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Niles’ New Book – A Quick Teaser!!

Editor’s Note: Niles Fettucine, our senior correspondent for Conservatism, Christianity, and Courtesans, is about to publish his new memoir/narrative non-fiction book, Naples’ Secrets in the Sun ~ As Uncovered by an Inquisitive Uber Driver. The book will hit the market later this year. Today’s post (which features Chapter 2) is merely a tantalizing tidbit of the book. Beginning next month, the entire book will be serialized in The Meaning of Life ~ World’s Greatest Political Satire!!! 

  1. ENTIRE TABLE OF CONTENTS

Chapter 1 – NAPLES — THE BACKSTORY

  1. Naples v, Naples
  2. Directional Terminology
  3. North v. South in Naples (Avenue-wise)
  4. A Tale of Two Downtowns
  5. A Word on Weather
  6. A Brief and Candid History of Naples
  7. A Briefer, but Still Candid History of Places Near Naples
    1. Marco Island
    2. Everglades City
    3. Keewaydin Island
    4. Golden Gate Estates
    5. Tin City
    6. The Airport
  8. Crime and Punishment
  9. Naples’ Crème de la Crème
  10. Naples’ Crème de la House 

Chapter 2 –  UBER AND ME — THE BACKSTORY

  1. The History of Human Transportation and Uber Technologies, Inc.
  2. Helpful Hints for Uber Passengers
  3. An Observant Driver’s Tricks of the Trade
    1. The Double Whammy – Avoiding Other Uber Drivers by Using the Uber Passenger App
    2.  Using All That Statistical Stuff Online
    3. Picking Up a Few Pennies Via a Few Quirks in the Uber App
    4. The Pickup Premium Hoedown/Slowdown
    5. A Modest Gratuity Maximization Strategy
    6. Giving Back – A Reverse Gratuity Program
  4. Yeah, Yeah, Yeah, So How Much Does an Uber Driver Make 

Chapter 3 – LORE, LEGENDS, AND A FEW FUN FACTS VIS-À-VIS NAPLES

  1. Ye Olde Nudist Colony
  2. On Golden (Gate) Pond (Canal)
  3. Sophisticates at the Gates (And Their Codes)
  4. Elysian Fields
  5. The Meaning of Immokalee
  6. Why So Many Places Have “Hammock” in Their Name
  7.  Explosions at the High School
  8. Parlez-vous Francais?
  9. Mel’s Diner
  10. Lost Naples
    1. Old Roads
    2. Vanished Railroad Tracks
    3. Sugar Sands
  11. What’s With the Dead Trees Along the Highway
  12. The Realm of Restaurants
    1. Godawfully Expensive (but Godawfully Good) Dining
    2. Fine (i.e. Not That Expensive) Dining
    3. Casual Dining
    4. Local Hangouts
  13. Fabulous Foodless Fun and Frolic
  14. Napoletani Staordinario
  15. There’s a Riot Goin’ On
  16. The Mutha of All Sports Facilities
  17. The Whacky World of Naples
    1. Tire Spikes aka Tire Destroyers
    2. Humorous (we hope) Signs
    3. Our Famous Fishing Store 

Chapter 4 – REALITY, TRUTHS, AND A FEW NOT-SO-FUN FACTS VIS-À-VIS NAPLES

  1. The Tide is High, But It’s Also Red
  2. A Few Bumps Along the Way
  3. Florida Drivers – A Study in Depth
  4.  Red Light Green Light 

Chapter 5 – PASSENGERS — THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY

  1. All The Evil Under The Sun
  2. There Are a Million Stories in the Naked City – This is the Best!
  3. The Former NFL Quarterback
  4. The Man Who Knew Mr. DiVosta
  5. The Really, Really Old (But Really, Really Spry) Lady
  6. Migration to Naples in Ages Past
  7. The Wine and Beer Girl From Crayton Road
  8. The Long and Winding Road
  9. A Short Hop?
  10. Jack the Scratcher
  11. My Buddy From Birth
  12. Three Chicks From Chicago, Boatus Rideum, and Crime
  13. The Search for Green Energy
  14. The Lord (ret.) of Lordstown
  15. The Imperious Teacher
  16. The NBA Player
  17. East of Eden –The Wild, Wild, East of Eden
  18. Hey, Mr. Spice Man (From Baltimore) 
  19. Rip-Off Raquel
  20. Auld Lang Syne 
  21. The Immokalee Road Engineer
  22. Jasonkidd
  23. The Old Passenger, Mr. Jondahl, and Wayzata, Minnesota
  24. Talkative Ted
  25. The Gun Nut Second Amendment Advocate
  26. Naples’ First Italian, First Pizza, and First Airstrip
  27. The Mooring Line Drive Maven
  28. Sarah From South Africa
  29. All Things Bright and Beautiful
  30. Larry the Engineer and Vomitus Comitatus
  31. The Fifth Third Private Banker and Prohibition
  32. Blue Martini Lounge, The Hoosegow, and Back Again
  33. Round 1 – Gate Guard vs. Lawyer
  34. The Old Man and the Supermarket
  35.  Not all the Rich are Woke, But Some Still Toke
  36. The Super-Sized Service Animal
  37. First You Take the Drink, Then the Drink takes you
  38. Tom Sawyer Goin’ Fishin’
  39. The Russkies, Secret Police, and International Conflict on Livingston Road
  40. The Tiny, Young, Pregnant Hispanic Mom and Redemption

Chapter 6 – A DEATH IN THE FAMILY

Chapter 7 – ALL GOOD THINGS . . . 

Chapter 8 – DÉNOUEMENT 

APPENDIX – MY LETTER TO UBER

THE NAPLES ALMANAC

Dedications

To my mother, Janet A.  Fettucine, who taught me how to drive.

And to Audrie Nubile, Geoff Chaucer, Miss Haertel{1}, Aesop, Dr. Trinklein, William Gaines, Jean Shepherd, Bill Shakespeare, Abbie Hoffman, John of Patmos, Mario Puzo, Jerry Pournelle, Vito Andolini, Sam Clemens, Hunter S. Thompson, Dan Ingram, edward estlin cummings, and the late, great, P.J. O’Rourke, who showed me how to write.

And to the Naples Historical Society, who provided me with a lot of information on historical Naples, most of which I have twisted, bent, and distorted beyond all recognition.

Oh yes, I almost forgot. Thank you, God!

{1} My tenth-grade English teacher who always told us never to begin a book with “Once upon a time” and never to end one with “. . . and I lived happily ever after”. Sorry, Elaine, my bad!

Introduction

Once upon a time, I was a recently retired lawyer{1} and a not-so-recently retired hippie{2}, living in Naples, a rather wealthy yet diverse city in the southwest corner of Florida.

After a few years of retirement, I was beginning to get restless when, out of the blue (more likely out of China), our entire planet was struck by the coronavirus. My restlessness was exacerbated by the requests, then demands, then orders from almost every political leader in America that we all “shelter in place”,{3} mask up, and lock down or the world would come to an end (or something like that).

As my restlessness increased, my long-neglected urge to societally rebel began to flicker anew. I had to do something. But what? I didn’t know how to deal drugs, I was too old to become a gigolo, and I wasn’t going to sit through another Bar exam. What, I wondered, could I master that didn’t involve heavy labor, would be fun, would allow me to escape sheltering in place (the rebellious Bohemian instincts of my youth now began to flame), and would let me enjoy the wonderful Florida sunshine? (After all, my mother always told me to play outside when the weather was nice.)

Rather quickly, I found it. To keep active, stay unsheltered, and “fight the man” one last time, I decided to become an Uber driver.

I took to my new vocation (and consequent passenger interaction) like a snook to a shallow saltwater flat{4} and quickly found myself driving eight hours a day,{5} seven days a week. Almost as quickly, I discovered that Marcie Blane{6} was right; I wasn’t a kid anymore! I was wearing myself out. So, I forced myself to take at least one day off each week, not to begin work until 7 a.m., and to come home at a reasonable hour every night (another of my mother’s frequent requests).

In addition to being a hippie, I also considered myself a cowboy at heart. Consequently, as soon as I began driving, I imagined I was Randolph Scott, riding the trail alone, driving cattle (in my case, people) to the railhead in Abilene, Kansas (in my case, to locations in and around Naples), battling marauders and bandits (in my case, traffic and gasoline prices), collecting and dispensing dogies{7}…er, passengers…along the way. I even gave my mount{8} (an elderly, flame-red Audi) a real western name, Red Flame.

The passengers Red Flame and I drove encountered on our ride were a diverse lot. They came in all races, creeds (a fancy legal word for religions), sexes, colors, ages, accents, body shapes, perfume/aftershave (and other) scents, personality types, political slants, hair amount and color, tat forms (I’m partial to the Blackwork School), fashion styles, et al.{9} These eclectic passengers told me many eclectic tales. The most interesting of these were the ones about Naples, its history, and its people or about life in general, its history, and its people.

 Red Flame and I drove over four thousand passengers. We found each of them to be unique, just like all the others. They (and their yarns) were so humorous, shocking, and compelling, I just couldn’t keep them to myself. I had to share them with someone. So, allow me to share these passengers, their stories (and a few of my driving escapades) with you!

When I first sat down to write this book, I discovered an important truth. I didn’t know a damn thing about creative writing. I didn’t even know how or where to start. I couldn’t figure out what to tell. I was stuck. I didn’t even know what to write about.

Then, I remembered the words of Sherlock Holmes, who advised, “Observe what you see.”

Ahh, what wise words. Reason and sanity began returning. So, I observed what I saw, I listened to what I heard, I read what I could, and then I wrote it all down. Quicker than I thought, I finally got the hang of writing. In fact, writing soon became fun, almost as much fun as driving! I tried to write as hard as I drove (Editor’s Note: He didn’t drive that hard.) and I finally compiled this book.

I wanted to keep things simple, so the book only contains three main sections and three concluding chapters. The first section is a brief description and history of Naples and environs and a briefer description and history of Uber Technologies, Inc. (Chapters 1 and 2). In the second part of the book, I share some fun (Chapter 3) and some not-so-fun (Chapter 4) facts about Naples and surrounding areas. The last section of the book describes my most interesting passengers, their tales, and their antics (Chapter 5). I found them (the passengers, the tales, and the antics) fascinating. You will, too.

The three last chapters wrap everything up.

Well, that’s it! I hope like it! You should. After all, I’ve used every literary trick in the book to hold your interest, including, when necessary, good writing!

If you enjoyed reading this book as much as I enjoyed writing it, we both came out ahead!

P.S. As you will read, this book refers to various places both in Naples and Collier County. To improve your situational awareness of the area, an almanac containing maps of City of Naples and of Collier County is appended at the end or the book.

{1} Which explains why I occasionally use a few Latin phrases. Don’t worry, I’ll provide translations in the footnotes.
{2} With a conservative stripe.
{3} Don’t you just love that phrase? It sounds so safe and quaint. Unfortunately, it really meant that no person could go to a hairdresser/barber, worship in a church, grieve at a funeral, celebrate at a wedding, eat at a restaurant, go on a vacation, or travel across the border, unless they were a politician!
{4} A little local Florida angling anology/humor.
{5} My record one-day driving time is eleven hours, forty-five minutes.
{6} Marcie Blane’s 1962 hit song, “Bobby’s Girl,” begins with the words, “You’re not a kid anymore.”
{7} A cowboy phrase that means cattle.
{8} A cowboy phrase that means horse.
{9} Latin for “and others.

Conventions Used in This Book

To illustrate, illuminate, and/or clarify both the stories in this book and life in general, as well as to generate a chuckle or two, I occasionally employ a few literary tricks of the trade known to more serious writers as conventions. They are:

Notes on the Meaning of Life 
Scattered throughout the book are snippets of wisdom I call “Notes on the Meaning of Life.” These snippets supply word definitions, famous quotes, Uber driver information, or general (but necessary) information on marine geology, history, geography, social science, Naples, films, and Earth science. Notes on the Meaning of Life will broaden your knowledge of both life in Naples and life in general. They will also eliminate the need to consult a reference book to understand what the hell I am talking about. Notes on the Meaning of Life are fun to read, personally empowering, and make great conversation starters at parties.

Names 
Fictional Names – All passenger names in this book (except one) are fictional (but begin with the same letter as the individual’s real name). This has been done to protect me from lawsuits, not to protect the innocent. They can fend for themselves. 

Telling the Truth 
Most of this book is true, but some is iffy. Areas of the book that stretch (or completely break) reality are (usually humorously) noted by the editor.

A Note on Profanity 
Since I am an OG, I am always opposed to profanity (unless I am using it). I tried to write this book without any profanity. Unfortunately, I failed. Granted, there is far too much profanity in today’s works of “art,” there is a definite (but limited) need for artists (like me) to employ profanity to express the lofty peak or abysmal nadir of human emotion or to make a definitive and/or humorous point. In a way, I apologize.

Notes on the Meaning of Life – OG is slang for Old Guy.

Skewering
 Throughout the book, I occasionally skewer people or ideas. It is all in good fun and done with good intentions, usually.    

Chapter 2
Uber and Me -The Backstory

A. The History of Human Transportation and Uber Technologies, Inc.

From the dawn of time, man has sought out ways to temporarily travel from one place to another at a pace faster than walking. Over the years, horses, camels, canoes, boats, dogsleds, wagons, rickshaws, and sedan chairs were all used for this purpose, which became known as transient personal transport.{1}

Transient personal transport changed profoundly in the late 1800s when the internal combustion engine began to power trains, boats, and, most importantly, automobiles. Autos quickly became not only the most popular method of personal transport, but the symbol of the twentieth century.

The rise of the automobile quickly spawned the taxicab industry, which, for over a hundred years, was the most common, economical, and efficient method of transient personal transport.

 Unfortunately, in the last thirty years, the taxi industry began to change. Taxicabs became dirty, unreliable, and expensive, and their use plummeted.

Notes on the Meaning of Life – The reason for the decline of the taxi industry is complex, but the major causes are the limitation by cities of the number of cabs allowed to operate and the low (sometimes nonexistent) standards required of both cars and drivers.

Fortunately for transient, personal transportees, in January 2010 Uber Technologies, Inc. initiated the Uber ride-sharing service. This service permitted a passenger, via the Uber passenger app and a smartphone,{2} to “ring” the nearest Uber driver, who could accept the call and quickly and efficiently pick up the passenger and transport him to his destination. The Uber concept quickly became immensely popular.{3}

Notes on the Meaning of Life – Passengers are always curious what an Uber driver knows about them before they’re picked up. Before accepting a ride, we are given the passenger’s first name, the distance to the pickup, the approximate length of the ride, and its general direction (i.e., east, southwest, etc.).

The ideas and procedures introduced by Uber were well thought out, effective, and efficient. Uber (and its main rival, Lyft) quickly dominated the transient personal transportation market{4} and became the best way for an individual to, on demand, transiently travel from one place to another in a private automobile.

Today, a passenger almost anywhere in America (and many other countries) can request an Uber ride and be whisked to his destination in a private automobile by a friendly and efficient Uber driver. According to a 2018 survey, thirty-six percent of all U.S. adults use ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft.

Notes on the Meaning of Life – Its Teutonic name notwithstanding, Uber has nothing to do with Germany, although they do operate there.

B. Helpful Hints for Uber Passengers

Since over a third of those reading this book use Uber and/or Lyft, here are a few tips your “Uber  Experience”: 

  1. A driver normally arrives slightly before the arrival time shown on the Uber app. Try to be ready when he arrives. Remember, if a ride doesn’t begin within three minutes of the driver’s actual (not scheduled) arrival, the passenger is charged a waiting fee. Be on time and avoid the fee! 
  2. Smoking, gambling, spitting, drug use,{5} foul language, heavy petting, and the consumption of alcohol are all prohibited in Uber vehicles. If you feel the need, ask the driver to pull over!
  3. The front passenger seat is, by definition, available to passengers who want to sit in the front seat!{6}
  4. If you would like the driver to change the air conditioner setting or the radio volume (an Uber ride is certainly not a NYC taxi ride), just (nicely)ask  him. Many drivers, like me, offer a wide selection of music, including jazz, easy listening, Gregorian Chants (just kidding), and classical.
  5. If you live in a gated community, either text the Uber driver the gate code or call the gate so the Uber driver can gain entry!
  6. And most importantly! When being picked up in a crowd, such as at the arrivals area at an airport, check the photo of the Uber driver’s car on the Uber app{7} and vigorously wave at the driver as soon as he arrives. Continue waving until he sees you. Remember, an approaching Uber driver only knows the passenger’s first name. No driver can determine which person in the crowd is his passenger solely because he knows their first name!

C. An Observant Driver’s Tricks of the Uber Trade

When I started driving, I wasn’t satisfied with my passenger count (or my earnings). As I gained driving experience and talked shop with a few fellow Uber drivers who were my passengers (yup, Uber drivers use Uber!), I learned a few of their tricks of the Uber trade.

Since I began my tour as an Uber driver at the same time as Covid began its “tour” of America, the demand for Uber rides was low (sometimes non-existent). Thus, I had a lot of time to think up a few of my own tricks of the Uber trade. Here are a few of the schemes I implemented:

1. The Double Whammy – Avoiding Other Uber Drivers by Using the Uber Passenger App
Since Uber Technologies “rings” the driver nearest the customer requesting the ride, I searched for ways to be the closest driver to as many potential customers as possible and as far away from as many other Uber drivers as possible..

The Uber driver’s app does not show the location of other Uber drivers. However, the Uber passenger app does, so I started using that app to see where other Uber drivers were trolling (driving around waiting to be called for a pickup). Once I knew where they were, I trolled elsewhere, under the theory there were potential passengers in these non-served areas but no Uber drivers to drive them. This technique was fairly successful.

2. Using All That Statistical Stuff Online
Since I wanted to work nearest the most potential customers, so I had to find the areas of Collier County that had the densest (numerically, not intellectually) population. I was able to do this by downloading a few Cor County population density maps from the internet. I started trolling the densely populated areas, but my passenger counts only increased slightly. I didn’t understand why until I noticed (via the Uber passenger app) that other Uber drivers were just as smart as I was and were trolling the same areas! The areas with the highest population density also had the highest Uber driver density!

Then I noticed there were two large, developing areas in Collier County. They didn’t have a high population density because they were so large, but they contained a lot of (widely dispersed) potential passengers, were rapidly growing, and I determined (via the Uber passenger app) contained almost no Uber drivers!

The two areas were the southwest fringe of the populated part of Naples (near the intersection of Collier Boulevard and Tamiami Trail) and the Estates. There were many potential passengers in these areas and almost no Uber drivers. Hence, by “trolling the fringe” I had a good chance of being the nearest driver when one of these passengers called for a ride.

I hit the jackpot by trolling the fringe of the Estates. I was called for a lot of rides, and since the Estates is so large and is far away from everywhere else, almost every ride included a Pickup Premium (See d below: The Pickup Premium Hoedown/Slowdown) and was a long-duration ride.

3. Picking Up Pennies Via a Few Quirks in the Uber App
I also uncovered a few quirks in the Uber driver app that I exploited to increase my earnings. The increase was minimal, but I enjoyed the adventure of gaming the system.

First, I learned not to end a ride (on the Uber driver’s app) as soon as I arrived, but to wait until all passengers and their belongings were out of the car. This extended the ride a few seconds and increased that ride’s earnings by a few cents.{8}!

Another quirk involves the charge for waiting time. If an Uber driver waits more than three minutes, the passenger is charged, and the Uber driver is paid, a waiting time premium. I discovered the waiting time clock begins ticking when I got to within a few blocks of the pickup point. Hence, I always slowed down the last few blocks to maximize any potential waiting time premium. A few more cents!

4. The Pickup Premium Hoedown/Slowdown
One final legal but certainly unethical trick I learned was to employ what I called the Pickup Premium Slowdown. Uber drivers are not usually compensated for the time and distance they travel to pick up a passenger; their time and distance compensation begins when the passenger is picked up. However, there is an exception. If the Uber app estimates it will take longer than a local limit (eleven minutes in Naples) to pick up a passenger and it does, in fact, take longer than that limit, the driver is paid a Pickup Premium.

Unfortunately (for drivers), if a ride qualifies for a Pickup Premium, but the driver arrives in less than eleven minutes, no Pickup Premium is paid to the driver. Therefore, by driving “very cautiously” for the first eleven minutes to reach a Pickup Premium passenger, I earned a few more cents.

I felt bad whenever I employed a Pickup Premium Slowdown, but, again, I found it challenging to game the system. Of course, I now realize the error of my ways. To salve both my Flower Child and Cowpoke conscience, I would like to formally apologize to all my passengers whose pickups took longer than eleven minutes. My bad.{9}

5. A Modest Gratuity Maximization Strategy
I (like every other red-blooded American who earns tips) always looked for ways to increase my tip income. Of course, I employed all “normal” tip increasing actions: I was always polite; I always made sure passengers didn’t object to my choice or volume of music (most didn’t like the Gregorian chants); I always asked if the ambient atmospheric ambiance was adequate (i.e., Is the A/C okay?); and I always offered both Android and Apple phone charging.

I discovered another significant way to increase gratuity income: quickly determine whether a passenger wants to talk during the trip or prefers quiet time. Sometimes, this was easy to figure out; some passengers began talking the minute they entered the car and continued chatting until they were dropped off. They preferred conversation over silence. (See Talkative Ted, below.) On the other hand, some passengers began reading, writing, talking on the phone, or working on a computer as soon as they got into the car. In these cases, I knew silence was golden.

If it was difficult to tell whether a passenger was interested in conversation or not, I had to draw on all my life experiences to determine whether I should be my usual loquacious self or shut the f*** up. (I was usually successful in making this determination.)

Many passengers complimented me on my conversations and a few even complimented me on my silence.

Notes on the Meaning of Life – Passengers who compliment are usually good tippers!

6. Giving Back – A Reverse Gratuity Program

To both distinguish myself from other Uber drivers and to sustain my hippie instinct to “give back,” I regularly distributed reverse gratuities to my passengers. On Christmas Day, I gave each passenger a gold (well, golden) Sacajawea dollar coin. On Robert (aka Robbie) Burns Day (January 25), I gave passengers a small package of Walker’s shortbread to passengers. I had also intended to give my female passengers{10} a rose on Valentine’s Day, but I didn’t look for roses until the last minute and their price was too high.{11} During the Covid pandemic, I offered my passengers small bottles of hand sanitizer. Needless to say, they went like hotcakes!

D. Yeah, Yeah, Yeah, So How Much Does an Uber Driver Make?

Who knows. Earnings vary by season, by day of the week, by time of day, and by how long and when a driver is willing to work. I earned from $250{12} to $1,300 per week, depending on the above variables.

Footnotes

{1}  Short, unscheduled, individual travel.
{2}  Rides can also be requested via online computer and, for passengers who need assistance or only have a “dumb” phone, via GoGo.
{3}  In fact, the proper noun Uber (like the proper nouns Xerox and Google) has already transmogrified into a verb.
{4}  Uber calls itself a “ride-hailing service transportation network company,” but I like “transient, personal transportation company” better.
{5}  The rule against drug use does not apply to the use of prescription Coumadin, Lipitor, Cialis, Prozac, Simvastatin, Lisinopril, Insulin, or Synthroid.
{6}  During the Covid pandemic, we were instructed by Uber not to allow passengers in the front seat. 
{7}
 Look very carefully. Not all Uber drivers have distinctive red cars like Red Flame.
{8} The Uber formula for charging a passenger is very complicated. Basically, the fare is based on the ride’s duration and length. However, many other charges can be added (such as a pickup premium, waiting time, surge hours, etc.). The formula for the part of a passenger charge paid to a driver is even more complicated, but basically a driver retains from 45 percent (for short trips) to about 70 percent (for long trips) of the total fare. 
{9} I haven’t been able to discover if a passenger is charged for a Pickup Premium, but they probably are!
{9} Probably a civil rights violation, but I’ll be damned if I am ever going to give a rose to a guy.
{10}  After all, my mother was a Scot.
{11} Keep in mind that about 18 to 20 percent of Uber earnings must be used to buy gas. (In 2022, this percentage rose to 35-40%.) 

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