By Elyse Delano |

Until two weeks ago, I had never ridden in an Uber. Now I’ve ridden in an Uber exactly once but know I never will again.  

Let me explain. It was the first day of spring break, and my roommates and I had planned a trip to the Cayman Islands. Our flight left from Austin around 8 a.m., so we had driven down the night before and stayed in a hotel so we didn’t have to wake up before the crack of dawn to get there. At 5 a.m. the morning we were flying, we got the notification no traveler wants to hear: our flight – the only flight that left from Austin and arrived in time to our connecting plane – had been canceled.

The only possible option was to buy new tickets from a totally different airport that offered a direct flight to Cayman, since no flights available would make our connection. So we canceled our seats on the plane leaving Florida, and bought tickets on direct flights leaving from Dallas.

Then we faced a new challenge. The car we used to drive from Waco had to stay in Austin because that’s where our return flight was dropping us off at the end of the week. We couldn’t rent a car either, because none of us were old enough. So we decided to Uber. Big mistake.

We had only five hours to make it to the airport in time for our new flight and we needed at least four of those hours to actually drive there. We ordered four Ubers and they all either canceled when they found out we needed to go to Dallas, or got lost looking for us. Time was running out.

Then, a miracle. Helen showed up.

Helen was an elderly women who seemed unbothered by our distant destination and agreed to take us to the airport, assuring us that we shouldn’t worry since she’s a “defensive driver”. That was our first clue that things were off. Any other time I would venerate defensive driving, but not when we have barely enough time to make our international flight in another city.

Before we left, she turned and said the words that will haunt me forever.

“Are one of you girls going to stay awake to make sure I don’t fall asleep?”

I thought she was kidding. She was not kidding.

An hour and a half into our trip, I realized just how serious Helen was, and our miracle driver turned into one from a nightmare.

I glanced up from my phone to the rear view mirror and watched as Helen’s eyes slowly fluttered to a close and her head lulled to the side. I think part of me died. She jerked awake, but only momentarily before repeating her nap at the wheel. My hands gripped the driver’s seat and I imagined myself violently shaking the chair until she woke up, but instead I was frozen.

My Uber driver is sleeping at the wheel. She’s asleep. Her eyes aren’t open. I’m going to die in this old lady’s car.

I motioned at Helen to my friend sitting next to me, who still hadn’t caught on to our impending deaths. We both sat there watching her, coughing and chatting loudly every time her head dropped. What else could we do?

And then it happened. My life flashed before my eyes as Helen’s head went limp and the car swerved into the next lane. My mouth opened, ready to produce a noise like that of a dying cat, when she shot back up and turned on her blinker. She caught me staring at her in the mirror.

“Do one of you girls have your licence?”

“Yes!” All three of us shouted simultaneously.

“I think I need a little nap. Maybe one of you could drive for a little while?”

We pulled over and my roommate got into the driver’s seat.

Was this even legal? Probably not. But it was our best shot of not dying and making to the airport on time, since Helen had been driving at least 25 under the speed limit since we’d left Austin.

So for the next two hours, my roommate drove and Helen napped. And when we jerked to a stop at DFW– barely in time to make it through security and board our plane– we still had to pay Helen almost 300 dollars. For napping. And almost killing us. Worst 300 ever spent.