Part 36: The Results of My Driving Ms. Joan Experiment

driving-ms-joan-resultsWelcome Joan’s Journeyers. In my opinion, giving up one’s car and agreeing to no longer drive, belongs on the stress scale with death of a loved one, divorce and moving. Each of these events is life changing. For me, handing over my car keys to the friendly dealership representative was like cutting off a body part. My keys, and the life they represented, have been a part of me since age 16. Saturday, June 13, 2015, will remain in my instant recall for the rest of my life.

I returned my car about noon, filled out the paperwork and looked around the dealership for the last time. The attendant took my keys and whisked away my lovely vehicle to be serviced and sold.

With tears in my eyes, I followed the representative to a courtesy car. We drove a few blocks to the Santa Monica 3rd Street Promenade. I emerged upon three long blocks of fabulous stores, trendy restaurants, and best of all, street performers - dancers, musicians, magicians. After all, this is LA.

I headed directly to my favorite stop, Wetzel’s Pretzels. I preplanned this treat and  cheered up a bit after I enjoyed the warm pretzel and frozen strawberry lemonade. I slowly walked the two blocks to the huge Apple Store, stopping along the way to window and Kiosk shop, and observe the talented street entertainers. The Apple Genius Desk folks solved my Apple problems and the afternoon passed pleasantly.

OMG. It was time to return to Holiday Villa East, my senior living residence in Santa Monica. OMG. For the first time, I have to use my smart phone to order a driver. Communication technology and app usage are not intuitive to me. In a near panic, I thought, “What if I can’t get the app to work?” Quickly, the little voice of reason inside my head reminded me that a line of taxicabs waited at the street corner. With Plan B on alert, I reached for my phone.

My considerate son Mark had downloaded the app for me and showed me how to use it. He had even retested it, so we knew the app worked. But could I make it function?

The answer is Yes. The app worked, the driver arrived, and in minutes I was home in my senior community, along with a pretzel to share with my neighbor.

To be honest, the first month of ordering and using drivers was anxiety ridden. However, as I mastered the app, my confidence grew. Drivers were friendly and helped me learn the steps to success. By the end of Month 1, I figured out the correct app buttons to push, how to call my assigned driver and not to order drivers while standing on streets filled with tall buildings. Apparently, the static from the buildings keeps the signals from reaching the app satellite. I learned this lesson after walking 20 blocks home, thinking my phone was out of order. All I needed to do was walk to the nearest side street that was not surrounded by tall buildings.

Results of Driving Ms. Joan Experiment

 Here is a comparison of my experiences using hired drivers compared to a personal automobile.

  • Convenience of smart-phone online access to service: 90% flawless except occasionally in high density locations.
  • Monthly driver costs versus leasing and/or owning vehicle, including monthly lease or purchase fees, gasoline, auto insurance, and auto maintenance: This is very difficult to measure because driver costs vary with amount of usage, time of day and “surge price” charges; however, monthly total cost about the same or less.
  • Safety of driver service vehicle and driver: All automobiles appeared in good repair; most were new or nearly new, and 95% of drivers drove safely.
  • Courtesy of professional driver and driving habits: Drivers were friendly and courteous; however, one driver displayed road rage and one driver drove recklessly.
  • Availability of driver when ordered: 100% availability and I had no problems.
  • Length of time to pick up: On average it was three minutes for my senior residence, because location is busy beachside; and for LA residential neighborhoods it took about 7-11 minutes.
  • Comfort of service: Excellent and more convenient with far less hassle than driving a car. The driver, upon request, will assist passengers in and out of car, up and down the curb or the path to a building. They will even carry packages; however, for this additional services, I tip the driver.

driving-ms-joan-results-twoJourneyer’s, it’s hard to admit, but my adult children were right. Ordering a driver and leaving the gasoline fill-up, repairs, car wash, directions, traffic, and parking to a professional works for me. The plus is that all rides are automatically charged onto my credit card. Which means no searching in my wallet for parking lot money or valet tips. The new driver apps and services have revolutionized city travel. Think about it, Journeyer’s, your own personal chauffeur at your finger tips. At least for the foreseeable future, I’m in the wave of the future-app driving.

In the next Joan’s Journey, I’ll describe a surprising, low-cost transportation alternative I discovered during my Driving Ms. Joan Experiment. If you are  55+ or know someone who is, you may find this alternative quite helpful. In the meantime, Happy Thanksgiving and enjoy the journey day by day.

Joan London is a freelance medical and social service writer who specializes in topics on aging. London moved from Maryland to California to enjoy life in a senior living community and enhance her quality of life by living closer to her children and grandchildren.