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6 Uber and Lyft drivers share their wildest holiday work tales, from drunk passengers to extreme tips

A woman hailing a cab with shopping bags at night“One day when my son is older and no longer believes in Santa, I’m going to tell him how two drunk college guys were responsible for making sure he got his Baby Shark,” says Bunny Rivera (not pictured), an Uber driver in Washington, DC.

Jordi Salas/Getty Images

  • Christmas can be a busy season for Uber and Lyft drivers taking passengers to their families’ homes.
  • Three rideshare drivers said after driving passengers over the holidays they received a $100 tip.
  • Jamel Spencer said a passenger poured tequila down her pants while singing “Straight Tequila Night.”

The holiday season is peak time for many employees, whether you work for an airline, a retail store, or a company whose clients come out of the woodwork in December. For rideshare drivers, this time of year can also be quite busy — and eventful — as people travel home to family or away for vacation.

Insider asked six rideshare drivers to recount their most memorable experiences of working over the holidays. Some shared heartwarming moments of passengers gifting them food or tips, while others experienced unruly customers who had a bit too much fun.

The following testimonials are based on conversations with six rideshare drivers. Each has been edited for length and clarity.

Shelly Castle, 43, a Lyft driver in Houston, Texas: ‘They wound up inviting me in and treating me to breakfast’

Shelly CastleShelly Castle.

Shelly Castle

It was Christmas Day 2019 when I picked up a family of three heading home. 

I decorate my car for every holiday, and they seemed to really appreciate the lengths I’d gone to make the interior and exterior festive. We got to talking, and they asked me what plans I had for later that day. I told them I didn’t have any plans except to work.

When I dropped them off, they asked me if I wanted a to-go plate of food from their Christmas dinner. As a single working mom who never gets a home-cooked meal, I graciously accepted. They went inside and returned with a generous plate of food, a slice of homemade pecan pie, and a bottle of wine.

I didn’t even wait to get home to eat the food. I pulled over on the side of the road and devoured every last morsel and then returned to work.

Sometime after midnight, I picked up two guys looking for a late-night place to eat, so I suggested IHOP. When I dropped them off there, they wound up inviting me in and treating me to breakfast. At the time, I was working a bunch of different jobs and trying to start up my own rideshare business. They gave me some great advice and encouraged me to take the leap of faith. 

Today, in addition to driving for Lyft, I also run my own local rideshare company called Impeccable Rideshare.

Mhay-Ann Carriza De Felipe, 30, an Uber and Lyft driver in Las Vegas, Nevada: ‘I was so surprised to receive such a generous tip’

A family smiling at the camera outsideMhay-Ann Carriza De Felipe and her family.

Courtesy of Mhay-Ann Carriza De Felipe

Last Christmas, I picked up a passenger at the airport who was headed to the Wynn Hotel. After confirming her destination, I wished her a happy holiday and we chatted a bit. I asked where she was from and if she’d come to Vegas to celebrate Christmas with family or friends. She was quiet for a moment. That’s when I looked in my rearview mirror and noticed the sad expression on her face. 

She told me her mother had recently died and she would be alone for the holidays. Hearing this, my heart hurt for her, and so I offered her my condolences and told her that even though her mom might no longer be with her on this earth, she now has a guardian angel in Heaven looking after her, protecting and guiding her from up above. I also encouraged her to remember the happy times she spent with her mother because those memories will keep the spirit of her mother alive.

She began to cry and thanked me as I handed her tissues. When we arrived at her hotel, she handed me a $100 bill and despite my refusal to accept it, she insisted. I asked if I could give her a hug and she said yes, so we embraced and I wished her well.  

I was so surprised to receive such a generous tip, I called my husband right away and told him I was going to treat him to dinner that night. We wound up going to our favorite restaurant, where I told him all about the woman, how she’d lost her mother, and the advice I’ve given her. 

Five months later, my husband was killed in a motorcycle accident. This year will be my first Christmas without him. When I think back to last year and everything I told that woman, I can’t help but cry because now I must take my own advice and keep the memory of my husband alive and pray he’ll watch over me and our sons. 

Marilyn Sorenson, 58, an Uber driver in The Woodlands, Texas: ‘I unfolded the candy cane and took a closer look, only to realize it was a $100 bill’

A woman in a car taking a selfieMarilyn Sorenson.

Marilyn Sorenson

It was Christmas Eve when I picked up a young couple on the side of the freeway. In all their excitement to drive from Dallas to Houston to see their family for the holidays, they’d forgotten all about filling up their tank with gas, and now they’d found themselves stranded.

As soon as they got into my car, they thanked me for accepting the ride, telling me several drivers had canceled their trip when they saw the pickup was on the freeway. I, on the other hand, took the job, figuring it was Christmastime and they were most likely trying to get someplace for the holiday. 

I drove them to the nearest gas station, where they bought a gas can and filled it up to bring back to their car. I told them I’d shut off my Uber app so no new rides would come in until I was sure they were safe and able to make it on their way on their own.  

With a full tank of gas and ready to go, they thanked me one last time, and the young man handed me a candy cane he’d fashioned out of cash earlier, kind of like origami. When I got home from work I unfolded the candy cane and took a closer look, only to realize it was a $100 bill. Before I knew it, I was crying.  

Jamel Spencer, 45, a former Lyft turned Uber driver in Houston, Texas: ‘She proceeded to lean into the front seat to try and kiss me’

A man in a suit smilingJamel Spencer.

Courtesy of Jamel Spencer

It was Christmas night when I picked up a very drunk woman. The song “Straight Tequila Night” began playing on the radio when all of a sudden this lady whips off her panties, takes a small bottle of tequila out of her purse, and begins pouring it into her underwear. Then she starts singing and twirling the panties around her finger, mumbling something about getting even with “him.” 

I didn’t really understand what she was talking about until we pulled into her driveway and her husband was standing there waiting. Upon seeing him, she proceeded to lean into the front seat to try and kiss me. I managed to dodge her advances by jumping out of my car as fast as I could. 

Standing in their driveway, my first thought was Lyft was going to deactivate me for having to fight this man. As he walked toward the car, I was like, “Here we go,” and balled up my fists, ready to defend myself. Instead, he helped his wife out of the back seat, handed me a $100 bill, and said, “Thanks for getting my wife home safe. She gets like this sometimes when she’s out with her girlfriends.”

To this day, I refer to that incident as “The Drunken Panties Story of Christmas 2018.”

Jonathan Gaurano, 29, an Uber driver in Los Angeles, California: ‘I hatched a plan and set out to create an epic compilation video’

A man sitting on Santa's lapJonathan Gaurano.

Courtesy of Jonathan Gaurano

If there’s one thing you should know about me, I’m a hopeless romantic. For me, Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas” is hands down the best Christmas song in the world. 

That’s why during the winter of 2016, I hatched a plan and set out to create an epic compilation video of me belting out that song accompanied by a series of my random Uber passengers during the month leading up to Christmas.

While my primary job was working alongside businesses to help create videos for their brands, at that point, I’d also been driving for Uber for about a year. 

So, that November, for 30 days, I paired an elf hat and matching ears with an ugly Christmas sweater, filled my car with all sorts of festive props ranging from antlers to Santa hats to maracas, and got to work inviting my passengers to join in the fun.

After approximately 70 cumulative hours of driving and 10 hours of editing, I released this video the first week of December. While the video got more than 100,000 views on my YouTube channel, it wound up going viral with millions more across social-media platforms and landed me in the news.

While this wasn’t the first video I’d created incorporating Uber passengers, it was certainly my most popular. It was also responsible for singlehandedly catapulting my career as a creative director and inspired me to launch my own media company, Do Good Media, shortly after. 

Since the video featured copyrighted music, despite racking up tens of millions of views, I couldn’t benefit financially from the hits. However, I was able to license the content to a third-party media company that disseminated it across a series of online outlets.

All I have to do is hear that song, and I immediately conjure up images of the scene from the movie “Love, Actually,” where he’s running through the airport after the girl of his dreams. After all, aren’t we all just running around looking to find the person we’re going to fall in love with?  

Bunny Rivera, 35, an Uber driver in Washington, DC: ‘They refused to not give up and began chanting’

A woman on the floor of a kitchen with her sonBunny Rivera and her son.

Courtesy of Bunny Rivera

After accidentally swallowing a nickel, my 15-month-old son Kaiden required surgery. Because of his condition and further complications, I remained home and unable to work for over a month.

With no money coming in, the bills piled up and we were behind on rent. It looked like Christmas was basically going to be canceled in our household. 

Then one day, we went to Walmart, where Kaiden spotted this “Baby Shark” ride-on toy and really wanted it, but it was $150. A week before Christmas, I dropped Kaiden off at his dad’s house, determined to drive long enough to be able to afford that Baby Shark for him. 

I wound up picking up two drunk college guys at a bar, and when they saw the photo of my son in my car, they asked me what we were going to do for Christmas. I told them my only plan was to work long enough to buy that Baby Shark. They asked how much it cost, and when I told them, they tried to tip me $150, but the app has a cap on tips

That’s when they insisted we drive to an ATM to get cash, but they were out of order. They refused to not give up and began chanting “Kaiden needs Baby Shark” from the backseat. 

I had CashApp, but they only had Venmo, so, in the middle of the night, they encouraged me to call a friend with Venmo so they could forward her the money. Then they waited for her to send the money to my CashApp.

A boy on a "Baby Shark" toyRivera’s son on his “Baby Shark” toy.

Bunny Rivera

When that money hit my account, all I could do was cry. I thanked them and told them how bad things had gotten for us and how grateful I was to them for ensuring I was able to get him this gift. 

One day when my son is older and no longer believes in Santa, I’m going to tell him how two drunk college guys were responsible for making sure he got his Baby Shark. 

Are you a rideshare driver with a story to tell? Email senior editor Alyse Kalish at akalish@insider.com.

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