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An Etiquette Guide for Using Uber Pool and Lyft Line

There are rules that can’t be broken

Getty Images
Getty Images

Transportation is in a weird place at the moment. Teslas can steer themselves, driverless cabs are in their beta phase, and Apple might even have the “courage” to release a Jony Ive–approved car. But for most city dwellers on a budget, participating in the transit revolution isn’t any more glamorous than ordering an Uber Pool or Lyft Line, waiting a very long time for it to arrive, and then sharing a four-door sedan with strangers. It’s a strange ritual that has — for many in metro areas — become the norm. In March, Uber counted more than 100 million pools taken through its service. And according to a recent New York Times report, these shared trips often account for half of their total rides in major cities like New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco.

As a result, a new semipublic space has emerged: the backseat of your algorithmically assigned carpool. And, well, I don’t know how to say this, but: You all suck at coexisting there. You brought your animals, oversized luggage, loud phone calls, and unsolicited banter into a 6-foot-wide vessel. It’s no wonder that a frequently asked question on the Lyft Line site is whether passengers can rate each other. Of course you can’t. You would all be at zero stars.

This ends now with this comprehensive Lyft Line and Uber Pool passenger-etiquette guide.

The Rules of the Subway Apply

This is a good place to start, because many of the tenets of being a bearable human in a small, public space are founded in mass underground transit. (There, in the territory of the Rat Kings, is where humans first banded together for the sake of our species’ survival.) Unless you’re an actual monster, your subway persona is polite, distant, and follows these basic rules:

  • No eating smelly takeout. A bag of chips, MAYBE.
  • Keep bag sprawl at a minimum. Anticipate being asked to move an item.
  • Choose a location that affords the maximum space between you and other occupants.
  • Do not engage in any activity that would qualify as personal hygiene.
  • No extended eye contact.*
  • Cover your fucking mouth when you cough.

Please consider enacting these basic guidelines in your Uber Pool or Lyft Line.

*Unless you’re sexy.

Acknowledge Human Existence

Because carpooling requires you to share a space that’s more confining than a subway car, it’s harder to be the aloof individual you aim to be in public. If you are getting picked up by a driver who already has a passenger in the car, recognize their existence. Make brief eye contact. Take your earbuds out of your ears. Nod. Maybe even say the word “hi.” Be careful to strike a tone that is respectful, but uninviting. Aspire to Julianna Margulies’s expressionless face. If you accidentally indicate that you want to have a conversation, there’s really no going back. Your trip is doomed, you are committed to a polite back-and-forth. Remember: All you owe to your fellow Pool/Line occupants is the acknowledgement that they are there and so are you.

Respect the Algorithm

Take a second to consider the mechanism by which both Lyft and Uber are able to offer you an automated ridesharing service in the first place. You give them your Point A and Point B, their GPS-equipped program processes it like beep boop bop beep and, like magic, you are matched with a person who is kinda going the same way, and set on the best route to take you to your destinations in the shortest amount of time possible.

But this formula is incredibly fragile, and can be thrown off by the slightest delineation. Meaning you cannot, under any circumstance, ask your driver to change his route because something in your life has drastically shifted within the last 20 minutes. This is basically the carpool equivalent of manspreading. The poor stranger who was randomly matched with you should not be inconvenienced because of your incompetence. You ordered this Uber Pool, and you must ride it out to the end or get out, even if you accidentally entered in the address for Guy’s American Kitchen & Bar in Times Square.

It’s also unacceptable to balk at the algorithm’s suggestion for a route or — this recently happened to an unnamed Ringer colleague — ask that a person get out and walk so you can get to your destination quicker. Perhaps you’re in a rush, and you think, “There’s no way this other passenger could possibly need to get home as urgently as I do.” Your logic is flawed. You, along with your fellow passengers, have bypassed the option for a private car and therefore signed away your need for efficiency. The car is, by default, equalized in urgency. If you insist otherwise, you are a truly flawed human being, like one of those Wall Street bros who walks around a crowded street with a giant golf umbrella.

In short: Do not question the algorithm. The algorithm is god and you are not.

All Environmental Changes Must Be Discussed

Route and destination are indisputable. But things like temperature, music, and seating are permissible topics of negotiation. If you happen to be in a car that is transporting four people, as another Ringer colleague recently was, you might ask the smallest passenger to sit in the middle seat.

Unless you sense a special kind of kinship with a passenger, do not commit to a conversation about what radio station to choose. You will likely be disappointed, or get sucked into a dumb conversation about why only geniuses like death metal. When in doubt, defer to your driver. (If you driver wants to listen to Bollywood tunes or religious hymns, let him! It’s his car and he is not being paid enough to endure the musical tastes of young Brooklynites, et al.!) If a lowered window is messing up your ’do, explain the situation to your fellow carpooler and ask them to kindly adjust the wind flow. Do not, under any circumstances, fart. This is the second-worst place to do it. (The first is an elevator.)

Check Your Privileges

As mentioned above, by selecting an Uber Pool or Lyft Line you automatically abandon your right to exercise individual will within the given confines of the car. Think of it like being a member of the Guilty Remnant in the Leftovers, sans all that smoking. (You should never smoke in an Uber or Lyft. Maybe a Gett, though.) The Guilty Remnant has no obtuse belongings, no giant balloons that repeatedly bop fellow cult members in the face, no cats or dogs of various sizes and smells, no car seats or young children, no free-wheeling private phone calls in the presence of others. You, the carpooler, should not either. The moment you consider bringing one or more of these things into a car shared with other passengers, I want you to pause, grab a hold of your thumb, and slowly navigate it to the private car option in your transportation app. I’m sure you can afford the extra $10.