Magazine article The Spectator

How Uber Is Killing Romance

Magazine article The Spectator

How Uber Is Killing Romance

Article excerpt

How Uber is killing the back-of-cab clinch

You know the old designation NSIT -- Not Safe in Taxis? Well, we need a new one: TSIU -- Too Safe in Ubers. I don't want to get into the rights and wrongs of Uber, whether the gig economy puts more money in the pocket of the taxi driver from Wembley or benefits only the San Francisco app-ocracy. I don't have strong feelings about Ubers vs black cabs and whether the former are undercutting the latter, doing them out of their Knowledge and their livelihoods. My objections to Uber are not economic or ethical, they are romantic. Uber has killed off the back-of-the-taxi clinch.

It used to be that, after a date, a party, a play, a chap could prove his mettle by striding to the kerb, raising his arm and shouting 'Taxi!' in a firm, strong baritone. He'd give the address, open the door, usher you in, and there, in the alcoved gloaming of the back seat, he'd lunge. And so great London love affairs began.

Laura Freeman and Isabel Hardman discuss the post-dinner date 'lunge':

Not any more. Now there is the question 'Shall we Uber?', the drawing of the phone from the pocket, the tapping of the postcode, the wait, 'Requesting...', the approach of the little Uber car on screen, stuck in traffic, stuck at the lights, oh, he's gone the wrong way, back round the roundabout, stuck in traffic again, nearly here, look for the number plate K5YD 1X2.... Meanwhile, two dozen black cabs with their lights on stream down Haymarket and the girl's feet get cold.

Then, once in the Uber, the girl waits, she hopes, but there is no lunge. The chap rests no hand on her knee; it is cradling his iPhone. He gazes not into her eyes; he is following the passage of the Uber avatar through the midnight satnav streets.

The car crosses Westminster Bridge. Her heart flutters. How thrilling. The Thames. the Houses of Parliament, the London Eye lit up. 'Earth has not anything to show more fair.' And the chap, not looking up from his screen, says: 'Look! We're going over the Thames,' and points to the moving taxi blob on the map. She wilts and thinks fondly of the old days of the back-of-the-black-cab clinch.

In these fraught times of Ched Evans, unhappy mornings after and consent lectures in the first weeks of university (in my first week we had a lecture about the Parthenon -- it was great), I must make clear that I am not talking about an uninvited grapple with an NSIT boss or senior barrister or predatory nightclub lizard. …

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