John Vane: The Portuguese Uber man from Maida Vale

John Vane: The Portuguese Uber man from Maida Vale

At one time the Uber driver was going to be a priest, but the letters from his sweetheart ruined that. She was 16, he a little older, and after three years of intercepting her billet-doux the authorities decided celibacy was beyond him and threw him out of the seminary. Well, he didn’t believe in that stuff anyway.

He came from a village where there was so little work almost every young man studied for the cloth. This was Portugal 50 years ago, a place of dictatorship and repression. What was there to do if you couldn’t be a priest except organise demos against the oppressors? That’s what the Uber driver did until he figured out he’d better flee, maybe for his life, and that is how he ended up in Maida Vale.

Of course, there wasn’t any Uber way back then. No City “big bang” or booming population either, and the Tube wasn’t up to much, though there were bus conductors and property was, by London standards, cheap. He bought a flat in Maida Vale. Then another. Then another. Eventually, he said, looking over his shoulder now and then to address his passenger as he nosed through the lunchtime traffic, he bought 20.

Twenty flats in Maida Vale! He went travelling. He went to other countries where Portuguese is spoken, not only Brazil, though he liked Brazil best. Who knows what else he did, but he always came back to London which certainly considers to be home. London is where he met his wife, London is where his children were born, and now he is 70 years-old.

What on earth is he doing driving an Uber? his passenger inquired. He doesn’t do it much, he said, usually for about three hours during the day between, say, 11:00 and 2:00. Most of his life is taken up with family affairs. But for those three Uber hours a day, he likes to relax, meet new people and take his time.

John Vane writes words sketches of London. Sometimes he makes things up. Follow John on Twitter.

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Categories: Culture

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