Sra. Dyer, the Uber Driver

Anna Nash, Staff Writer

When walking around downtown Chattanooga, you might just run into CCS’s own Señora Nikki Dyer driving for Uber. For those who don’t know what Uber is or how it works, it is an app that allows people to type the location they need to get to and it automatically searches for the closest driver in the area. It functions as an easily accessible taxi cab. The driver nearest the client receives his/her request and can then either accept or decline. So far, Dyer has been an Uber driver for around 3 months.

Señora Dyer immigrated to the United States when she was 15 years old. She entered with a tourist visa and married an American citizen, securing her citizenship; however, she had to wait for her work permit and social security number to obtain a steady job. Until then, she cleaned houses for a living so she and her husband might afford the cost of living. Upon receiving her work permit, she was able to obtain a job as a loan processor at a pay day advance company; from there she moved to work for T-Mobile. She then waited tables at Olive Garden while attending college at Lee University, was a teacher assistant, and worked as an interpreter for a law firm. “I worked at Walmart once for 4 days and I couldn’t do it. Retail isn’t my thing.” she says.

Two days after her college graduation, Dyer was at work for teacher inservice at CCS. You can still find her working part time in the summers as an interpreter, and for extra income during the school year, she drives for Uber. “My husband is going back to school to finish his engineering degree, and so we had to get creative and find ways to bring in extra income,” Dyer says. Additionally, Uber is helpful for Dyer because of its flexible schedule. “I am a Spanish teacher, but I drive [for] Uber,” she says, “Although I’m walking through a challenging time, God is there with me providing a car [and] the flexibility in my schedule to provide for my family.”

Dyer began to pursue a career in language soon after she had her first daughter, and by the time she graduated college she had three children under the age of five. “It was probably the most challenging journey, but my passion to serve in the classroom kept me going,” Dyer says. “If I had to describe the passion I felt for teaching, I would describe it by saying exactly what I felt in my heart: I love my students already and I haven’t even met them.” The same thing could be said about the compassion she feels for those she meets on the street who just need a ride.  “A long time ago I read a book called The Gift of The Stranger based on faith and hospitality. And with that book I was able to learn that I shouldn’t think of a stranger as a negative thing. A stranger is actually a positive thing. With that thought in mind… the very act of being compassionate of [a stranger’s] situation and also being friendly and wanting to listen to them is a way of sharing the gospel because you are loving them and you’re showing them the kindness Jesus wants us to show others… People want to be heard. I’ve learned how much people want to share with a stranger that they’ll never see again. They share their profound and deep thoughts and sometimes experiences. It broadens your horizons when you’re willing to listen to others.”

Even though she usually starts in her driveway at her home on North Shore, she still has driven clients all over the city and even as far as Fort Payne, Alabama. For her, it’s “kind of like opening a magic box because you never know where you’re going. You get the message from the person that needs to picked up but have no idea whether they’re going to the airport or to Ooltewah. It could be a long one hour drive, [but]... the most it’ll tell me is ‘long ride.’ So it’s kind of like a surprise every time I show up.” Furthermore, she’s met people from all over the world (including Australia) who visit Chattanooga. On driving in local areas, she adds, “I’ve been able to explore Chattanooga in ways I didn’t know. I go from the projects to the nicest neighborhoods all in one night. Uber can be very versatile like that.”

In addition to your run-of-the-mill clients, Dyer has also given rides to recovering addicts and had a chance to hear people’s stories. “I’ve given a ride to an alcoholic, and… it was very nice to be able to share a message of hope with him and also not judge him. I gave a ride to a kid who was 19 years old and was on probation. He broke into some people’s cars and really put himself in bad situations... I told him that God loved him and… [that] there was a future for him.” Despite any assumptions one might make about driving a stranger around at night, Dyer denies having any questionable encounters while on the job. She says, “When I started driving, I was scared that I would be the victim of a crime because you hear so many stories. Everyone’s actually very nice. I’ve had difficult people. They’re not necessarily dangerous, but they’re difficult. I drive at night on Fridays/Saturdays so I tend to find people [who], the later I drive, the more intoxicated they are. And that could be difficult.” One thing Dyer specifically wanted to emphasize was the shocking amount of young people (not underaged)- often highly intoxicated on the weekends. “It makes me wonder: what are we doing wrong as a society that someone is in so much pain that they feel they need to destroy themselves by drinking in the way that they do? It’s unbelievable- most of my riders at night are young, intoxicated people. [Although] I’m taking drunk drivers off the road, I’m sad to see how much destruction there is.”

To put it briefly, Dyer is not only making money to supplement her income working as a teacher, but she is also enriching her knowledge of the world around her. She knows that strangers are people with unique experiences that can be learned from. Dyer is able to be a witness to all who surround her through the skill of listening. As for you- who knows? One day you might find you want to spill your guts to a stranger; and maybe you’ll learn something new about yourself in the process.