BOOKS

Driving Ole Miss: Oxford Uber driver writes book to help students navigate town

Madeleine Nolan
Oxford Stories
mlnolan1@go.olemiss.edu

You may have heard of “Taxicab Confessions,” an HBO documentary series in which taxi drivers speak candidly with passengers. But what about Oxford Uber Experiences?

Uber driver Michelle Shad has given 2,250 Uber rides, driving more than 8,000 students around Oxford in the last seven months, and she has stories to tell.

There are no hidden cameras, but Shad hopes to share some of her experiences in a book she’ll call Driving Ole Miss: Stories From the Car.

“My first week driving, I had some girls tell me some great stories,” she said. “So I thought, ‘Wow. If I could get a bunch of little instances like this, or maybe some stories, it would make a great book to read.’”

Shad said part of her book will offer advice about navigating Oxford, staying out of trouble, and how students can enjoy the next four years of their lives.

“The school gives students the academic blueprint for success, but they don’t tell you what your life is going to look like on the Square or with the fraternities and sororities,” Shad said, adding that many students don’t know how to stay out of trouble or stay safe.

“My hope is when this book comes out, the students will read the book, and with the knowledge of the town, will have more confidence when it comes to dealing with the social aspect of Oxford,” she said.

Every semester, more Uber drivers come to Oxford offering a safe alternative to drinking and driving after a night out. Shad started working for Uber after moving to Oxford in December of 2018 to be closer to her grandson. Initially, she drove to earn additional income and now drives full time, five to six nights a week. 

“When I made up my mind to do this, I wanted to do it big,” she said. “I decided to become, right from day one, the best Uber driver in Oxford, because that’s just who I am. So I got this idea to do a hang up bag.

“I got a shoe bag and hung it off the back of the passenger seat, and I filled it up with candy, breath mints, gum, and everything I thought would be handy. When the students would get in the car, they would respond with ‘OMG! You are the best Uber ever!’ when they would see all the amenities,” Shad said.

She started an Instagram page: @bestubereverolemiss as a way for students to communicate with her if needed. “I asked some of the students during the ride if they wanted to have their picture on the Insta page for fun. That turned into ‘Gee, I want to be famous. Could I get on the page?’ So that’s what happened. It started out as a need, and it’s turned into a legitimate fan club.”

Having an Instagram doesn’t affect the way she drives, Shad said. “The way the algorithm works with Uber is that it pings by proximity,” she said. “The closest driver to the person requesting the ride gets the ride. So it doesn’t affect my bottom line, or how much money I make. It just makes it fun. This is a paid service. Our job is to get you all safely from point A to point B.”

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Junior Tyler Hawkins poses for photo in The Grove after interview. Photo by Madeleine Nolan

Ole Miss junior Tyler Hawkis said Shad told him about the book she is writing the first time he rode with her.

“I knew I would have to buy it,” he said. “She is not like any other Uber/taxi in Oxford. For any future Rebels, I highly recommend getting her book for all kinds of dos and don’ts about college life . . . If you’re visiting Oxford on a college tour, or you’re finally down here for you’re freshman year, definitely hit her up for a ride and give her five stars because she deserves it.” 

 

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Freshman Bailey J. Thompson uses Uber to get to ‘Five Guys Burgers and Fries’ in Oxford, Mississippi. Photo by Madeleine Nolan.

UM freshman Bailey J. Thompson, from San Diego, said coming to Oxford was intimidating.

“I’m really excited to read this book because I feel it will give me insight into how things work around here,” she said. “Ms. Michelle is one of my favorite drivers here. I feel comfortable while riding with her because she is so sweet and makes me feel safe no matter what time it is or where I am.”

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