Politics

Working Capital: A Tallahassee Uber Driver Tells All

Drive, she said.
Drive, she said. Stock photo by Halbergman via Getty Images
As an Uber driver in Tallahassee since 2016, Kyle likes to say he's had everything go down in the back seat of his car short of passengers knocking boots.

Kyle — who moonlights for the gig company and asked that New Times use a pseudonym for fear of trouble at his day job with a state agency he'd prefer not to name — spends his nights and weekends plying the boulevards of the state capital, chauffeuring everyone from retail workers to sloshed college students to politicians and lobbyists.

He says members of the Capitol crowd are easy to spot by their wardrobes and their watering holes of choice, like Clusters & Hops and the Governors Club. He's not much on remembering names, but when New Times pestered him into submission, he spilled the beans about some memorable rides involving the South Florida crowd, effortlessly recounting vivid details, right down to what they wore and how much they tipped (or, in some cases, did not).

For instance, during the special session on guns that followed the tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High in 2018, he vividly recalls giving a ride to a "despondent" Parkland lawmaker who confided he was desperate to pass legislation for his hometown.

Below is a selection of the other tales he had to tell.

Honey, I'm Home!

One evening, Kyle picked up a lobbyist at Clusters & Hops who'd evidently had too much to drink and passed out in the back seat of his car. He recalls having to shake the incoherent woman awake once they arrived at her house and knock on the front door.

"Her husband answered the door and I said, 'Hi, I'm an Uber driver. This is really awkward. Your wife is in my car. She's passed out. I don't know what to do,'" he recalls. "And he came out and kind of carried her into the house."

The Livid Lobbyist

Kyle was driving a lobbyist home when he missed the turn to the man's destination. As he remembers it, his passenger looked up from his phone and laid into him, calling him a "stupid asshole."

"He took a moment to berate me and then he went back to yelling into his phone about this lawmaker who wouldn't see another dime if they didn't 'pass this fucking bill,'" he recounts.

Late-Night Munchies

Around midnight one evening during the most recent legislative session, Kyle picked up a passenger who identified himself as the chief of staff for a South Florida lawmaker and requested to go to Whataburger — which, he noted, wasn't available to him back home. The staffer, who appeared to be in his mid-30s, treated Kyle to a Diet Coke.

He also reeked of weed. Says Kyle: "He was high as a kite."

No Tip for You!

Kyle won't forget the second time he drove a prominent lobbyist who worked for Uber. The woman, who was accompanied by her husband, expressly promised to tip him, then didn't.

Noting that she didn't seem to remember him, he adds, "I have learned that anytime someone says anything about tipping you, that is a lie."

The Bills and the Bees

Among the handful of unnerving interactions Kyle has had with Florida legislators and lobbyists, there also have been wholesome moments.

During the latest legislative session, he recalls picking up a staff member near the Capitol who was in a big hurry to get home for what he nonchalantly mentioned as a "bee delivery." He later explained that he was hoping to try his hand at beekeeping.

"His phone rang and he was talking about, 'Yeah, we'll be in tomorrow, we'll talk about the bill, we'll do this or whatever; don't worry, I'll get it taken care of,'" Kyle says. "By the time he hung up, we're almost at his place. And I said, 'Hold on. Can we go back to where you said you're having bees delivered?'"
KEEP MIAMI NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Miami New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Miami, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Alex DeLuca is a staff writer at Miami New Times.
Contact: Alex DeLuca