Meet Richard. Richard is an experienced Uber driver from Los Angeles. It’s been three weeks now, he knows how it all works. He was actually going to start Uber himself a few years back, but he couldn’t sort out the legal issues with his lawyers, so now he drives with them.
Richard could make the amount of money he’s making with Uber in just five minutes on the stock market but he’s not. Because he’s driving with Uber.
He needs to drive with Uber because, for the first time in three decades, he’s having to pay rent and it’s ridiculous. It’s a wrought. He had a home with no mortgage, but he sold it. He’s not sure why – it’s the worst decision he’s ever made – because this rent is killing him.
Richard recently purchased 640 acres of unzoned land in New Mexico. He’s not sure why. He needs to put a connecting road from the highway to his land as part of the conditions of sale. He’s not quite sure about the why of that either. Within five years, though, says Richard, most of the goods and services of the world will be coming from Mexico. If not 90% of them, then probably 105%. Perhaps he’ll erect a kick-ass warehouse for these goods as Richard’s land is pretty much on the border. All of those goods will need to be stored near the border, and he’ll be ready. It’s a sure-fire plan.
I joke that there could be a big wall on his boundary in five years time. He tells me that Donald is the biggest embarrassment to ever befall the United States. Perhaps he hasn’t met Kanye or the Kardashians. After regretting that Trump has made his country a laughing stock, he assures me that he will never be elected. There are marksmen being trained as we speak to avoid this scenario. They are using life-size replicas of Donald to perfect their aim. I quip that it would be a reasonably large sized target. Richard likes this and laughs heartily.
Richard moves on to the real hope of his potential future wealth. He’s been on Instagram for nearly a week now and before too long advertisers are going to be paying him to endorse their products and services based on his celebrity. Advertisers will take advantage of his considerable charisma and obvious acting ability. I begin thinking that what I’ve heard about everyone in LA being an actor is true. That quip predates Uber.
He asked me what I do back in Australia. I take a deep breath knowing that my answer can only do me harm. I tell him I’m in advertising and design, and that I pastor a church. He tells me that this is a conflict of interest in some way but we never quite get to why because Richard has now discovered that I have a part to play in his future success.
Constantly turning to make eye contact with me in the back seat while passing his iPhone back and forth, he allows me to enjoy his Insta feed and the video with commentary that he’s posted of a dog laconically hanging over a wall. A celebrity who must remain nameless has shared his clip and it’s taken off – over 89,000 have seen it so far.
Richard has another persona on Insta. We’ll call it Road-rage Richard. It’s video after video (well, four of them) of him paying out on someone for something. He thinks Ford or someone like that might pick him up for a celebrity endorsement.
The fact that I could help him with the phrase ‘celebrity endorsement’ and provide assistance for his his word-finding difficulties when he kept tentatively using gendarme for ‘genre’ has made Richard believe that this Uber voyage may be pivotal on his road from Richard to riches.
He asks me what I think of his plan.
I tell him that he should be careful what he becomes famous for. This confuses him and he asks me to explain. I explain that Ford may not have much of a call for an Insta-celebrity who has carved out a niche as Road-rage Richard. He asks me what might be a better idea. By this time I’ve received a couple of texts on Messenger and my voice is a little more distracted.
I pitch the idea of Richard becoming Uber-Richard and sharing the stories of his journeys with Uber customers. He thinks this is terrific. He thinks I am a genius. I explain this ‘genre’ is potentially more reality entertainment than comedy but it could combine the two. Richard is on a roll now – he believes that Uber-Richard could be the next big Reality TV sensation.
I’d mentioned earlier that my father had done some Uber driving. Richard now sees franchise possibilities with my Dad holding down the Australian operation. I laugh and tell him that he’s a man of big dreams (modifying my initial ‘big dreamer’ thought).
Richard scrolls through his photo feed on his phone while weaving through traffic and shifting lanes and passes me the phone in the back seat to look at his next pic. It’s a photo of Richard Branson (the ‘other’ Richard) with a quote that goes something to the effect of ‘you’ll never stand out from the crowd if you spend all your time trying to be part of it’. Don’t I agree? Well, sure I do, Richard. We hold quotes such as these to be self-evident. And all Richards were not created equal.
We reach my destination. LAX Marriott. Richard gives me his business card. While driving, he’s also scrawled his email address and Insta-name on the card. Of course, he has.
He tells me he’d like to work with me and sees lots of potential in that working relationship. I tell him that ‘I work with a lot of people’. He tells me that this chance meeting could have significant repercussions for his celebrity career.
He thanks me four times for steering his future career in the right direction. He tells me this journey is a life-changer for him. He shakes my hand, gives me half a hug, and then a fist pump. The fist pump fails miserably – barely any flesh connects. We have several more attempts before landing it on fist pump number three.
It’s a happy Richard that drives away. With such renewed clarity, it’s hard to blame him.
If you’d like to see more of Richard on Instagram, you can look up ‘The Richard Stein’. I wouldn’t bother, though, he’ll be on your television screens soon enough.
You heard it here first!