People of Charlotte, please meet Lisa Heffler! Lisa is on a mission to make you feel heard, whether it's from behind the wheel of her car or from inside her mobile podcasting studio. She knows how to share a good story and you can bet, with her approachable and kind demeanor, she has collected a lot of stories. Here is Lisa's story and some stories from her Uber experience!
How did the door to Uber open for you?
When I was a server and was growing tired of being on my feet all day, someone suggested that I drive for Uber. At that time, I didn’t even know what Uber was.
So you had never "Ubered" prior to becoming a driver?
How long have you been a driver?
Full-time or part-time?
I have to drive an inordinate amount of time to pay my bills for my family, so full-time it is!
What does full-time look like?
16 hours a day, 6 days a week!
Ever have any lulls in a day?
I’ve never been short on passengers. Literally, I have ride after ride all day, with occasional exceptions.
How many rides have you given?
As a driver, what is one of the rules you live by?
When someone gets into my car, I always open with a greeting. It gets people talking and I want them to feel relaxed and comfortable. I always make sure the temperature inside my car is comfortable for them. I ask what they do and that’s how I met a potential sponsor for my new business.
Not many can say they have the world’s first anything. What is your claim to fame?
As much as I enjoy being a rideshare driver, I have been searching for something that really lights me up. Three months ago, I found it. My business partner, Rhonda, and I launched the world’s first and only mobile podcasting studio that includes a mural exhibition from a local artist each month. You have to see it. It’s pretty cool. It's a unique place for Charlotteans to come record their stories. It’s been a blast getting out into the community and being involved with local events.We have great things planned.
What is your podcast business called?
Podcasting and driving both have storytelling in common. You must have an appreciation for storytelling!
I get to experience small slices of other people’s lives every single day. I have been witness to engagements, weddings, happy stories and heartbreaking stories. I have to say there have been equally funny stories as there have been devastating ones. I am a bartender on wheels. People think they will never see me again so they share very intimate details of their lives with me. It's a privilege of sorts that people feel safe enough with me to open up in this way.
Can you share some of the stories that have stayed with you?
Sometimes you are left forever wondering what happened to someone, where they ended up. You get part of the story but rarely do you get the ending. I picked up a young girl, a server, who was on her way to give her employer notice that she was quitting. She was very upset and shared her story.
Her 21-year-old autistic brother who was enlisted in the army thought he was done serving. He was about to get out, but due to an administrative error, he was still enlisted. At the same time, when the “don’t ask, don’t tell” law went into effect, he told all his fellow soldiers that he was gay. It didn’t go very well, and, die to his autism, he didn’t fully understand the potential repercussions. A soldier then falsely accused him of rape. He was immediately court-martialed and three military attorneys told his family that, despite his innocence, he didn’t have a chance and faced a jail sentence of 60 years. Her brother was threatening suicide because he was so confused over everything going on—it was overwhelming for him. From a place of true concern and love, his sister, my passenger, had come up with a plan to rescue him from his base in Texas. After resigning from her job, she was going to sneak him off his base in Texas and obtain a fake passport for them both to leave the country for Europe. She was crying, scared, but determined. Even after I emphasized that she and her brother would never be able to step foot back into our country, she didn’t waver.
Years later, I still wonder how that story ended.
Wow. That story could be made into a movie. Heartbreaking. How else have passengers interacted with you?
One night, I picked up three guys—two sat in the back and one sat upfront. The guy in the passenger seat started to get a little handsy. I told him about the taser I would use if he didn’t stop. I further explained that he might discover body fluids he never knew he had if he chose to cross the line again. Well,he thought that was an invitation to game night and offered me twenty bucks to actually tase him. I don’t have to tell you that I didn’t accept his offer despite kind of wanting to. [laughs]
What’s one of your most adventurous or white-knuckle rides?
After picking up a couple at the Greyhound bus station in Charlotte, they asked me to drive them to Savannah, GA, to SCAD. Since I had been driving passenger after passenger all day, I had not tuned into the weather. Not too far into the drive, we hit the ice storm that was coming up the East Coast. I then learn the reason why my passengers had to fly into Chicago, took a bus into Charlotte, and then Ubered with me (they had just returned from visiting their families in China and the weather disrupted their flights). The road turned into a solid sheet of ice, cars were flipped upside down, dozens landed in ditches along the sides of the road. For 80 miles, I literally drove 5 mph. My GPS then decided to take me off the highway and into a blizzard. Seven hours later, I dropped them at SCAD. I then had to do the same trip in reverse back to Charlotte; this time alone and in the dark!
What a harrowing trip. Were you were compensated accordingly?
Well, to add to the storm, my Uber app stopped working two and a half hours into the trip, so the trip wasn’t being logged. As a result, my $400 trip turned into a $200 trip after negotiations with Uber. The couple was appreciative and generously gave me $150 tip. They had been traveling for 40 hours straight and were happy to be at the end of their journey. They were so sweet.
It’s like you are in your own version of that 90’s show, Touched by an Angel, and people just need someone to talk to and you show up.
Yes, but I have learned that you can’t always change the decisions people make. A young girl in her early 20s got into my car at 8:30 AM, drunk, and requested that I take her to the Amtrak station. She didn’t know where she was going but just needed to go somewhere. Seeing how upset she was, I asked what was going on and said I wasn’t comfortable dropping her off in the state she was in. She shared that it was the one year anniversary of the day she found her brother hanging in his closet, the day she had to deliver the news to her mother. That day was still as painful as it ever was for her. I offered to get coffee with her, to comfort her, and to keep her from boarding a train until she at least sobered up. Despite my best efforts, she got on a train. And I collected another story without an ending.
What drives you crazy (haha)?
People trying to bring their babies into my car without a carseat. No! No! No! It’s against the law and I could get a huge ticket, not to mention the liability. People get angry, but I refuse. I also refuse to drive children under the age of 15. A father wanted me to drive his six-year-old son by himself. Again, no! And what father puts their child into a car with someone they don’t know?
Circling back to PodBlast Charlotte, how can people and podcasters find the pod?
People of CLT publishes stories about everyday Charlotteans and Carolinians. We celebrate YOUR story because YOU matter. It is our mission to promote inclusiveness, unity, understanding, community, diversity, empathy, and compassion.
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