By Dave Begel Contributing Writer Published Jun 02, 2016 at 11:03 AM

Being an Uber driver in Milwaukee is a one-of-a-kind experience that lets Dave Begel meet some of the most interesting people, residents and visitors in the city. Everybody has a story, and this occasional series will highlight some of those stories. Names have been omitted or changed to preserve the privacy of his passengers.

There are a lot of people who use Uber to get to and from work. And talking to them reveals that there are people with a lot of interesting jobs and interesting stories in our city. Some are funny, some are moving. But they all are examples of the breadth of life in Milwaukee.

The young mom

She walks out of the modest apartment building at 7:30 in the morning.

She looks impossibly young in her green polo shirt and black pants and holding the hand of a toddler.

The baby and the girl get in the back seat and she tells her child, pigtails and crinoline, to say hello to me. And the squeaked hello is there, right away.

My first thought is that we have a stereotype here. An impossibly young woman, already with a child and the kind of responsibility normally reserved for adults.

We drop the girl off at daycare and I take the young woman to work at the Metro Market in Shorewood where she "makes all the sweets" for the store.

I’ve picked her up three times now, just by chance. She doesn’t feel like a stereotype anymore. She feels like a strong young woman, building a life for her and her daughter. A life she wants.

Mr. Baseball

He got in the car on the near South Side, headed toward the airport and I asked where he was headed.

"Detroit," he answered

"Work or vacation?"


"What kind of work do you do?"

"I can’t really tell you."

So I figure I’ve got a CIA guy or a private eye or a bank robber on the run.

Instead, after pressing it a bit, it turns out he’s the guy who trains the techies in each major league ballpark on how to use the sophisticated Major League Baseball Advanced Media metrics/analytic system.

The system measures every player on the field on every single pitch and has largely taken the place of old guys in fedora hats smoking cigars with pencils and pads of paper in their hands.

He was on his way to Comerica Park in Detroit. Turns out he got hired to help the system when it made its debut at Miller Park and he’s parlayed it into a full-time career.

"Just a couple of days to make sure they are using it the right way. Some of these clubs still don’t get it. "

The biggest tippers

Uber discourages tips, but says if a passenger insists, the driver should just take it and say thank you.

Tipping is not expected nor is it too common.

But there is one group of people who always – and I mean always – seem to insist on giving tips.

Workers in the service industry – bartenders and servers.

With these riders, there is no saying "no." It’s not unusual for me to give a server a six-buck ride and get a five-buck tip.

On the flop

He was a big guy, both tall and wide, and dressed all in black, carrying a black bag and was on his way to Las Vegas.

Turns out he was just a week from having won $60,000 playing poker at the Potawatomi casino. That’s how he makes his living, playing poker in Milwaukee and in tournaments around the country.

And he has advice for all of us who sit down at a table now and then.

"First of all and most important, only play against the bad players," he said. "At any table there are good players and bad players. Don’t play against the good players. After a few hands you can tell who is who.

"Also, play against anybody who comes to the table angry. And finally, if they are hitting the booze heavy, go after them."

He had two suitcases. The big one held more black clothes. The little one held cash.

Hello Mr. Johnson

A lot of business people who come to Milwaukee stay in hotels Downtown.

Uber is a popular way for them to get to their clients and there are some regular trips.

The Medical College of Wisconsin has lots of visitors who are here on business. WE Energies, Northwestern Mutual and Marquette get a fair number.

But by far and away, Johnson Controls, out on Hawley Road, gets more visitors than any other business in town. I’d say that three out of five days each week I get a couple of people who are Downtown and on their way to Johnson Controls.

Disaster master

On his way to the airport he was finishing a telephone call.

"No," he almost shouted. "I’ll be there tonight. Don’t touch a damn thing until I get there. Promise?"

He listened for a second and hung up.

He has his own one-man company and was on his way to Columbus, Ohio, for some disaster relief.

Not a tornado or hurricane. A computer network disaster.

"I get calls from all over the place wanting me to come restore something that’s screwed up," he said. "Ninety-nine percent of the time it’s some human who has made a mistake. They always think it’s the computer or the software. But it’s almost always people.

"If they only spent the money on good training on the front end they wouldn’t have to pay my big fees when it falls apart."

Dave Begel Contributing Writer

With a history in Milwaukee stretching back decades, Dave tries to bring a unique perspective to his writing, whether it's sports, politics, theater or any other issue.

He's seen Milwaukee grow, suffer pangs of growth, strive for success and has been involved in many efforts to both shape and re-shape the city. He's a happy man, now that he's quit playing golf, and enjoys music, his children and grandchildren and the myriad of sports in this state. He loves great food and hates bullies and people who think they are smarter than everyone else.

This whole Internet thing continues to baffle him, but he's willing to play the game as long as keeps lending him a helping hand. He is constantly amazed that just a few dedicated people can provide so much news and information to a hungry public.

Despite some opinions to the contrary, Dave likes most stuff. But he is a skeptic who constantly wonders about the world around him. So many questions, so few answers.