Innovation. It’s what has led us to be able to have steel structures that touch the sky instead of earthen dwellings. We read our newspapers on the computer screen instead of trekking down the driveway to retrieve it in paper form. When we went out for a drink, or two, or three and perhaps had one too many, we had the options of walking miles to get home, calling a friend for a ride, having the bar call you a taxi, or you drive home inhibited. I’ve tried the walking thing, but being drunk and walking rarely goes well especially when you live a town or two away from your bar. I’ve called friends from my sloshed state and it was hit or miss as to whether I got picked up due to my history of puking in cars. I’ve certainly driven drunk and I’m still ashamed of those acts to this day. Taking a taxi rarely happened, because the few times I had taken a taxi while inebriated I had been ripped off after waiting for an hour for a ride. Not to mention, the sobriety level of the taxi driver themselves. You know you’ve questioned that too.
The internet has given us more choice. We can now call a ridesharing service, such as Uber. The service, and others like it, allow you to use your smartphone to request a ride. Uber sets up the price, gets your GPS location, gives you choices for a driver, and shows you on the map where your ride is and what they are driving. You watch your phone and see the car arrive right at your feet, or right at the spot where you are leaning against a wall. The Uber service allows you to choose from a swath of drivers, all of whom went through background checks, criminal records and Uber doesn’t allow drivers with a bad history of doing so. Go figure, a multi million dollar establishment would want to insure that the people driving under their name aren’t felonious scumbags with a history of asshole driving. Uber requires drivers to use a newer vehicle that has end to end insurance to cover themselves and their rides. You won’t be stepping into a 1983 Corsica that bellows black smoke as it arrives at your curb, though I wonder if a custom option exists with Uber and if not getting picked up in an ’83 Corsica dragster might be a market worth considering.
Uber simply acts as a one man operation taxi service. The drivers are given the freedom to work when they can, as a man named Christopher David was doing for extra income to prepare for his incoming newborn. Everything seems on the up and up right? He has a good car, clean and with insurance. He’s proven that he’s got a clean driving record. He helps his
wife to a comfortable couch and grabs his keys to hit the road and sign on with Uber, driving people in need of rides home from the busy bar scene in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.
Not so fast! Sometimes people who have lived so long on a protected industry feel that they are entitled to stop technology from changing their business model. The newspapers fought the internet news startups. The blacksmiths fought the steel trade. Blockbuster Video fought Netflix. Taxi drivers have had a long history of paying big cash to government and big kickbacks to government officials to be allowed to run an oligopoly in their particular territory. The business of driving a person from one place to another for money could only be done by a government approved business. They’ll say it’s because of safety. They say it’s because insurance. They’ll tell you that the taxi companies are pillars of the community, always there when you need them. They paid their dues and should be allowed to operate unmolested by competition. They are “good guys” who drink at the same bars they pick their customers up at.
Uber drivers are “unregulated” they say. They say that they don’t have insurance. They say that some of them might even be unlicensed. They appeal to authority. They appeal to emotion. They are clutching the very last thread of their industry, their protected industry, and are moving on to fight those people who are embracing the new technology that is making their old business model obsolete. City governments all over the world are attempting to try to halt technology to ensure that their taxi services remain in control, and that they keep getting the cash in hand they require to rule over us. Portsmouth, New Hampshire took to tackle the scourge of available and safe taxi services by banning the use of Uber and other ride sharing services.
Christopher David, an Uber driver who lives in Dover made headlines recently because of his of open defiance of the Portsmouth Uber ban. He stated loudly that he would continue to drive for Uber regardless of the fines he would incur. For Christopher, it’s more than just saving for his incoming newborn, it’s a stand for your right to use your car to drive who you want to. You have to ensure your car is inspected annually. You pay the city for the right to own your car by registering it. Why can’t you use your car as a delivery driver, even if the deliveries happen to be human beings?
Portsmouth PD, having not solved their heroin crisis has decided to crack down on Uber instead of expending their energies where they are really needed. Stephanie Franz, a 63 year old bus driver does moonlighting as an Uber driver. She was recently the first person cited in the new ordinance and has become a bit of a folk hero known as Uber Grandma.
David, for his outspoken defiance of the ordinance, was targeted outside a local Portsmouth hole-in-the-wall establishment known as the Daniel Street Tavern. The bouncer at the bar, Big Mike, who is a part of the taxi conspiracy himself as a driver, sought to inform the local police about seeing Christopher David picking up a fare. Big Mike snitched out and summoned the police to handle a problem with a person ensuring an inebriated individual got home safely. The Officer even attempted to inform David of his breaking of the ordinance and the incident was recorded by David as seen here in this extensive Free Keene article.
David put the video up on Youtube, and days later received a notice that he was going to be arrested for wiretapping. Yup. Even the police, who are supposed to understand the laws they enforce, are clueless as to how a person could possibly be charged for recording a conversation indiscreetly in public where everyone understands, you have no expectation of privacy. An arrest warrant was issued for David, and while David was out buying baby supplies the police attempted to snatch him from his home. Christopher David and his wife were terrified that the police, in their lust of gaining compliance would cause David to miss the birth of his child, which is due anyday. Christopher made arrangements to have himself turned in, so that he could be processed for his victimless crime and be out in time to witness the birth and be with his wife in this time of need. I sit here and wonder about all the true heinous crimes that were being committed and that would have gone without if only the police were spending their time handing those crimes instead of harassing a young man. They have the discretion to do otherwise, and it shows the character of a person who would knowingly arrest someone for something so petty while also with the understanding that he would possibly miss one of the most important days in his child’s life. Appalling to say the least.
Big Mike took the night off of working at the Daniel Street Tavern. A Friday and Saturday mainstay at the establishment, it was quite obvious that Big Mike was a Big Pussy (as in the Sopranos Rat) and chose to stay home and avoid the fact that many people could not sit by and allow such a blatant disregard for liberty to be done without having our say too. I arrived around 7:30 to see 10 other activists standing in front of the Tavern, holding bright and colorful signage. Passersby could be heard stating that this was the most excitement that has been at this dive bar in quite a while. An employee even stated that he was excited to see so many people out front, he thought he was actually going to be busy tonight. Local videographer, Shire Dude, livestreamed the entire event. Fox 25, Boston had a camera crew out to film the protests.
Soon, the Portsmouth PD, fresh off of trying to find some more old ladies to take advantage of, came tearing over to ensure everything was okay with the fact that people were peacefully standing on the street holding signage. They entered the bar to talk to the manager, who wasn’t busy at all because it was completely dead except for the activists outside. The activists were sure to let people know that the beef wasn’t with the bar itself, but with the fact that their bouncer, while in the course of his duties working for them, was snitching out people also trying to make a living in the streets. Some activists even exclaimed that they’d perhaps be inside having a beer if Big Mike would just be a big man and drop the charges. No one seemed to be able to get a hold of Mike, perhaps Mike was out making a living that evening by driving a car and dropping people off from place to place.
The Officers came out in a cluster to confront the crowd. He informed the activists of the rights they already knew from civics class in high school. You have the right to peacefully assemble. You have the right to protest. You don’t have the right to speak to people heading into the bar.. . . which was obviously met with corrections. Perhaps the police forgot that you can not only record in public places, but you can also talk to people in public too. After he conceded the fact, he and his fellow officers chose to return to their vehicles and escape the videocameras that were pointed at them.
The public was easily for Uber, all night long. People stopped to tell us stories of how they were so wasted and waited three hours for a taxi to show up, and when they did the taxi charged them double or wouldn’t let them out. Another person exclaimed that the taxis always smelled like booze, and they were worried about even getting the few miles they were trying to. Some walkers stopped to question what Uber was, and some got argumentative, but the activists were steadfast in their control of the conversation, drawing it back to being friendly explaining that it was simply something we disagreed on. Not one person left angry when speaking to these activists.
One barfly came out to counter-protest/smoke a cigarette. He got more argumentative each time he came out for another smoke, and I blame that on what he was doing inside the bar during each intermission.
Christopher David, having helped his wife to bed, decided to come out and attempt to talk to the manager of the bar. An activist helped by measuring out the 100 yards he had to keep away from the bar itself due to his bail conditions. The manager and David seemed to have a good talk, and perhaps at some early acceptance, there would be an end to the protest and an end to Christopher David’s looming charges. For the sake of the people of Portsmouth, it would be in their best interest to get in touch with their Portsmouth Police Department and ask that they drop these charges
out of fear of the lawsuit they’ve set themselves up quite nicely for.
The activists that came out were made up of locals and activists from the Free State Project, a migration of liberty activists from all over the globe. We had an activist from Brazil, we had a guy from Los Angeles. These people, like me, weren’t Uber drivers, but people who wanted to stick up for people who were living free and just trying to make their way in this world without harming anyone else. The activists were the best part of the evening, the way they reached the public on this issue has been nothing short of extraordinary. Is this activism happening where you live? Consider a move to New Hampshire, where 15 people show up with 3 hours notice.
Furthermore, Portsmouth should take a look at Uber as yet another innovation of technology that can help reduce our drunk driving occurrences and also draw people back to the bar scene in our New Hampshire cities without fear of being nabbed in a DWI or worse, killing someone trying to get home.
For coverage on the Portsmouth Uber situation check out the following links: