". I also still have my one-man Apple Computer business, which does fairly well considering I don't do any advertising----strictly word of mouth.

I think I'm going to attempt a nap on this gorgeous Saturday afternoon. I am hoping to catch-up on some much-needed sleep. And again I really want to thank everyone for their really kind and warm comments. You folks are so incredibly kind---thank you. It has been very helpful to me to write some things down like this. I don't know why. But for some reason, my ramblings have helped me. I just hope I have not irritated everyone for being a bit off-topic here. I'm hoping it's okay, considering the circumstances. And for what it's worth in case anyone is interested, my friend Robin died of Sepsis. It was almost instant. She retired from my PD as a 911 dispatcher a few years ago. Such a nice person. She left behind 4 adult sons, a husband (San Jose Police Lieutenant), and I think 3 grandchildren. It still has not fully sunk-in that she is gone. I trained her in 911 dispatching. Well, actually, I un-trained her, and then trained her again. She came to use from Santa Cruz County 911, and they do things much differently in that county than we do. So I had to un-do all of the things that were once right but were now wrong, and was very hard to do. But she stuck with it and became a great dispatcher. Now it's just random tears and random memories. Thanks for listening.
Posted by smitty195 (Member # 5102) on :
Ocala Mike: I am sorry for your loss. I meant to include it in what I just wrote. But I did not know that you just lost your wife. And after 50 years of marriage! That's amazing, I had you all wrong age-wise. I thought you were roughly in your 30s.

That is really great that you are going to take a train trip on the Meteor. I forget which train it is (Star or Meteor), but maybe someone here knows....but one of those trains is being run as an "experiment" to see what it's like without a diner, and instead having a car that is half cafe and I think the other half will be used as a quasi-diner. And isn't one of those two trains going to start receiving the first orders of Viewliner II Sleepers? I hope you get one! I'd love to hear first-hand how they are.
Posted by George Harris (Member # 2077) on :
The "Star" is the train being run as the low amenities experiment.

Smitty: Lorazepam is also prescribed in a 100 mg tablet as a short acting seizure control. That dosage is to be taken on an as-needed basis, not on a regular basis.
Posted by palmland (Member # 4344) on :
Smitty, thanks for bringing us up to date on your progress dealing with all the very tough things going on in your life. Glad you have a new job, especially one requiring interaction with the public. Good way to try to deal with some of the events from the past few week and months.

Every Uber driver I have talked with really likes their job because it does give them the freedom to set their own schedule and in effect making them the 'boss'. I did read an article by someone who thought she was being a very good Uber passenger. Yet, she later learned as part of doing the story that she had a 4.5 rating. Apparently this was because she didn't tip. I too thought that was part of the attraction of Uber. You just got to the destination and got out with no delay for payment or tip. What's your experience?
Posted by HopefulRailUser (Member # 4513) on :
Smitty, I will be on 14(27) arriving in SEA on the 28th. Got a great price on the W Hotel in SEA via Hotwire, $101! Lists at $278.

I have the Uber app and plan to use it for the first time in SEA, train to hotel. I too thought tipping was not encouraged or required.

Understand about discussing what you see and do in the emergency and health care fields. Easy to share and discuss with peers, one reason I enjoy getting together with my nurse friends. But the general public would not understand some of the ways things are discussed. We have a burn unit at our hospital, get that picture.
Posted by smitty195 (Member # 5102) on :
Hi Vicki, palmland, and George.

Vicki: A burn unit. Oh my God. In 1985 we had a very odd call in the middle of the night. To make a long story short, it was foggy and there was only one caller who was high up in the Saratoga foothills (the name of the street is "On Orbit Drive" (that's not a typo--that is the actual name). He said he could see a glow and thought a house was on fire, but could not pinpoint it. I was working vacation relief, and I was on Engine 114 and the Captain was on Engine 115. I was driving, and the Captain told us to head down Saratoga Avenue towards Fruitvale, and they would take Engine 115 up Saratoga-Los Gatos Road towards Fruitvale, and that way we would do a huge, circular sweep and hopefully find the fire. Well, they found it first. It was on Horseshoe Drive and was fully involved. My friend, the firefighter on Engine 115, was in the wrong place at the wrong time-----a split second in either direction and he would have been just fine. I won't describe it, but he had something happen to him that gave him third degree burns over 80% of his body. He lived in the Burn Unit at Valley Medical Center in San Jose for close to two years It was so hard to visit. SO HARD. Sometimes I would step off the elevator and hear the screams as he was being washed down every day before applying new/clean bandages. I couldn't take it, and would sometimes get right back on the elevator and go home. Burns are the worst injuries in the world. If, God forbid, I ever get burned like that, I hope I die first. Nobody should have to go through that. And if I recall correctly, the nurses who worked that floor were only allowed to work it for six months at a time---then they had to have a year off working somewhere less stressful. They do a job that is beyond description. Vicki, you know what I'm talking about. And you know why I'm not describing anything. It really had an effect on me. That night, I drove up in Engine 114 to the fire hydrant to do a reverse-lay to the Engine that was already there (they were using tank water). I heard the call over the radio of "Firefighter down!". That is why I stopped my firefighter/EMT career. That night ended it all. I couldn't do it any more after that.

palmland: Uber is definitely an "interesting" company to work for. But as far as the official tipping policy goes, tips are not allowed. If a passenger wishes to give me a cash tip, I simply tell them that they are not required to tip and the app will take care of payment in full. If they say that they know, but they still want me to have it---then I take it. I'm not going to get into an argument over something that someone wants to do. I give people first and foremost a very safe ride. If they want to know my experience, I tell them. I used to be a driving instructor at our EVOC course and I can do evasive driving from being followed, high speed driving, and all sorts of other certificates that hang on my wall. After the first priority of a safe ride, I make it a comfy ride. I tell everyone that they have their own temp and air controls in the back in the center console. It's an Infiniti SUV so it's pretty fancy. The seats are heated and cooled as well. And I also let them know if they have an iOS device that takes a Lightning plug, I have an auxiliary "in" ready to go. I just hand them the cable, and they can charge their iPhone or iPad. If they want to listen to THEIR music, I just push one button and they can control the music from their own device. I also have a rotation I use now of 2 hour railroad videos. When people get in the car, I have jazz music playing at a low volume, and both TVs are on and are playing something train related. Right now I switch back and forth between 2 two-hour movies: 1) Tehachapi, and 2) SP. People really seem to like it because it's different. My star rating is a solid 5 right now.

George: Are you certain that your Rx is for 100mg of Lorazepam? Honestly, I've never heard of a dose that high before. I have 1mg tablets, and I've seen 2mg tablets and a truckload of Lorazepam can be as small as 6mg per day. I can't imagine what 100mg would do to a person. If you self-inject, it could be 100 micrograms perhaps? Vicki---am I right? 100mg would kill an elephant wouldn't it?

Forgot to mention for Vicki: You will like Uber I'm guessing. Make sure you have checked to an app update before you need to use it, so you're not sitting there waiting for the update to download. Uber is CONSTANTLY updating their app. Drivers do not use the app that you have. I use one called, "Uber Partner". The stuff that is built into that app is amazing. Once I accept a ride, it gives the person my ETA, shows them a picture of me, a picture of my car including license plate number, and they can see right there on their Uber app where I am and they can watch me getting closer and closer. The app gives you a "one minute away" warning, as well as notifying you once your driver arrives. I don't know how many people will be in your group and/or how much luggage you might have with you, but know this: If you go for the cheapest ride (which is available on the app with the slider switch at the bottom of the app's screen), you can request the basic "Uber X" could easily be a Toyota Prius, Honda Civic, Kia something, or whatever a small four door car is---that is Uber X. If you want something larger, then change your option to Uber XL. That gets you an SUV. Because of Uber's very odd and strange setup, my luxury SUV (Infiniti JX35) can only fit in the Uber X or Uber XL categories. I can NOT be part of the Uber Black SUV (even though my SUV is black) because those people are commercial drivers with a TCP license number on their bumper, commercial insurance, and a commercial driver's license. It's hard to explain all of the rules, but if I were you, I would go for Uber XL to make sure you have plenty of room for you and your luggage. Uber X cars are very small, and the price difference between X and XL is nominal. As you slide your car choices around at the bottom of the app, you will instantly see how many minutes away that category is. If an Uber X is 3 minuets away, and an Uber XL is 30 minutes away, well, then you might want to just get Uber X. Keep in mind that you can also get a regular taxi through Uber. Just use the slider at the bottom to get a taxi (if you don't see Taxi appear, then they do not have any in that specific area).

One thing that everyone should know about rating your driver. Drivers also rate YOU. So be fair and honest. The thing I really hate with a passion is that Uber does NOT tell passengers what their star rating means. If most people give me 5 stars, but a few give me 4 stars, my average could drop down to 4.6 stars. And guess what? In the Uber system, a driver with 4.6 stars is FAILING and they will delete you from the system. I think that's rotten, because if you don't receive a five star rating---even though you did everything right----Uber can still remove you from their system and you're out. Drivers also rate passengers, and I automatically give everyone 5 stars unless someone is drunk and pukes in my car or something (but I don't drive at night for that very reason----I've had enough young drunk guys puke in my patrol car and those days are over!).

Anyway, I hope that info was somewhat helpful.

As far as services go for my friends, the one for Mike I believe has already been held. I would not have been able to go. But for Robin, there is a memorial mass coming up, with a reception afterwards a few blocks away from the church. I've just been looking over some pictures of her and I in dispatch when she was new. She had an "oops, I'm pregnant" son who came out to her as gay at the age of 12, and she loved him so much and made sure he was okay. He's been with his partner for several years now, and they adopted two kids. She loved being a grandmother. Robin was just full of life and love. She would roll her eyes whenever I started talking trains, and whenever anything railroad related would come into the dispatch center, she'd turn her chair around and go, "Do you want to call Omaha or should I?" with a smile on her face. I always said, "I'll do it! I'll do it! Rank has its privileges". [Smile] She knew I was a foamer and she tolerated it nicely. I still can't believe how many people are gone. It's mind boggling to me.

I hope you guys are all doing well. I am putt-putting along, trying to make sense of things. Not really understanding it all yet, but my psychological plate is very full right now. I would love a #14 trip but can't go parents I just don't know what to do about or how to set boundaries. They live in a place that does everything for them, so I'm very mixed up as far as what to do and not do. My five older siblings....I tried getting them to help, but that will never happen.
Posted by HopefulRailUser (Member # 4513) on :
Correct on the lorazepam dosage, comes in tablets of 1-2 mg.

I will have one suitcase and one carry on for my Uber trip, seemed like the X car would work? Two people.
Posted by Ocala Mike (Member # 4657) on :
I take a 0.5 mg tablet of lorazepam for anxiety as needed (practically never). I find that little pill puts me to sleep; I'm sure 100 mg would knock out an elephant!
Posted by yukon11 (Member # 2997) on :
Lorazepam (Ativan) tablets, as far as I know, are available in 0.5mg, 1 mg, & 2 mg sizes. I've not heard of Lorazepam, orally, used for controlling seizures. I take 0.5mg before boarding airplanes to prevent "white knuckles". Usually works well. I'm tempted to chase it down with a Tom Collins but, if I did that, they would probably have to carry me off the airplane.

I wonder if they could organize sort of an "Amtrak Uber". Rather than an Amtrak thruway bus, have Uber drivers pick up passengers for transportation to a distant Amtrak station. The Amtrak thruway bus, here in Santa Rosa, takes 2.5 hrs to get to our the nearest Amtrak station, in Martinez. You can drive there in about 1 hr.

Posted by smitty195 (Member # 5102) on :
That's interesting---I had no idea the Thruway took that long for such a seemingly short drive.

Nothing is out of the question as far as Uber goes---they are dipping their hands into EVERYTHING. They even have Uber Food Delivery in my area. The Uber driver gets notified the same way they normally would for a passenger pick-up, but instead it's to a restaurant for a "to go" order that is pre-paid by the customer's credit card. There's no way I'm signing up to do food runs though. I'd imagine my car would start smelling like a fast food joint in no time.
Posted by DonNadeau (Member # 61606) on :
"I wonder if they could organize sort of an "Amtrak Uber' . . .."

Wonderful. Once at Williams Junction, the Amtrak stop for Williams in a forest, without even a shelter or platform (at least where I stepped off), the Thruway driver actually dropped us off at each of our hotels in Williams. Very kind. I tipped well.

Vincent, how many wineries does your Santa Rosa Thruways stop at on the way? :-) Two and one half hours unbelievable.
Posted by yukon11 (Member # 2997) on :
I think I exaggerated the bus travel time. It's more like 2 hours on the bus vs. one hour if you drive in your own car.

As the Northbound Starlight doesn't get into Martinez until 10:45 PM, do Uber drivers have a "curfew" with regard to how late they drive? Is there a maximum distance they are willing to drive and are there restrictions on how far out, of the home area, Uber is willing to go? Also, as a rough guess, what would a one hour ride, in Uber, cost?


Posted by yukon11 (Member # 2997) on :
Originally posted by DonNadeau:
"I wonder if they could organize sort of an "Amtrak Uber' . . .."

Wonderful. Once at Williams Junction, the Amtrak stop for Williams in a forest, without even a shelter or platform (at least where I stepped off), the Thruway driver actually dropped us off at each of our hotels in Williams. Very kind. I tipped well.

Vincent, how many wineries does your Santa Rosa Thruways stop at on the way? :-) Two and one half hours unbelievable.


Don - The Amtrak bus to Martinez takes about 2 hours, not 2.5 hrs, but still a lot of time on the bus. It has 7 stops, including Petaluma, Napa, Vallejo, and Benicia on the way.

The Martinez Amtrak bus does make a couple of stops in Napa, including the Napa Wine Train station. I don't believe it stops at any specific wineries, but, perhaps, close to some. For wine tours, this link may or may not be of interest:

This fall, the SMART train (Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit) will begin travel. Initially, it will go from San Rafael to Windsor (just above Santa Rosa). Eventually, it will run from Larkspur (just north of San Francisco) to Cloverdale, in north Sonoma County. It will provide a good jumping off place to rent a car and travel the wine country.

Posted by DonNadeau (Member # 61606) on :
I was joking about the wineries. [Smile]

Thank you for the link. Love the Wine Country.

Really looking forward to using that SMART service. Takes us back to when Northwestern Pacific ferried passengers into San Francisco, as this transit will do. I never got to take NWP or the ferries used by SP and WP to SF.

Vincent, you live in such a wonderful area. Am jealous.
Posted by George Harris (Member # 2077) on :
Originally posted by Ocala Mike:
I take a 0.5 mg tablet of lorazepam for anxiety as needed (practically never). I find that little pill puts me to sleep; I'm sure 100 mg would knock out an elephant!

Checked bottle labels. One was mislabeled. The others said 1 mg. End of confusion.
Posted by smitty195 (Member # 5102) on :
Hi Richard,

Good questions about Uber. I am an Uber driver now, albeit a new one, and I am learning all about how this whole system works. One thing I learned within the first 20 minutes is that there is no way at all for me or anyone else to explain "the system" in that short amount of time. However, it *IS* possible to get the free Uber app on your smart phone and learn how to call a ride to your location in that amount of time. In that respect, it is very user-friendly.

For people who have never used Uber and/or know nothing about it, here are just some very general tips. I've been studying their various web pages and links for a month and I'm probably only halfway done. They have so many different domain names that it's very easy to get confused when you are new. So in the spirit of keeping things easy and "new", here is some random information (if anyone wants more specific information, let me know----chances are, I do have the answer but I'm leaving it out here to avoid confusion, which is very, very easy to do!):

-There are actually TWO main Uber apps for smart phones. If you are a user of Uber (meaning you are the one who wants a ride---you do NOT want to drive), then the name of your app is simply "Uber". That Uber app is available for free download at any major smart phone App Store (i.e., Apple, Droid, etc).

-The name of the App that most drivers use is something totally different, and it is called "Uber Partner". You can not download this App unless you are an Uber driver who has gone through the whole routine of getting checked out. They did a background investigation on me which took about a week, they received certified copies of my DMV records, I had to go to a designated engine shop to have my car safety inspected in 150 locations (it's free----Uber pays for this inspection), you have to submit your tax information, your photo, your car's current registration, your current insurance, and a whole slew of other things. Once everything is done and approved, they will send you a link that is only good for you. If you send it to someone else, it will not work. The link somehow allows me (and other Uber drivers) to download the "Uber Partner" app from Apple's App Store. It is a completely different installation routine than anything I've ever seen. I'm sure they have done this as part of their security------so that people can't just sneak onto the system and claim to be an Uber driver when they haven't been checked out yet.

-This probably won't mean much to users of the Uber system, but just so you know, Uber has "Partners" and Uber has "Drivers". The difference is quite simple. I am an Uber Partner---I am NOT a "Driver". An Uber Partner is what most people are, and that means the two vehicle classifications that I can be called for are Uber X or Uber XL (you make a vehicle choice at the bottom of your Uber app if you are ordering a ride). Uber X is your standard, run of the mill Honda 4 door, Toyota 4 door, Ford 4 door, etc. All Uber X cars will have 4 doors. If you need something larger like an SUV, you can request Uber XL. The vehicle I drive is a luxury SUV (Infiniti JX35), so I get called for any Uber X or Uber XL. Now for those who have seen the app, you're probably saying to yourself, "Wait a minute----I see with my own two eyes at the bottom of this app where it says "Uber SUV". You are right----you are not seeing things! This is where it gets confusing so I will keep this as simple as I can in the next paragraph.

-Any vehicle category of Uber SUV or Uber Black is going to be a commercial vehicle with commercial license plates through DMV. So if Joe Blow owns a black Chevy Suburban and he wants to make more money by being an Uber SUV, he has to pay DMV to get the new license plates. He also has to do whatever is required to get a Commercial driver's license. He also needs to pay the State for a "TCP" license that goes in white numbers across the back bumper (just like you see on airport limos). He also has to get an airport sticker that contains a microchip. Any time he drives that vehicle inside the electric but invisible fence line of SFO, OAK, or SJC, "cha-ching", he is charged 10 bucks. There is A LOT of money involved in becoming a commercial driver. I have talked to other Uber drivers who are commercial and they explained everything and told me, "Don't do it! Unless you are going to make this your career, don't do it. You'll never make up the money that you spend on all of these state and local fees constantly". Also, if an Uber passenger specifically orders an Uber SUV or Uber Black, you know that you are getting a commercial vehicle and someone with a commercial license. Not that it matters, except that means you're going to pay more for that ride. The irony in all of this is that when people put in their app that they need an Uber XL and I show up, they'll say stuff like, "Are you Uber Black or Uber SUV because we only paid for Uber XL?'. And I will tell them no, even though the vehicle itself COULD be SUV or Black, it's not----and that's because I did not go "commercial". So sometimes, people get a lot of bang for their buck with my vehicle because they're getting both Uber SUV and Uber Black but without paying for it (the higher level or car you request, the more you pay).

-As far as what Uber charges, sorry but LOL!!! If you can figure that out, you will win the golden prize! The best way to find out what they charge is to just download the free app, and create a free account. Once you're up and running, you will see how to get an estimate from Point A to Point B. You can do this WITHOUT ordering a ride. Make sure you read their instructions on how to use the app so that you don't accidentally order a car. If you do accidentally order one, you have either 2 minutes or 5 minutes (I forget) to cancel. But that is a TOTAL BUMMER when someone does that. The reason is simple----I have already accepted that ride request and I've been driving for five minutes towards you. It also means I am not available because I'm already on a pickup. But if you cancel and I just missed a great ride like to SFO or something, well, that's how drivers get mad and give passengers bad write-ups.

-Write-ups: At the end of every trip, the driver can evaluate the passenger(s) and vice-versa. The part that I dislike very much is that Uber needs you to maintain a 4.6 rating or higher (out of 5). Right now I have 5, so I'm okay. But all it takes is one person to either make a mistake, or be in a grumpy mood, or whatever, and leave you a 4. One 4 rating can sometimes bring you down below 4.6, and guess what happens when you reach 4.6? You get a letter from Uber telling you this is your one chance----shape up, or they will kick you out of the system. VERY VERY unfair. I always thought a 4 was a pretty good score out of 5, but now I know that to Uber, it is not acceptable. We rate passengers as well, and all I do is give out 5s. (Honestly, I don't want to play that little game. Shhhhh....don't tell anyone).

-And the last thing before I go to bed: How far can an Uber driver take someone? Well, there is no "set" answer to that. Technically and by our contract, we are supposed to accept every ride they send to us via the app, and take them there. So if someone wants to go from Pleasanton to Lake Tahoe.....well.....I haven't really thought too hard about that one yet, but you know what? If someone wants that, then I'll do it. I'm 3 ½ to 4 hours away. I could always come right back. It would be an entire day (or night) of course, but WOW think of the money I would make from that trip! (by the way, it's impossible to calculate how much it would cost, but just know that out of every trip a driver does, Uber gets the $1 fee right off the top, and on top of that, they take 20%. So it's one dollar plus 20% every time you take someone somewhere).

Lots more I could talk about Uber because it's extremely complex how they have it set up. The apps themselves are easy for the users, but now that I know what is going on behind the scenes, it is INCREDIBLE!!!! You've got this Uber app and an Uber Partner app that are on two totally different phones from people you don't even know. Yet they see your car on the map, and they can follow you IN REAL TIME as they drive to you. It gives them a one minute warning automatically, then when I arrive, it tells them I'm there automatically. But it does SO MUCH MORE than that. I'm very impressed by what they put together here.

One final not I don't think I mentioned (whoops, maybe I did----sorry if I already did!!), but people like me who are Uber X and Uber XL are called "Partners". I am not a driver. To be an Uber Driver, you have to have your commercial license. Just wanted to mention that-----that's why the app is called Uber Partner and not Uber Driver.

Goodnight, and ask anything you'd like !

Originally posted by yukon11:
I think I exaggerated the bus travel time. It's more like 2 hours on the bus vs. one hour if you drive in your own car.

As the Northbound Starlight doesn't get into Martinez until 10:45 PM, do Uber drivers have a "curfew" with regard to how late they drive? Is there a maximum distance they are willing to drive and are there restrictions on how far out, of the home area, Uber is willing to go? Also, as a rough guess, what would a one hour ride, in Uber, cost?



Posted by yukon11 (Member # 2997) on :
Thanks for the information, Smitty:

I found this Uber cost estimate site on the web:

After entering starting point and destination (I entered Santa Rosa to Martinez) you get a little map with estimated costs for the trip, above the map. However, different categories and different estimated costs: "Uber X", "Uber Select", "Uber XL", "Uber Black", "Uber SUV", "Assit", "UberWAV".

Do the differences relate to what type of vehicle and how do you select the one you want?

Posted by Gilbert B Norman (Member # 1541) on :
Richard, I have never used Uber and doubt if I ever will, but it would appear to me that they are "mystifying" the product with the array of segmentation they are putting forth.
Posted by smitty195 (Member # 5102) on :
Hi Richard,

I think Uber is a "learning curve". That's how I think of it. I am still learning new things every day, because they have an incredible number of web pages that just seem to go on and on and on. But to answer your question about which vehicle you select, that is done through the app itself. So you would need to go to the App Store (if you have an Apple phone, if you have a different type of smartphone, then go to that company's App Store). But you just download the free Uber app. After it's downloaded, create a free account. When you create a free account, they WILL ask for a credit card or debit card number. You can not skip this step---it is mandatory. Uber is completely cashless and no tipping is allowed----it's all handled on your app.

So once you have your app, you'll need to play around with it a little bit, but you will see the black "thing" in the middle of your screen. You just use your finger to move that black "thing" around so that it is on top of your current location (or is on top of where you want to be picked up). Then, you will see at the top of the Uber screen there is a white box. You can tap on that white box and that brings up your keyboard. You can type your destination into there. So now, the app has a beginning location and an ending location. The only thing you need to do is select your type of service that you want. That is done at the bottom of the app:

-Uber X is the "normal" thing (Honda Accord, Toyota Prius, Honda Civic, Ford Fusion, etc, will be a four-door sedan, and all cars receive a 150 point safety inspection by a mechanic that Uber pays us to get done at a location that THEY select)

-Uber XL is a larger vehicle, such as an SUV. It could be someone like me with an Infiniti JX35 (aka: QX60----exact same car), Chevy Suburban, Nissan Pathfinder, Dodge SUV (I forget what Dodge calls their SUV), etc.

The cheapest cost of everything that they offer is Uber X. Next up is Uber XL, and that's just a tad more. You can use the slider at the bottom of the app to choose a service, and you will see the estimate change as you change vehicles.

Uber Black is a very specific car, and that list is online. Use this website to look at all of the vehicle types. Click on any type on the left, and then it will describe for you what type of vehicle it means:

Good luck!
Posted by smitty195 (Member # 5102) on :
I hope the Moderator (and my friends here) will allow me to post this. It is not offensive or anything like that---it is political. Mike Smith and I, as most people already knew, are politically conservative people. I think it's safe to say that he was more "hardcore" than I am. He had conservatism in his blood and was sure that what he was doing and who he was voting for was right. On the other hand, I study, study, study, study, and then study some more. I was a poor student in junior high and high school. Who the heck cared about American Government in the 10th grade? Who cared about reading Time Magazine for homework every week? If you put two and two together, you can very easily figure out where my mind was at that time. I'm in high school.....10th grade.....15 and 16 years old during the school year......and they want me to WHAT??? Sit down and read Time Magazine??? No thank you. I daydreamed a lot, and my interest in politics was a big fat Z E R O .

But then as life went on and I grew out of that stage like we all do, I found that I became naturally interested in politics, current events, American and World History, and culture. The classes I took in college gave me Straight As. At the time, I told myself that I wished I had the knowledge that I have now while I was back in high school, particularly in one specific class (AGWA it was called---American Government and World Affairs). Not surprisingly, both teachers were very liberal (it was two classrooms made into one by sliding the dividing wall away, thus making it a huge class, thus, two teachers at once---there were over 100 students in that class). But I sometimes tell myself, "If only I knew back then what I know now, it would have been so fun to debate the teacher because he was provably wrong on almost everything he taught us. I didn't know it at the time----but it was later on that I learned things and said to myself, "Hey! Mr. (blank) taught us the opposite of this. What's the deal??!!!".

So I just wanted to "set the table", if you will, so that my next comments will make sense. Thank you for allowing me to do this. I would not do this if I didn't feel the need to, and I am pausing every now and then to wipe the tears away. I still can't believe he is gone. And on Thursday I go to the memorial mass for my 911 Dispatcher who was under my charge for six years. I left Communications for Patrol to become a cop, and I told her that she's pretty lucky because I was her boss and told her what to do, but now that I'm a cop, she's the only one who can tell me where to go! We miss you, Robin. I don't know if I will hold it together or not, but I will try. I hope 12T69 is up there waiting for you, and you can tell him to stop mumbling into the microphone and speak clearly for once! [Smile]

So anyway, Mike and I had a "thing" going back and forth about Ted Cruz. It was always good-natured, and of course Ted Cruz is from Texas and that's where Mike is. Or was. A few months ago, I wrote on his FB wall somethings about Cruz that was a follow-up to something he had written. I told him that my police officer's "sixth sense" that kept me alive during my career is still with me even today, and will probably be with me forever. But I told him that I am getting something from Cruz that really makes me uneasy. I said that I can't articulate what it is because I'm not sure what it is. He asked for specifics, but I could not give them because it was a sense that something was wrong, not something that I could put my finger on. He said something to me along the lines of, "Well if you ever figure it out, let me know". So I said okay, and I meant it.

And now that Mike is gone, I have the closest answer to what it is that really bothers me about Cruz--but Mike is not here to see it or discuss it. But I think if I put it here, he will see it. (I do believe that those who are departed have some type of contact with us, even if it's just one-way....I'm sure of it). So that's why I'm putting this here----so I can follow-up on my promise to him. I would have put it on his FB wall, but I think it's gone (and if it is there, I doubt it's monitored). So here ya go sixth sense on Cruz and why I can't like him:

Unfortunately, I still don't have great specifics. I have almost none. But my feeling has grown stronger and stronger. But some examples of why I think something is wrong with him (not "wrong" I guess, just weird---weird might be a better answer). And something very odd is happening right now. Literally, I mean LITERALLY as I type these words, Ted Cruz is on TV right now giving a press conference from Indiana saying that he is dropping out of the race. I did not expect that tonight. Not at all. Wow!

Well, Mike would not be happy. He really liked Cruz and I did not care for him. And Cruz just thanked Carly Fiorina who "has been a phenomenal running mate". Ummm.....hasn't she been a "phenomenal running mate" for something like three days? And in her one major appearance, she pulled a magic act of disappearing from stage. Did anyone see that video? It's hillarious---I can't stop laughing and I watch it over and over again.

But to the point, Mike, I know you can see this. The best articulation I can give you is that the man is an oddball. He picked a VP at a VERY odd time and he did not even get a one percent bump from it. He also is way, way too preachy and I don't like preachy. He also is not a fighter at all. He speaks as if he will get warmed up to fight some day, but "some day" never happens. He would never tell Hillary, "You're a criminal and you should not even be in the race". He just doesn't have the guts.

But now, it doesn't even matter. Cruz is shockingly out! So I don't think your guy is gonna do much for you this time. I told you it would be Trump. And now you owe me a Texas authentic BBQ dinner, although at this time I have no way of collecting it. Do they have BBQs up there? They must. How can it be Heaven without 'em?? Hah hah!

Okay folks, I'm done. Please don't petition this to be taken down. If you really want it down for some reason, can you email me and tell me your reason? My email address is This is the way I thought I could finish our bet and conversation. I promised him I would do it, and now it is done. I am so incredibly full of grief and I've been trying to keep my head up every day. But it's not easy losing two at once. I think it shocked me because when I found out, I slept four almost 48 hours after that.

I didn't proofread this, but I will this evening---I promise. I just need to lay down again. It took some doing for me to write this because I figured it's something I should complete. I just don't get how he's gone, or how Robin's gone, or how Ruby's gone, or Scott, or Steve, or Henry, and many more.....I hope I get a break now and no more middle of the night phone calls with "sad information". I can not take another one. Literally. I'm exhausted, and my words might be rambling (if so, sorry). Losing people is something I was never prepared for--by anyone. Parents, peers, school, church, ANYONE. I'll stop here since I'm strayed way off-topic and I'm really tired and a bit upset right now. My mood-o-meter will return to normal, I'm sure. (And on a side-note, my former co-worker who still works at the police department was involved in an OIS (Officer Involved Shooting) last night in the middle of the night. He stopped a car for several different reasons, and the suspect got out and fired shots. The front of the police car is all covered in holes and the windshield is shattered. He got off some shots at the suspect but he fled on foot. He did the right thing----stayed in the car where the best cover is. For those wondering, he wasn't trying to conceal---he was trying to cover. Big difference, and he did the right thing. That's my department's second OIS in the last year. So many of my friends involved in weird stuff totally at random. [Frown]

Thank you again for allowing me to have free reign on something that means a lot to me. I had to finish that conversation. Please try to ignore it and not ask me to delete it. But if it really bothers you. I'll delete it---but I really don't want to. Thanks. I really do appreciate it.
Posted by DonNadeau (Member # 61606) on :
Hi Smitty,

No worries about your comments being taken down - the title above all of our comments is "This is off-topic [Amtrak] . . .."

Personality can play such a big role in politics. One reason for Trump's victory over Cruz may be that more people would have felt more comfortable socializing in a tavern with Trump than with Cruz.
Posted by MargaretSPfan (Member # 3632) on :
Smitty ---
Me, too -- no problemo talking about your political beliefs and how you arrived at them. And my heart goes out to you as you continue to deal with the passing of two close friends in a very short time, and the weird stuff so many of your friends are having to deal with now. I do hope things get much better for you soon - much more ordinary. You deserve that.

About Uber:
Did you happen to read what "BOB2" posted on altamontpress dot com about Uber and Lyft, etc.? (This is the second part of his post on the "Motorcars and FRA certification, etc." thread.) He made a very important point about financial liability and risks that every Uber and Lyft, etc., driver is exposed to while on the job. Here is the link to his post:,133126,133162#msg-133162

I care about you, and do not want you to be taken advantage of.
Posted by smitty195 (Member # 5102) on :
Sorry folks, I did not check back here until today. And thank you for letting me write that out, even though it was rambling. I try not to ramble but I was really searching for what to say and I still don't think I did it right, but if Mike does have an afterlife and is seeing this, he'll know I at least tried.

Margaret, thank you for the link to Altamont Press and the Uber/Lyft stuff. One thing I can say for sure is that Uber sure is a complex setup. (Lyft might be as well, but I only know about Uber.....however, there are several Uber drivers who do Lyft as well and make some very decent money, but the stuff they have to keep track of is ridiculous! It's like walking a tightrope if you're doing both). As for insurance and stuff, before I did anything with Uber, I called my auto insurance company which is USAA. They told me what I kinda figured they would, which is that USAA provides ZERO coverage while I have the app turned on and I am "logged in". I can turn the app on and still have USAA coverage, but once I "log in" so that I am waiting for a ride to be sent to me, that's when my USAA coverage drops. Uber has a page that explains who is responsible for exactly which portion of a trip: Logged in and waiting for a ride request, driving to the location to pick someone up, picking them up and having the person in the car with me, then dropping them off and me having no passengers but still being logged-in. I read it as carefully as I could, and the best I can tell is that Uber's insurance covers me from one million dollar in liability, and then the limits for other stuff exactly match what I have from USAA dollar-for-dollar (comprehensive, medical, etc). On my Uber Partner app (drivers are called "Partners", unless you are a commercial driver, then they are called "Drivers"), there is an area I can tap on that says "Waybill", and then inside of that area is a copy of the insurance policy. It specifies what's covered, and the best I can tell is that I'm totally covered by their policy when I am logged-in to the Partner app. I hope I've read and understood things correctly. I've also read websites that I've found by doing some Googling where people explain it as they understand it. What's interesting is that, so far, no two people have described the same thing. There is no doubt that there is confusion amongst the drivers about insurance coverage. I sure hope I'm understanding it right!! It's fun to meet nice people and take them places---I actually enjoy doing it. I think I already mentioned this in a previous post somewhere, but I play railroad DVDs on the two back-seat TV screens (they are 8 inch screens built into the back of each front seat's headrest). It's interesting hearing what people will say when they see the trains playing when they get in. I do anything I can to maintain a "5" status (if you get ratings from riders and the average is 4.6 or less, Uber could remove you from their system). Uber is definitely a complex company that is making tons of money. Did you know that they specifically tell people "We are NOT a transportation company. We are a software company, and we have nothing to do with transporting people". From their end of things, they say that they only provide the means, via an app, to be connected with someone who needs a ride somewhere. Each "Partner" or "Driver" is an independent contractor. They've come up with a clever way to be a transportation company without being called one. And I must admit that I am continuously blow away by their app and how it interacts automatically with the rider's app. It's a very powerful little doodad that's for sure.
Posted by MargaretSPfan (Member # 3632) on :
Hi, Smitty!

No problemo with rambling. Actually, it did not come across at all as rambling. And it is very important that we be able to speak our minds without always thinking we have to be concise.

And, in case I hadn’t said so before, I think it is soooo cool that you play RR videos for your passengers, and it is even cooler that they like them! How wonderful! Definitely a great plus for your lucky passengers!

About Uber and auto insurance --
I know nada except for what I read on Altamont Press dot com. I think Uber owes it to it to its drivers to be clear about what they cover with their insurance and what they don’t. Obfuscation is wrong. And Uber should stop obfuscating.
+And, yes, it is way past time that every single person who drives for Uber (or Lyft, etc.) be a real employee, with good benefits, and be represented by a good union. This “contractor” business is ridiculous! And, yes, they are in the transportation business.

Oh, well.....

I do very much hope you will continue to enjoy your work for Uber. If one is a good driver and enjoys driving -- even in the Bay Area’s traffic -- it can be a great way to meet interesting people. Many people are so interesting that they really should write books about their lives.
Posted by palmland (Member # 4344) on :
Smitty, every Uber driver I've talked to loves the freedom of being an independent contractor. As you well know, you can set your own hours so that it fits into your schedule, not your employer. And I, as a customer, love it because of how easy it ease to use - no money necessary, always a nice car, and so are the drivers.

Amazing how that works when your performance, and pay, is tied directly to satisfying the customer without a supervisor getting in the way. The drivers seem to realize it's in their own best interest to be pleasant, courteous, and professional. Quite different than the taxi drivers who are just putting in the required hours. Uber is the kind of innovation we need more of in this country. Let's hope politics and regulations don't screw it up.

I'll get to sample it again in Sacramento and Seattle next month.
Posted by smitty195 (Member # 5102) on :
Thanks for the kind words about Uber! I am finding that I really enjoy doing it----people are so friendly. There are lots of things that Uber "suggests" you do as a driver (or "Partner") to make the rider's experience better, but so far everyone tells me, "NOBODY does that". Well, I'm doing it----I think it's great. I always tell people that they have their own temperature and fan controls in the back seat (it's a luxury SUV with every bell and whistle you can imagine!), so they can digitally set the exact temp, such as "71 degrees" on the digital readout, and then hit "Auto" or they can control the fan speed themselves. I also have an Apple Lightning Connector that I ran to the back seat, and I always tell people they're free to use it if they need to charge their Apple device while we're driving. Also, as long as they are plugged in to that connector, they have full control of the music and the volume. Some people don't care and just want a ride, but other people love being able to charge their device and play their own music on my car's Bose stereo. I'm the only one around here that offers that service from what I've been told.

And also palmland, like you said, for the drivers and partners, you work whenever you want to! It doesn't get much easier than that. I'm hoping for someone to get in and say something like, "I need to go to Sacramento". That would be so awesome!!! Awesome because of $$$$. That would be my one ride for the day because that would pay very well. And rides like that actually DO happen much more frequently than most realize. People need to go pretty much everywhere----it's awesome!
Posted by HopefulRailUser (Member # 4513) on :
Plan to try Uber in Seattle, King Street Station to the W Hotel downtown.

The new court ruling indicated that tipping can now be encouraged. Is that your understanding Smitty?

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