On March 4, 2020

Movie Diary: The Invisible Man

More than meets the eye

I was on a business trip recently where I had to take an Uber to get from one place to another. I pulled up the app, punched in a few data points, and within seconds I could see where my driver was and how long it would take him to get to me. I never had to exchange money and other than a few niceties, I never had to speak a word.

Traditionally, I had always taken taxis, but like so many others, I adopted this new social network approach to transportation because it’s so damn easy and convenient.

I was initially hesitant to go this route. I’m a believer in utilizing professional services and I was admittedly suspect about having any Joe with four wheels drive me around. However, I also knew the pricing for ride-hailing was much more attractive than traditional taxi services, so that’s what finally lured me in.

My first experiences with ride-hailing were with coworkers. Not surprisingly, it was my younger colleagues who were the early adopters. Where I had hesitations getting into a stranger’s car, they were quick to jump on the idea.

After several successful transports, I finally downloaded the app and began utilizing the services on my own. Over the years, I’ve come to rely and even appreciate the approach.

During this time, I’ve seen the app grow in popularity. Now there are competitive apps like Lyft that offer the same service with other value-added features. I’ve always stuck with Uber even while they went through a rough PR stretch a year or two ago that allowed Lyft to start digging into their market share.

Uber began in 2009 when computer programmer Garrett Camp and his friends went out for a New Year’s Eve celebration. Over the course of the night, the group spent $800 hiring a private driver. In frustration, Camp began to consider alternatives where he could reduce the cost of direct transportation. He realized that sharing the cost with other people would be the best alternative.

Following a beta launch in May 2010, Uber services and mobile app officially launched in San Francisco in early 2011. At the start, users could only hail a black luxury car; the cost was generally around 1.5 times that of a taxi.

In July 2012, Uber introduced UberX, a less expensive option that allowed anyone to drive for Uber using non-luxury vehicles (as long as they passed a background check and other minor requirements). Initially rates were similar to taxis but were 35% cheaper than UberBlack.

By 2013, 35 cities across the United States had Uber drivers. That year also saw the beginning of Uber drivers being allowed to use their own personal vehicles. This dramatically reduced costs and led to a massive expansion in popularity.

As of 2020, Uber now operates in 785 metropolitan areas and has over 110 million users worldwide. Currently, Uber controls 67% of the ride-sharing market and 24% of the food delivery market with its offshoot, UberEats.

Recently, I got into an argument with a 30-something coworker. We were discussing the rating system that Uber offers where passengers can rate their experience with a driver. Conversely, a driver can also rate a passenger.

We were sharing an Uber together when the driver announced that he had to stop to get gas. When he got out of the car to fill up the tank, my coworker grabbed her phone and began typing. She then explained that as soon as we were dropped off, she was going to give a bad review.

I mentioned how uncomfortable I was with rating people in that way. My young coworker scoffed at this idea. She told me that she has no reservations about slamming a driver who she felt was not offering a perfect service.

And sure enough, as soon as our near-perfect ride was over, she gave the driver a two-star rating. I tried to make the case that a two-star rating should be reserved for truly offensive behavior, but she would have none of it. At that point, I just wanted to slump down into the seat and disappear.

This week’s film, “The Invisible Man,” also involves disappearing; however, in this case it has to do with a wealthy tech inventor who discovers a way to cloak his physical presence.

Set in modern-day San Francisco, “The Invisible Man” is more of a whodunit thriller than a sci-fi extravaganza. Thankfully, the storyline is full of valid twists and turns that make the plot – even the invisibility angle – believable.

I thoroughly enjoyed this film and can easily attest to its being the best movie of 2020 so far. The story is top notch and the acting is genuine – especially from lead actress Elisabeth Moss (“Mad Men,” “The Handmaid’s Tale”).

Definitely give this one a shot as soon as you can. You’ll be on the edge of your seat until the very end.

A stealthy “A-” for “The Invisible Man.”

Got a question or comment for Dom? You can email him at moviediary@att.net.

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