When his wife went into early labor, first-time dad David Lee thought he was ready. The New York City lawyer had his wife, his wife’s birthing coach and overnight bag at the ready, and all they needed was a ride. But when they summoned a car from the ride-hailing app Uber, the driver took one look at the laboring woman and refused to drive them to the hospital.
Then he charged them $13 for arguing with him about it on the sidewalk.
They had only 3 miles to go, and if you’ve ever lived in or stayed in New York City, you know that the cost of owning your own car to drive yourself around is sky high. Since Lee’s wife didn’t need an ambulance, they, like many metro couples before them, chose to call for a ride. They hailed an Uber, which pulled up just in time for the driver to see Lee’s wife toss her cookies all over the pavement, and he told them they would have to find another ride.
They begged him to take them, assured him that she was done puking and offered to pay for any cleaning just in case she wasn’t. No dice. Not only did he refuse them service, but he charged them for the time the group spent arguing and allegedly told the Lees that no other Uber driver would take a laboring woman either.
He was wrong, of course. People do, in fact, give birth in Uber cars, and it’s not all bad, especially if the driver is a decent human being. And after the driver sashayed off, the couple was able to hail another Uber to get them where they needed to go, and now, two months later, the family is doing just fine… albeit making national news.
What’s more is that this driver wasn’t just wrong, he was extra-super-duper wrong. New York City Uber drivers are required to get a special license through the Taxi and Limousine Commission and to abide by the laws that govern it, including this one:
A Driver must not refuse by words, gestures or any other means, to take a Passenger, including a person with a disability and any service animal accompanying this individual, to any destination within the City of New York, the counties of Westchester or Nassau, or Newark Airport.
This refers to individuals covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act, which includes pregnant ladies, even the ones who vomit.
Putting aside inaccuracies and potential illegalities, there’s the fact that going into labor and then having to be out in public is a recipe for a good ol’ shunning. Thanks to bad sitcoms and corny movies, there’s this expectation that nothing good comes of a woman going into labor. Well, maybe the baby. But everything else is really gross.
What starts off as her gushing weird liquid onto everything when her water breaks — which always happens, happens right away and consists of gallons upon gallons of weird baby fluid — will escalate quickly, until she’s in the back of your car with her feet jammed up over the passenger headrest, screaming and bleeding all over your stuff.
Then, if you’re really unfortunate, a slimy baby pops out. All in the space of, like, five minutes, tops.
The truth is, a 3-mile jaunt to the hospital isn’t even necessarily enough time for two consecutive contractions, let alone full-on baby carnage. Maybe this guy didn’t know that, or maybe he did and is just that much of a jerk.
We’re going out on a limb here and suggesting that this guy, as an Uber driver, has probably seen his share of drunk passengers, and great, because better in an Uber than on the highway, right? And while it’s not uncommon to vomit in labor, it’s definitely less common than puking when you’re drunk. So it seems misguided to accept one fare and not the other.
To be honest, most ride-share or taxi cab birth stories don’t end poorly; in the very rare instance that the baby makes its grand entrance en route, most people are happy enough to be able to help. If nothing else, it makes an OK story to tell at cocktail parties.
But if you want to play it safe, and you need a nonemergency ride to your hospital birth, it might be wiser to just stick to cabs. You’re still on the hook for cleaning if you puke on their upholstery, but at least they know they’d be breaking the law by ditching you, mid-contraction, on the sidewalk.