An Uber driver was kicked off the popular ride-hailing service after a passenger noticed him urinating in a bottle while behind the wheel on Monday night. Local chef Raichelle Carter says her trip began normally when she climbed into a shared Uber pool with two other passengers in midtown Manhattan shortly before 8 p.m. But after the two passengers were dropped off, leaving her alone in the back seat, Carter says she heard the undeniable echoes of micturation.
"We're in a minivan," Carter told Gothamist. "I had my headphones on and I wasn't really paying attention, but around 80th Street and First Avenue I noticed we're not moving. So I take one earbud out and I hear the urine hitting the bottle. I have brothers, I was raised by all men, so I've seen it done before. Not by choice, but I know what's going on."
Carter asked the driver what he was doing and immediately started recording video with her phone.
"I'm in this minivan with this male—I'm a female, I don't know what mindset he's in. He had a very heavy accent," Carter recalled. "I know he's not from here. Maybe this is something that in his upbringing is cool, but I just totally wasn't cool with it."
When questioned about his behavior, Carter said the driver told her, "I have to make a pee. I've been driving for an hour and a half and I can't stop. What do you want me to do?"
"And I said, 'Dude, that shit has nothing to do with me. Like zero percent to do with me. You could have stopped anywhere and relieved yourself. You're a man, you have that luxury. You deal with those consequences after, obviously, but you don't urinate in a bottle with a client in your car.' It was just totally uncalled for."
"He said he couldn't take a break," Carter continued. "And I told him, 'You could have taken a break, you could have asked me, you could have pulled over, I would have had absolutely no problems with you pulling over.' After that I just froze. He took me to my destination, about five or six minutes away from where we were."
Carter complained to Uber immediately after the ride ended, and said the company "was trying to gauge my emotional state and I guess tell them I'm okay, which I'm not, so it was not a positive phone call on their end."
In a statement, an Uber spokesperson said, "This is completely inappropriate and a clear violation of our community guidelines. The driver's access to the app has been removed."
Carter, who is the executive chef at Paint 'N Pour, says she intends to file a police report on the driver today.
"I'm from New York, and it's not the craziest thing I've ever seen in my life," Carter said. "However, as a female, just to be in that situation? The stuff you see in movies—that's how people get raped. It was traumatic. It was really weird. I didn't even know how to proceed with it. All of my friends would have taken out physical violence with this guy; I'm just happy I did not handle it that way."
In 2013, Gothamist looked at the challenge many workers face in finding public restrooms in NYC. There are 33 relief stands in NYC that reserve parking space for taxi drivers who need a comfort break, and 19 in Manhattan that can also be used by For Hire Vehicle drivers.
"Obviously relieving yourself with a passenger in the car is totally unacceptable and inappropriate, but this does underscore the very real problem of lack of restroom access that plagues professional drivers, particularly in NYC where drivers regularly get $115 tickets for stopping in a no parking zone to use the facilities," Moira Muntz, a spokesperson for the Independent Drivers Guild, which represents app drivers, told us. "The severe scarcity of rest areas for drivers, particularly in Manhattan and at the airport lots, is an economic and public health emergency for working drivers."
Update: Taxi & Limousine Commission Spokesman Allan J. Fromberg has issued this statement regarding the incident: "The driver unquestionably used poor judgment in his desperation, and this is not condoned in the TLC’s rules. The practical truth however is that despite the existence of 19 For Hire Vehicle [FHV] relief stands in Manhattan alone, bathroom access is a real problem for drivers resulting in real health risks, and we encourage restaurants and other establishments to make their facilities available to drivers in need.”