Tuesday, February 10, 2015

**Uber Overboard

["Let Inga Tell You," La Jolla Light, published February 12, 2015] © 2015 

In my previous column, I wrote about what a boon Uber cars could be to the elderly, especially in San Diego where buses are unreliable (and frequently don’t run at night) and many taxi companies, which are expensive, won’t do short runs. Uber has given me a whole new outlook on life. They’ll go anywhere! Anytime! On a moment’s notice! For fairly cheap! In fact, I should probably sell my car right now and just use Uber!

OK, getting a little carried away there. But I’ve also been thinking of all the other applications Uber might be used for with the elderly. On your 65th birthday – as soon as that Medicare card is laminated and tucked into your wallet, the dementia anxiety attacks – and jokes – begin. We laugh, of course, to hide the fact that we’re completely terrified. Watching the 11 o’clock news about the elderly person who has wandered off from his facility truly puts fear in your heart. You can’t help but super-impose your face on the screen. And you just know your hair would look like hell.

I read an article a while back that said if you can’t find your car keys, that’s getting older. If you don’t remember you have a car, it’s dementia. Every time I’m searching in my mind for a word for a column or crossword, I find myself muttering a refrain in the background, “I have a car, I have a car.” Probably if I stopped doing that, I’d remember the word a lot sooner.

It didn’t help that soon after my 65th birthday, my older son, the perpetual prankster Rory, saw an ad on TV for a placement service for the severely memory-impaired. Several days later, a very sympathetic woman called and asked for my husband Olof, and when told he was at work, was dismayed to learn that I had been left unattended. She seemed to have a great deal of information about me and when I adamantly insisted “I do not need institutional care!” soothed, “You seem to be having one of your good days, dear.”

But back to Uber. I think Uber has huge possibilities for the senility set. It could have your address installed in the app so that if you got lost and couldn’t remember where you lived, you just press the Uber app and the driver shows up and takes you home. That, of course, is assuming you can remember to push the Uber button but that seems inherently easier than remembering your address.

But I had some even better ideas after my younger son, the nice one, told me that over the holidays, in the process of extricating themselves from three tiny kids, he and his wife arrived at a dinner party without the chocolate soufflé they’d promised to bring for dessert. Dismayed at the prospect of going all the way home to get it, my son had the brilliant idea of sending an Uber car to his home where the sitter handed off the soufflé to the Uber driver, who delivered it to the party. It was automatically charged to the credit card without their ever getting in the car themselves. (For the record, the soufflé rated the driver very highly.)

So, I’m thinking, if soufflés, why not Mom?

Letting my ever-overamped imagination run wild, I was thinking that Uber could develop a sub-application called “Find My Mother.” Mom wanders away from The Home and son is alerted by the Escape Alarm on his phone that she is no longer tied to her bed. Son presses his new Uber-GoGetHer app which immediately gives a GPS location on Mom who presumably has her phone in a little velvet carrying case around her neck. (OK, you may have to microchip her.) The Uber driver swoops in, puts mom in the car (hopefully she goes quietly) and returns me, er, her to The Facility, courtesy of the “If found, please return to” app on Mom’s phone. Avoids that whole embarrassing evening news thing. Never mind that son didn’t even have to blink during his Power Point presentation.

Now, as a senior, I think these Uber applications should go both ways. Don’t like the nursing home your kids have stashed you in? Before you make a break for it, you install an override app on your phone with special instructions to the Uber driver: DON’T TAKE ME BACK TO THAT PLACE. LEAVE ME AT THE DOWNTOWN RAILROAD STATION AND CHARGE A ONE-WAY TICKET TO SAN FRANCISCO ON MY CREDIT CARD. THEN THROW THE PHONE IN THE BAY. Like, we have rights too.

Now that I’m on Medicare, issues of aging occupy a lot of my brain cells. Olof thinks they would probably be better spent on memory exercises. The important thing is, I’m pretty sure I have a car.

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