Right when the pandemic hit, I don’t know if you remember but there was like this kind of like shift in how people saw like delivery drivers and even Uber Eats, which was kind of shocking.– MIA buchanan
Mia Buchanan was a nineteen-year-old college student at Loyola University in New Orleans, Louisiana when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. She found herself sent home from her blossoming life at college to her hometown of Phoenix, Arizona. With Mia’s severe asthma causing her to be immunocompromised, she found herself turning to Uber Eats food delivery as her sole source of income, in hopes of avoiding catching the virus. This was extremely important as her body would have more trouble fighting off the virus than her peers who might have stronger immune systems. She had never considered Uber Eats driving until she arrived home and found her little brother was doing it to supplement the cut hours of his restaurant job. She felt she could dedicate more time and energy to it and soon was aiming to make 150 dollars a day. The number of hours she had to put in to meet this goal was unpredictable, as Uber has no base hourly pay. She was pleasantly surprised by the new perspective and gratitude many people had for delivery workers during the pandemic, and the sacrifices they made to get people the items they needed. She was blown away by some of the big tips on meals she received at the beginning of the pandemic as a result of that gratitude. She drove for Uber Eats only, as she liked the options they gave her for controlling her hours and cashing out of the app whenever she wanted to. She was still a student despite living across the country from her university and finished the semester through online classes that she struggled to adapt to. She recalls logging into zoom classes with her camera and microphone off while delivering food and even having to answer questions from her noisy car while distracted by her work.
She continued to work for them for the first three months of the pandemic and has since worked for a few weeks at a time when she was attempting to save money for something. She has noticed that tipping has decreased as the pandemic continues. Her vehicle for Uber Eats delivery was her high school car- a SUV with no air conditioning which made working the summer months in Phoenix brutal. Sometimes her dog Buster would join her for rides and they would listen to Mia’s favorite music. Mia felt intimidated sometimes as a more masculine presenting woman when she would have to deliver to extremely conservative parts of the area with houses covered in Donald Trump memorabilia. She also recalls being yelled at for wearing her mask by a customer. She enjoyed the solitude and freedom delivery driving provided her, especially as the pandemic caused her to move back into the family home with her mother, father, and brother.
Bibliographic citation for interview (CMS):
Buchanan, Mia. Interview with Mia Buchanan. Interview by Adelaide La Torre. Audio recording, transcript, November 10, 2022. The Gig Economy Collection. Documentary and Oral History Studio, Loyola University New Orleans. https://youtu.be/olMqb4ErYHo.
For more information about the Digital Humanities Studio’s interview collections and their use, please contact studio director Justin A. Nystrom. This interview and all related material including text and images are © 2022 Digital Humanities Studio, Loyola University New Orleans.