We used to take bright yellow chariots called “cabs” everywhere. They were expensive, hard to find, and inconvenient, but better solutions didn’t yet exist. Then a little company called UberCab proposed to take the concept of carpooling and make it involve a lot more money and strangers.
Today, we call UberCab just “Uber,” but you can still view UberCab’s old YouTube channel. And it is a goldmine of cringe-worthy hilarity.
In one video, they ask random people on the street (and one dog) what they think the word “uber” means. For the most part, they get “I don’t knows” and “it’s German for ‘over.'” But then they got one guy who immediately associated it with the words “Ubermensch,” “Nazis,” “Blitzkrieg,” and methamphetamine, which he calls the “Ubermensch drug.” Even Uber’s editors just put “????” below his face. (Though armies on both sides of WWII pumped their soldiers full of amphetamines, so he’s not entirely wrong.)
My favorite stars a superhero in a blue leotard with a phone emblazoned on his chest — UberCab’s attempt at a mascot, who I sincerely hope was called “Ubermensch.” Using a text-to-speech video maker which would’ve looked outdated back in 2010, the superhero rambles about the poor state of public transportation and how UberCab will save San Francisco in an Australian-accented male Siri voice.
Nowadays, Uber makes us cringe because it got caught using shady software, or hiring people who shouldn’t be driving, or failing to address a sexual harassment problem. It’s kind of soothing to revisit a more innocent time when we cringed because it was just awkward.